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Fort Ross Vineyard


Wine Enthusiast


Wine Enthusiast wine ratings reflect what our editors felt about a particular wine. Beyond the rating, we encourage you to read the accompanying tasting note to learn about a wine's special characteristics.

Classic 98—100: The pinnacle of quality.
Superb 94—97: Highly recommended.
Excellent 90—93: Highly recommended.

Editors' Choice wines are those that offer excellent quality at a price above our Best Buy range, or a wine at any price with unique qualities that merit special attention.

Cellar Selections are products deemed highly collectible and/or requiring time in a temperature-controlled wine cellar to reach their maximum potential. A Cellar Selection designation does not mean that a product must be stored to be enjoyed, but that cellaring will probably result in a more enjoyable bottle. In general, an optimum time for cellaring will be included.


July 2015

90 Pinot Noir 2011, Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast
Red raspberry is at the core of this crisp, fresh and medium-bodied estate wine, savory in cranberry and tea. Seamless and silky, it finishes tart, a complex example of a cool site and cool vintage crafted by an experienced winemaker, Jeff Pisoni. —V.B.

90 Pinot Noir Symposium 2011, Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast
Estate grown and produced, with the added expertise of winemaker Jeff Pisoni, this is an oaky, stemmy and earthy coastal wine, silky and seamless in red cherry, pomegranate, nutmeg and brambly black tea. Exotic, slightly savory and well-restrained, it includes 3% Pinotage, another specialty of the producer. —V.B.

February 2015

93 Pinot Noir Sea Slopes 2012, Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast
Pleasantly pungent in ripe damson plum, this Pinot has lovely acidity, giving it a spicy mouthfeel around firmly present tannins. Full-bodied midpalate, the wine mellows through to the finish, ending in juicy fruit and earth. — V.B.

December 2014

92 Chardonnay 2012, Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast
Unctuous and ripe in caramel and toasty aromas, this is deep golden in color but completely crisp and balanced in the glass. The nose is so overwhelming that the flavors take time to show. Once they do, it’s a celebration of green apple and melon enveloped in complex minerality and a supple body. —V.B.

90 Rosé of Pinot Noir 2013, Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast
A saignée-method rosé given three months in neutral French oak, this wine is dark raspberry in color. Vibrant and fresh, it offers swirls of spicy herb and wild strawberry, a hint of watermelon adding to its mouthwatering quality. Dry and savory, it also has some meat on its bones, a lovely go-to for meals of all kinds. —V.B.

March 2014

93 "Cellar Selection" Pinot Noir 2010, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Released a year after their spectacular Sea Slopes bottling, this small production Pinot shows the elegance of the far Sonoma Coast, and also the ageworthiness of a fine wine. Dry and crisp, it has deep flavors of cherries, pomegranates and persimmons that are fresh and tart. It will have no trouble negotiating the next six years, growing earthier and more complex. Cellar Selection. —S.H.

93 "Editors' Choice" Chardonnay 2011, Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast
Made from grapes grown in a coastal, cool-climate vineyard, this Chardonnay is gracefully minerally and acidic. It has all the tart, wet-stone tang you could want, along with intense quince,golden mango and Asian pear fruitiness. This lovely wine is worth every cent of its price. Editors’ Choice. —S.H.   

93 "Cellar Selection" Chardonnay Reserve 2011 Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast
This is a big Chardonnay that’s oaky and ripe with fruit. Flavors of cream, lees, toast, Mandarin oranges, apricots and stewed peaches all mingle together in a spicy, complex and dry wine. Four additional years in the cellar will allow it to integrate beautifully. Cellar Selection. —S.H. 

93 Bicentennial Bottling Pinot Noir 2010, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
This commemorates the original Russian settlement of Fort Ross. The wine is dry, intense and delicious, showing brisk acidity and tannins that frame ripe raspberry, cherry and pomegranate flavors. It’s fine to drink now, but will develop bottle complexity over the next 5–6 years. —S.H. 

91 Pinot Noir Sea Slopes 2011, Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast
You’ll find deliciously ripe raspberry and cherry flavors in this wine, making it instantly appealing. Yet it’s so bright with acidity, and so deeply complex with earthy, mushroomy notes, it’s sure to gain some traction in the cellar over the next few years. You can drink it now if you want, but give it an hour or so in a decanter. —S.H.   

April 2013

95 "EDITORS' CHOICE" PINOT NOIR SEA SLOPES 2010, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Here’s more proof that sometimes a winery’s least expensive bottling can be its best. The wine is first class, from the translucent ruby color to the power and delicacy of the mouthfeel. There’s something haunting and distinctly Fort Ross-ian in the wild cherry, mushroom and pine flavors that seem to echo the fog, sun and redwood forests of this remote region. Really delicious now and through 2018 or so. —S.H.

93 PINOT NOIR RESERVE 2009, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Classic Fort Ross Pinot Noir, this is rich and textural. The flavors of raspberry parfait and cherry pie are spicy, honeyed and brightened by acidity. Drink now, but it will slowly evolve in the bottle over the next eight years.

July 2012

92 CHARDONNAY 2010, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Showing the brisk acidity and minerality of this fine Chardonnay vineyard, Fort Ross's 2010 also shows rich, rewarding pineapple, orange, butterscotch and vanilla flavors. Feels opulent, a worthy follow-up to past vintages. —S.H.

