I love the name of this wine. The blocks where the Pinot Noir grapes are harvested for this wine are called Stagecoach Road because the vineyard is located along, you guessed it, Stagecoach Road. But the amusing part of this anecdote is that the road is so-named because it is the very same Black Bart used when he robbed the Wells Fargo Stagecoach in 1877. The interesting thing about this vineyard is that it sits in a bit of a pocket on the estate, so the Pacific Coast fog tends to sink right in, lengthening the ripening period and creating some deep, brooding flavors in the grapes and, thus, the wines. With that in mind, I think they should change the name to Black Bart’s Pinot Noir. Just a gentle suggestion…

About the Wine: The Fort Ross Vineyard 2015 Stagecoach Ranch Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from the Fort Ross estate vineyards located in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA along California’s Sonoma Coast. All grapes were handpicked and hand-sorted, with the different blocks (which each contain different Pinot Noir clones) kept separate throughout the winemaking process until the final blending before bottling.

After harvest, the grapes cold-soaked and fermented in stainless steel where they received daily punchdowns. The wine was then placed in 100% French oak barrels (20% new; 80% neutral) for 11 months to age. The wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined.

13.9% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Fort Ross Vineyard 2015 Stagecoach Ranch Pinot Noir and find deep, brooding aromas of caked mud after a hard rain; red meat cooked rare and served straight off the grill; and a sense of rustic, green, crunch vegetation. This Pinot Noir is a deep, jewel-like red on the pour, settling into the glass with a hint more purple. Though dark, it maintains a luminosity and is penetrable even at its core. The color fades slightly toward the perimeter into a rose-like shade of fuchsia.

Initial aromas are of plump blackberries and raspberries muddled into that rain-drenched soil. There’s an ocean-side freshness reminiscent of fog-dense air moistening the earth around it. Take a deep breath and find a sweet scent of perfume. Swirl, and open up that seaside scent a bit further — indeed, you can smell the ice plant that lines our West Coast. Swirl again and find those berry notes again, this time more singular, less muddled, and add to that basket of berries black cherries.

The palate of the Fort Ross Vineyard 2015 Stagecoach Ranch Pinot Noir is light and almost refreshing toward the front, but there is a solid background of tannins that slowly take over — like the rolling fog coming off of the ocean and into the town. Indeed, it is that light in texture and provides a comforting level of dryness at the finish. The acidity is a consistent medium from start to finish, leading the way toward a bit of a tart or sour flavor at the end.

Dominant flavors are of raspberries, cherry cola, sweet tart, oak barrel, wet wood, and just a slight kalamata-olive metalic taste.

Warning: This is a wine you won’t want to stop tasting.

Food Pairing: Much like the Mother of Pearl Chardonnay, you’ll want to sip this on its own to enjoy the fullness of the flavors and the depth and complexity those flavors, along with the textures, provide. When you’re ready to move on to your food, I recommend sticking to something light, refreshing. In fact, I don’t know that I would pair this with a main meal at all, but instead opt for an appetizer.

The best pairing is bruschetta. The sweet acidity of the tomatoes will bring forward more of the wine’s fruit flavors. The reduced balsamic will complement this darker Pinot’s earthier elements. And the basil will bring forward those seaside sensations.

More Info: I received the Fort Ross Vineyard 2015 Stagecoach Ranch Pinot Noir as a gift. (Cheers Jeff!) Retail: $80. For more information about Fort Ross Vineyard, their wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery website.

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