When Allegro's first vines were planted, Carl was 3 years old and I was 2. When John and Tim Crouch put together their first commercial vintage here, Carl was 10 and I was 9. And here we are, 40 years later, finding ourselves in our own 20th vintage at this special place. Who could have imagined?
As Carl and Nelson and the vineyard crew gear up for Allegro's harvest, I am undertaking my own sort of harvest. As the steward of Allegro's archives, I'm starting the rewarding task of looking through the documents of these past 40 years and sharing Allegro's history. I have started posting some historical treasures under the "Allegro Story" page here.
I come by an interest in history honestly. My dad's dad read history voraciously, and my dad has worked on several historical projects, including his 2016 book about a nearby Quaker meetinghouse and cemetery, for which I provided the photography.
Allegro's history is an interesting one. While the winery was quite small when Carl and I joined it in 2001, it had already garnered attention for the quality of the dry wines grown from its vinifera grapes, particularly the Cabernet Sauvignon. Allegro was unusual from the beginning, since the property was originally chosen by Bill Radomsky specifically because of its suitability for growing European-style wines. John was also a pioneering winemaker.
Interestingly, Allegro's biggest claim to fame through the years has been the old story about its "Opus 1" wine. I recently put together some of the documentation of this story, which occurred in the fall of 1983.
In a nutshell, the "Opus 1" story involves the fact that John and Tim had a peach-and-white-grape formula wine (similar to our current-day Celeste) which they, as musicians, named "Opus 1." In 1983, Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild were gearing up to begin their hugely expensive and prestigious collaborative wine and winery, named "Opus One." When John read James Laube's article in Wine Spectator with the announcement of the name, he wrote a letter to Laube, followed up by a phone call, in which he told him about the doubling of the name.
Laube got a kick out of the "David vs. Goliath" aspect of the story about the tiny PA winery and the huge California enterprise. He wrote another article for Wine Spectator documenting the story of the two names, entitled "A tale of two Opus Ones."
Things were eventually ironed out between the two wineries and Allegro, in return for giving up the name, received a small sum of money, which was enough for Allegro to buy a new corker and to put in a bridge in the driveway leading up to the winery, spanning our small creek. As Carl noted in his 2009 blog post about the Opus Ones, Mondavi was also supposed to come to Allegro and taste John's wines--not just the peach but his beloved Cabs--but never did.
Along with the winery and vineyards, Carl and I inherited the "Opus One" corker and the "Opus 1 Memorial Bridge," as well as all of the accompanying stories.
My part in the story comes from March of 2003. John Crouch, who had sold Allegro to us after his brother's death at the end of 2000, passed away quite suddenly at the age of 55. He had remained living in his house here on the winery property, and his friendship with Carl and me was a very special part of our lives for that brief overlapping time that we spent here together.
Just a couple days after John died, I got a call at the winery from "Jim Laube, from Wine Spectator magazine." I couldn't believe it--the same renowned journalist who had written the Opus 1/One tale 20 years earlier was calling because he had heard about John's passing and wanted to send along his condolences. Here I was, here with my toddlers in my living room in our house near the vineyards, talking with the famous California wine writer. We talked about John and Allegro, and his interest was really wonderful. He ended up writing one more article for Wine Spectator, noting John's death and his place in the wine world: "The Spirit of Allegro Vineyards."
In another very sweet gesture, Laube also sent me the original of John's letter from 1983.
I took a look at that original letter this morning and thought a lot about John, Allegro, and the importance of harvesting history. It's humbling to hold the task, but I'm so happy to have the opportunity.
Cheers to you,