Seghesio Story - Wines
When Edoardo Seghesio first planted Zinfandel on our Home Ranch in Alexander Valley in 1895, Zinfandel was known as the "boss" grape in Sonoma County. It earned its popularity by thriving in the California sun and providing good color and sugar at harvest. To the many Italian immigrants in Sonoma County, Zinfandel was reminiscent of the fruit-driven wines of their homeland. Because wine was an everyday part of the family meal and given that Zinfandel is drinkable within a year of harvest, it became preferable over varietals that need years of aging.
The Sites: This wine comes primarily from four estate-farmed vineyards: Home Ranch, San Lorenzo and River Road in Alexander Valley, and Cortina in Dry Creek Valley. Several of these sites have produced Zinfandel for over a century, while the newer sites benefit from proprietary clones and the most advanced viticultural practices. Yields are kept at or below 4 tons per acre.
The Wine: Every year, we bring in approximately 35 lots of Zinfandel averaging 25-30 years in age. Each of these lots is produced under the careful eye of our winemaker, Ted Seghesio. The best of these lots are selected to make Sonoma Zinfandel. A small amount of Petite Sirah is blended in the wine for added complexity. The result is a tantalizing black raspberry and classic briary flavored wine with a balance of components for which Seghesio wines are known.
Home Ranch Zinfandel
As winemaker for the most prominent winery in Sonoma County, Edoardo Seghesio recognized the vast vineyard potential surrounding his modest home. Our Home Ranch Zinfandel is from the first vines Edoardo planted in 1895. Customary for the time, Edoardo interplanted a small amount of Petite Sirah and Carignane with the head-pruned Zinfandel.
The Site: Long, warm days aided by the absence of marine influence marks this site. The soils are composed of clay and clay loam with underlying layers of basalt, sandstone and serpentine rock. Vines are challenged by the low nutrient level of the clay and the shallow topsoil, which both force them to produce more concentrated fruit.
The Wine: As a result of the warm summer days in Alexander Valley, Home Ranch's flavor profile tends toward blackberry and blueberry fruit characteristics. The heat also creates lower acidities. At harvest, the Carignane and Petite Sirah are harvested with the Zinfandel, making this wine a true field blend. The resulting wine exhibits rich texture, weight and black fruit flavors.
In 1957, the Seghesio family purchased 56 acres in the heart of Dry Creek Valley. The family had purchased fruit from growers in this valley since the early 1900s and realized its great potential. Here, late afternoon coastal cooling follows long hours of sunshine, allowing the fruit to mature slowly during the summer months.
The Site: This wine comes from one of the oldest head-pruned vineyards in Dry Creek Valley. The vineyard thrives in Cortina, a gravelly loam soil well-suited to Zinfandel. The stronger marine influence of Dry Creek Valley keeps it cooler than Home Ranch. In a normal season, Cortina will ripen two to three weeks after Home Ranch.
The Wine: Due to the prevailing afternoon breezes in Dry Creek Valley, the flavor profile tends toward red fruit, as compared to Home Ranch's black fruit. Its red raspberry, boysenberry, briary/brambly and spicy white pepper qualities are enhanced with higher acidity due to the cooler growing area.
The San Lorenzo Vineyard was purchased in 1896 by Frank Passalacqua for the sum of 10 gold coins. The deed indicated a young vineyard most likely planted in 1890. A half-century later, Frank's granddaughter, Rachel Ann Passalacqua, met Eugene "Pete" Seghesio when he purchased her father's Zinfandel grapes from the same vineyard in southernmost Alexander Valley. In 1956, the couple married. Today, San Lorenzo is the oldest vineyard managed by Seghesio Farms.
The Site: San Lorenzo occupies the western and southern-most point in Alexander Valley. The Zinfandel is planted on the bench above the fog layer. It is rooted in Raynor and Haire clay loams. Typical for vineyards planted in 1890, the vineyard was interplanted with 17%-18% Petite Sirah and 2%-3% Carignane.
The Wine: San Lorenzo is a classic Zinfandel field blend, containing significant amounts of Petite Sirah and Carignane. Blackberry, black currant and unique spicy/brambly essences help make this Zinfandel one of a kind. This rare wine is highly regarded as one of the finest Zinfandels produced.
Old Vine Zinfandel
At the turn of the 20th century, Zinfandel’s popularity was unrivaled as the primary grape for home and commercial use.
More than a century later, we are fortunate to still have some of these old vineyards. More than half of our 300 acres of vineyards are planted to Zinfandel, which includes some of the oldest plantings in the county. While the BATF governs most wine labeling, it has no classification for old vines. Our benchmark is 60 years and older. Something ethereal happens to Zinfandel with age. Younger vines can be pruned and thinned to mimic old vines, and while they can match old vines’ color and flavor, the distinctive palate weight and natural acidity is elusive to all but the most venerable Zinfandel vines.
The Sites: This wine comes from old head-pruned vineyards in Alexander and Dry Creek valleys. The average age of these vines is approximately 90 years old. Older vines yield less fruit. However, the devigorized, low-yielding vines produce more intense fruit.
The Wine: This wine combines spicy, lush black fruit from Alexander Valley with cooler Dry Creek Valley fruit that offers structure and Zinfandel’s classic briary and raspberry flavors. Each vintage, the best lots of Zinfandel over 60 years old are chosen to make this wine. Components of this blend come from Cortina, Home Ranch and San Lorenzo. The blend varies each vintage so that Winemaker Ted Seghesio can create the most complete wine possible.
