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…
Practically hanging off the cliffs of the most northern portion of Sonoma Coast is the quaint but luxurious seaside resort Timber Cove. Founded and constructed by San Francisco native and world-renowned architect, Richard Clements Jr., the original building was built in 1963 as a nod to the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, combining modernism with naturalism — an exaggerated A-frame structure utilizing the surrounding redwoods and stones.
Since that time, the resort has had a few different owners, renovations, and expansions. This past year, Timber Cove’s latest reconstruction takes visitors back to that simpler sixties style — with no shortage of modern amenities. Indeed, with more rooms (and larger rooms), activities, and not to mention the excellent on-site restaurant, guests can experience a full-on retreat from the hustle and bustle of the traditional wine country setting. With roads that twist and turn along Sonoma’s Coast, visitors can and will find hidden gems — from roadside farm stands to boutique wineries; scenic surf spots to backroad hiking trails. Timber Cove is truly a seaside escape.
Fort Ross Vineyard focuses their vines to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The interesting thing about tasting from a winery with focused varietal selection is how different the resulting wines are based on individual block location, clonal selection, and of course the winemaking methods. The grapes for the Fort Ross Vineyard 2015 Mother of Pearl Chardonnay consist of old Wente clones, grown atop the estate’s highest elevated vineyards. Winemaker Jeff Pisoni highlights the complexity of the resulting fruit with his minimalistic winemaking approach.
In 1988 South African natives Lester and Linda Schwartz had been living in the Bay Area for just about 10 years when they decided to purchase the, then, untouched property atop the cliffside slopes of the Sonoma Coast. Convinced the land was suitable for grapevines, Lester ordered two dozen dormant rootstocks, planting a test vineyard with 16 varieties, three trellis systems, assorted clones and rootstocks. It took four years, but the couple found the most successful plantings were of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes and spent the next ten years cultivating their 53-acre vineyard, complete with roads, subterranean drainage, and irrigation system. Alongside a small vineyard crew, Lester and Linda created thirty-two blocks of vines, carefully choosing which blocks were most suitable for which clones.
A taste of Fort Ross Vineyards wines means a taste of focused Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and a testament to what the cool climate and proximity to the Pacific Ocean does for these grapes. Indeed, among the Fort Ross Vineyards lineup, one can taste single-vineyard and even single-block expressions of either of these two varietals and experience how specific vineyard block orientation affects both the tastes and textures of resulting wines.
Of course one can’t get the full Fort Ross Vineyards experience without tasting a glass of Pinotage. Yes, during the course of building their vineyard acreage, Lester and Linda sourced bud wood from their native South Africa (where Pinotage claims the country’s “heritage grape” title), had it quarantined and tested through UC Davis, and became the first private growers, and eventually commercial producers, of Pinotage.
I’d been so eager to taste from Fort Ross Vineyards for so long. The reputation of the South African couple who paved the way for Fort Ross-Seaview becoming an AVA and who are the first commercial producers of Pinotage in California far proceeded them, making them almost celebrities in my book. After tasting the Fort Ross Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir I understood why that reputation has stayed a strong one, and my expectations were not disappointed. Shortly after that review I was invited to visit with the winery’s winemaker, Jeff Pisoni. So on the eve of that visit, I decided to “study” up and taste what the Fort Ross Chardonnay has to say.(more…)