Every once in a while I come across a winery with a magical story and Fort Ross Vineyard is no exception. I had the great pleasure of tasting through their complete line-up of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Pinotage.
Situated only one mile from the Pacific Ocean high above the fog line, to say the property is picturesque is an understatement. Perched within the Fort Ross - Seaview AVA, this is as far west as it gets. Named after the historic Fort Ross which was once Russian occupied and is now the only foreign funded state park in the United States. Fort Ross Vineyard owners, Lester and Linda, have brought a whole new definition of romance with the elegance of place which comes through in their wines. Originally from South Africa the couple longed for country life and to build upon their love for wine and food.
Having found the perfect location along the Pacific Ocean, they decided to plant a test vineyard with 16 different varieties, three different trellis systems, assorted clones and different rootstocks. After four years, they concluded that the area was ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and in 1994 began installing the first seven vineyard blocks. Shortly, thereafter, the native South Africans paid tribute to their home country by planting Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault.
Deciding what to plant and where was not the only challenge. With steep slopes and the property ranging in elevation from 1200 to 1700 feet, and more rainfall than the Amazon Jungle reaching upwards of 125 inches of rain a year, the challenge of mapping out the vineyard was no easy feat. With the help of a consultant and thousands of plastic knifes, (yes, plastic picnic knives), used to mark the rows of the future vineyard, Lester and Linda accomplished what many thought to be unthinkable. Due to the steeps slopes, the vineyards are all hand-harvested before being taken to winemaker Jeff Pisoni's winemaking facility in Santa Rosa.
The purity of the wines along with their balance and exemplary expression of each grape variety shows a true dedication to producing the best wine from the best vineyards and location. Lester and Linda are dedicated to letting each vintage speak for itself and don't try to make the exact same wine as they did before.
So what about the juice they produce? Well, to say their wines are bloody fantastic is not an understatement. If you like crisp chardonnay that tastes of lemon curd, citrus, and a fresh summer morning, that you have got to buy Fort Ross' wines. The reserve spends a little more time in oak but most of it is neutral so if you like heavier Chardonnay than the reserve is for you.
The Pinot Noirs are also outstanding and as a self-proclaimed Pinot Noir nut, there is a pinot for everyone here. The cooler years produced much more elegant and refined Pinots and the warmer years produced big and bold style Pinots and the Pinotage has gripy tannins, spice and great fruit sure to satisfy any red wine lover.
I highly recommend that you make the trip out to the newly opened tasting room. What better way to spend the day than sipping amazing wines while looking at extraordinary views of the Pacific Ocean?! For more information and tasting room hours, please visit their website.