WINE REVIEW: Fort Ross Vineyard, 2016 Pinot Noir, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast, CA ($52)
by Andrew Chalk
To read the story behind Fort Ross Winery is to be drawn back into the original conquest of the west when settlers in wagon trains braved, weather, disease, starvation and God knows what else trekking to where, the farmers at least, would tame the wild land.
Lester and Linda Schwartz began preparing their 52 acre vineyard in 1994. It took four years before they could begin planting vines, and the grapes did not yield fruit until 2000. Those acres are in the remotest corner of the remote Sonoma Coast AVA at altitudes from 1200 to 1700 feet. They are divided into 32 blocks planted with chardonnay, pinot noir, and (for reasons I don’t know) pinotage. The mountaintop vista gives spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the ocean gives back in the form of cooling breezes that provide for long ripening of the grapes.
According to the winery notes the grapes for this wine were picked at night to ensure cool juice, hand sorted, and cold soaked for a period described as “several days”. The cap was punched down one or two times per day depending on the vigor of the fermentation. Ageing was for 10 months in a combination of 40% new and 60% neutral French oak. Interestingly, fermentation and ageing kept the distinct vineyard lots separate. They were blended for bottling and that must have been one hell of a session with so many parameters to compare on.
The result, and this is a four-year old example, is a pinot noir with a complex nose abundant with tertiary notes and a palate with soft tannins and resolved fruit flavors. It is a hackneyed phrase but ‘Burgundian’ is an appropriate description. Recommended.
Appearance: Translucent brick red;
Nose: Earthy, forest floor, secondary and tertiary notes dominate fruit;
Palate: Soft, fruit resolved. Red fruit of cherries. Herbs.