Arneis is a rare grape. We are the only producer of this ancient Italian varietal in Sonoma County. The Seghesio family's desire to grow Arneis was inspired by visits to Piedmonte in Italy—its native land.
The Sites: Although considered difficult to cultivate—the English translation for Arneis is "little rascal"—we have been successful. Our Keyhole Ranch in the Russian River Valley is the perfect home for this varietal. These 5 acres, where cool but dry conditions prevail, provide a great opportunity to grow Arneis. Warm-to-hot days with cool, fog-influenced nights help this variety retain acidity and delicate fruit aromas and flavors.
The Wine: Pears, melons and almonds on the palate supplement an anise and mineral nose. The process of leaving the wine on its lees—sur lie—until bottling helps add complexity and texture to this wine. Enjoy with mild cheeses, fish and grilled vegetables.
Dr. Phil Freese, our vineyard consultant, first suggested the suitability of particular vineyards to growing Pinot Grigio.
The Sites: The cooler regions of Sonoma County, principally our Dry Creek and Russian River Valley vineyards, are ideal for this varietal. Here, the well-drained soils and foggy mornings of marine-influenced vineyards forge the perfect partnership between land and vine. These climates allow the slow maturation of fruit to fully express varietal character while retaining natural acidity. The Russian River Valley is also home to some of the world's great Pinot Noir, a variety with which Pinot Grigio shares lineage.
The Wine: Our Pinot Grigio's floral and spicy aromas give way to ripe apple and stone fruit flavors. Texture is amplified by the employment of partial barrel and malolactic fermentation, creating a depth and roundness of palate. A complement to cheese, shellfish and risotto.
The Site: In 1978, we identified ancient Barbera vines on the northern tip of the Chianti Station Vineyard. This find enabled us to replant the 5 acres at our Home Ranch using budwood from vines that are almost 100 years old. Barbera had been grown at the turn of the century. Today's production is a natural extension of our traditional Italian heritage program.
The Wine: Barbera's naturally high acidity is well-suited to the warmer Alexander Valley. This warm climate moderates Barbera's acidity while propelling forward juicy blackberry and wild berry qualities. Another Italian food wine with less tannin than Sangiovese, it pairs well with beef, lamb and game dishes.
The Sites: As the oldest grower of Sangiovese in California, we have found that the best results are obtained when this grape is planted on unforgiving soils. The thin topsoils at our Home Ranch in Alexander Valley naturally devigorize the vines, providing the lower yields necessary to succeed with this variety. In addition to the site, the other part of what makes our Sangiovese special are clones that Edoardo Seghesio left us. Sourced from neighboring experimental vineyards at Italian Swiss Colony, these clones came to this country in the late 1800s. Of these four, we have chosen the smallest berry clone to represent the largest portion of our plantings.
The Wine: Initial aromas of dark fruits and savory spices suggest blueberries, cherries and hints of anise. Our Sangiovese strives to be aromatically complex, deep in flavor and structured with balanced acidity and ripe tannins. It pairs well with red or mushroom-based sauces, pasta, grilled fish and meats.
The Site: Rattlesnakes, thistle and America’s most unique clone of Sangiovese are all that thrive atop Rattlesnake Hill on Seghesio Family Vineyards’ Home Ranch. The shallow topsoil, steep slope and virtually impenetrable volcanic shale are the perfect foil in taming this vigorous varietal into producing intensely flavored grapes. This, our choicest clone, planted in 1910 by Edoardo Seghesio in America’s oldest Sangiovese vineyard, produces small-berried, loosely formed clusters. Venom, our model Sangiovese, culminates a century spent enriching and refining this noble varietal on our Home Ranch.
The Wine: Punch-down fermentation and varied maceration techniques provide the rich hues and ripe cherry, black currant/berry varietal characteristics. Judicious use of French oak heightens the fruit expression and adds a spicy complexity. Venom pairs well with red or mushroom-based sauces, grilled fish and any meats.
"Omaggio,” Italian for homage, is our tribute to our founders, Edoardo and Angela Seghesio, who in 1895 purchased their first vineyard in America. This rare wine was initially released in celebration of our centennial harvest in 1995. Inspiration for Omaggio came from travels to Italy and a desire to honor our grandparents by building a wine around our best vineyard block of Cabernet Sauvignon. Omaggio blends years of experience growing grapes with the most advanced vineyard and winemaking practices.
The Sites: Omaggio is crafted from our best block of estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grapes grown on and adjacent to Rattlesnake Hill at our Home Ranch in the Alexander Valley. The Cabernet is from vines planted on the bench, while the Sangiovese comes from the steep terraces on the face of the hill. Here, the shallow volcanic soils challenge the vines to produce naturally lower yields. Extensive thinning is performed to ensure even ripening, and in some vintages, this procedure may be performed as often as three times.
Winemaking: At the peak of their ripeness, the grapes are hand-harvested. In order to increase concentration, each lot undergoes a "saigne" (a "bleed," or reduction of juice) prior to fermentation. A punch-down fermentation is utilized to optimize extraction, and each lot is partially barrel-fermented in new French oak barrels. The new wine remains in contact with the skins for up to one month. The final Omaggio blend, typically 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Sangiovese, is made early in the aging process to allow a fuller integration of flavors. Finally, this wine is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, a third of which are new.
The Wine: Omaggio is the annual culmination of our efforts to farm for specific flavors in the vineyard. Our 20-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard contributes distinctive black currant/cassis flavors while providing richness, and Sangiovese's black cherry/violet essence and acidity add structure and complexity to this wine. This wine's ability to age is attributed to the long, silky tannins derived from optimally ripened fruit.