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Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Hearty Welcome to Sonoma County's Newest AVA

And I do mean hearty because living in this remote area isn't exactly for those who like warm, calm weather and nearby shopping!

The Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticultural Area is just a few months old. It's just inland from the northern Sonoma coast an 85 mile drive north from San Francisco. It's a sub-appellation of the much larger Sonoma Coast AVA of 27,000 rugged acres, but has only 500 acres of vineyards with a handful of growers and just one tasting room, Ft. Ross Vineyards. I don't imagine they get many visitors most days. The nearest towns are the seaside village of Jenner, pop. 135, and Cazedero, pop. 350, known for having the second highest rainfall in the state.

Meyers Grade Road, the "main drag" through Ft Ross-Seaview

Ft. Ross was an actual Russian settlement 200 years ago; Seaview is a small coastal cluster of homes.
What makes Fort Ross-Seaview unique? The Sonoma Coast is usually cool and cloudy during the grape growing season. A typical summer day is damp and overcast during the morning with a few hours of cool sunshine in the afternoon with temperatures usually in the 60s. Not a good place to grow grapes. However, the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA is just a bit inland and at an elevation above the fog (900 to 1,800 feet) so there's lots of sun but with fairly cool temperatures. It's a pretty good place for grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Wineries within Fort Ross-Seaview are the already mentioned Ft. Ross Vineyards plus Flowers, Hirsch, Peay, and Wild Hog.

So what are the wines like? The growing season is different than the warmer, lower elevation, inland areas. Pinots tend to be dark, spicy, firm, maybe a bit tannic; Chardonnays show acid and minerality. Acid in the wines is usually one of the things to expect from a cool region like this.

Part of Ft. Ross Vineyards
Image from