December 2011


October 2011

95 "EDITORS' CHOICE" CHARDONNAY 2009, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
A brilliant Chardonnay. Almost nothing quite like it out there. Great, zesty acidity makes the mouth water, and oak is strongly there but perfectly vindicated by the power of the underlying flavors. They suggest ripe pineapples and tropical fruits, peaches, honeysuckle and a firm, stony minerality that has to come from the soil. For all the richness, the wine is terrifically dry. —S.H.

94 PINOT NOIR RESERVE 2007, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
A very beautiful wine that shows the exotic, feral quality of the greatest Pinot Noirs from the Fort Ross area. It’s explosive in wild raspberry and cherry flavors, with hints of pine, cola, wintergreen, anise, bacon and smoky, sweet vanillins from oak barrels. A wine of great pedigree, it’s showing well now, and should hold for the next six years. —S.H.

93 "EDITORS' CHOICE" PINOT NOIR SYMPOSIUM 2007, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Held back for nearly four years, this Pinot still brims with acidity. Tartness is the shock that precedes columns of raspberries, cherries, pomegranates, persimmons and cola, bearing banners of exotic spices. A precise, intellectually pure wine, it should be decanted now, and will develop interestingly over the years. —S.H.

92 PINOT NOIR 2008, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Elaborately ripe, this polished Pinot explodes with fresh flavors of raspberries and cherries that taste pie-baked, with the smoky, sweet, toasty crust. It’s just delicious, and also obviously fruity-sweet, with a jammy attractiveness. What it lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in richness. Drink now. —S.H.

90 PINOT NOIR SEA SLOPES 2009, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Fruit is the star of this wine. It’s gigantic and forward in sweet raspberry and cherry flavors that taste wild, picked under a hot summer sun. Fortunately, there’s a lot of acidity, and firm tannins provide additional structure. The finish is thoroughly dry. A bit in your face now, but could do interesting things over the years. —S.H.

August 2010

95 "EDITORS' CHOICE" PINOT NOIR 2007, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
A beautiful Pinot Noir for drinking now with lamb chops or maybe a rich, exotic Ahi tune tartare. Brilliantly crisp in acidity, with a clean, bracing mouthfeel, it offers dazzingly rich flavors of raspberries, cherries, orange zest, Dr Pepper cola and Asian spices with a smoky oak adding elaborate tiers of vanilla char. For the price, it's a very great buy. —S.H.

93 CHARDONNAY 2008, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Shows amazingly ripe fruit, offering a blast of pineapple jam, apricot, tangerine, papaya, and lime flavors. The acidity is crisp and tart, and the oak is rich and flamboyant, yet in keeping with the size of the underlying wine. Super-rich and decadent, this Chardonnay is at its best soon. —S.H.

91 CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2005, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Released unusually at the age of nearly five years, this Chardonnay is losing its primary fruit. It's developing a toasted cashew ans hazelnut character, and the pineapples are transmogrifying to chewy dried fruits and even Christmas fruit cake. Meanwhile the sweet, caramelized oak is fully integrated. Bravo to the winery for holding this back and letting us see what an older Sonoma Coast Chardonnay does. —S.H.

December 2008

94 CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2004, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
At the age of four years, this Chardonnay is losing its primary fruit character and picking up rich, complex aged notes of glazed cashews, baked pineapple and dried peaches and apricots. It’s also very spicy. Really fascinates the palate, offering a different experience each second, and should continue to interest for several more years.

92 CHARDONNAY 2006, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
A truly succulent, opulent Chardonnay. Tastes quite oaky with char and butterscotch flavors, but not too oaky. The barrel regimen is precisely in keeping with the ripe tropical fruit and honeysuckle flower flavors. Feels rich and dramatic.

November 2006

93 CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2002, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
What a wine! Only the second release from this winery, and a really good one. Call it Chablisian for its intense mineral, metallic flavors and mouthfeel, and vibrant acidity. It also has lots of oak and lees, and is bone dry, offering tantalizing hints of lime zest, white peach and honey. 2002’S TOP CHARDONNAYS.

92 "EDITORS' CHOICE" PINOT NOIR RESERVE 2002, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Seems well worth the price differential from the regular bottling, for while the flavors are similarly complex, ranging from cola to black cherries to mushrooms and earth, this wine adds more floral character and a lush, velvety mouthfeel.

91 CHARDONNAY 2002, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Made in the same style as the Reserve. Shows a cool-climate profile of stones, minerals, cold metal and high acidity, and is dry, elegant and ageworthy. Softening notes from oak provide sweetness. Distinct.

90 "EDITORS' CHOICE" CHARDONNAY 2003, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Slightly nutty and toasty, but the wood influence is relatively subtle, leaving the main stage to melon and citrus flavors. Plump and slightly buttery, but turns elegant and understated on the finish.

90 "EDITORS' CHOICE" PINOT NOIR 2002, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Shows the advantages of clonal blending, as the flavors vary from bright, slightly herbal fruit (strawberries and rhubarb) to savory (mushroom and meat) notes. Chocolate, cola and wintergreen nuances give this even more complexity and while the tannins are supple, the acids are crisp and fresh to the finish.

90 "EDITORS' CHOICE" PINOTAGE 2002, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Shows plenty of spice, blending anise, cracked pepper and tea notes with blackberry and blueberry fruit. The acidity is crisp, yet there's still a slight creaminess to the wine's texture, with some dusty tannins on the finish. Sure to confound the crowd at your next blind tasting.