"These are impressive Burgundian-style Pinot Noirs that merit serious attention."
- Robert Parker
90 Points Fermented in stainless steel and neutral barrels, the 2017 Chardonnay Sea Slopes has a fresh, open noce of Golden Delicious apple, sliced pear, white blossoms and bake's yeast. Light to medium-bodied, it offers fresh fruit flavors with honeyed accents, juicy acidity and a long flavorful finish.
93 Points Medium ruby, the 2017 Pinot Noir Estate The Terraces features aromas of crushed cranberries, red cherries and rhubarb accented by cola, dusty earth and black tea leaves. The medium-bodied palate is spicy, nuanced and fresh with a grainy frame and long finish.
93 Points Pale to medium ruby, the 2016 Pinot Noir Fort Ross Vineyard has a wonderful bitters-scented nose of potpourri, tangerine peel and tree bark over a core of crunchy cranberry, red cherry and red berries. Light to medium-bodied with a silky texture, it has concentrated red fruits with tons of amaro accents, fine, grainy tannins and a long, energetic finish.
90 Points The 2016 Pinotage Fort Ross Vineyard is medium ruby-purple in color with a broody nose of tar, earth and bay leaves with baked black berries and cherries and meaty hints. Medium to full-bodied, it's dark-fruited in the mouth with savory and earthy accents, framed by firm, chewy tannins and lifted by good freshness, finishing long and earthy.
92 Points Pale to medium ruby-purple colored, the 2015 FRV Pinot Noir gives a pleasant herbal perfume of bouquet garni and wild thyme with a core of red cherries, raspberries, and red plums plus a waft of red roses. The palate is medium bodied and very delicately played in the mouth with silt-like tannins and seamless freshness, finishing remarkably gentle and moreish. 186 cases produced. -Lisa Perrotii-Brown
91+ Points Pale to medium ruby-purple colored, the 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve offers notes of mossy tree bar, tar and charcoal over cranberries and raspberry leaves with a waft of roses. Elegant, light to medium-bodied, very fine and with nice ripe tannins, it finishes long with an herbal lift.
92 Points Pale ruby-purple colored, the 2014 Reserve Pinotage Fort Ross Vineyard features a core of kirsch, red currants and pomergranate with hints of potpourri, bay leaves, mossy bark and truffles. Medium-bodied with tons of energy such a delicate frame, it had a finely grained texture and just enough freshness, finishing long and earthy. 190 cases produced. -Lisa Perotti-Brown
92+ Points 2016 Mother of Pearl Chardonnay
95 Points 2016 Stagecoach Road Pinot Noir
94 Points 2016 The Terraces Pinot Noir
94 Points 2016 Top of Land Pinot Noir
91 Points 2016 "FRV" Chardonnay
90+ Points 2014 "FRV" Pinot Noir
94 Points 2014 The Terraces Pinot Noir
90 Points 2014 Sea Slopes Pinot Noir
90 Points 2013 Sea Slopes Pinot Noir
92 Points From the producer's estate vineyard in the wilds of the appellation, this wine opens in ash, stone and forest, presenting tight, structured intensity. Earthy and savory, it shines in tart, tangy layers of cranberry, rhubarb and black cherry dappled in Asian spice and pepper. — V.B.
93 Points Light and layered, this light, crisp white offers flavors of spicy pear, citrus and marshmallow, a yin-yang complementary palate of subtle richness and complexity. White flowers permeate aromatically as a persistence of lemon and tangerine hit the finish.—V.B.
93 Points Winemaker Jeff Pisoni works magic in this crisp, floral and stony white from the Fort Ross Vineyard estate in view of the Pacific Ocean. Melon, apricot and pear flavors present strongly around hints of white tea and jasmine, the texture elegantly layered and composed. — Virginie Boone
93 Points From a selection of Calera grapes grown on the extreme coast, this wine offers spice, wax and edgy acidity. Pomegranate, tangerine, cherry and mint flavors follow along a structured, complex and lengthy palate of balanced tannin and oak, finishing in lasting earthiness. — Virginie Boone
91 Points This is an intensely concentrated wine on entry that reveals its hightoned acidity and cool-climate character over time. Forest floor, orange peel, pomegranate and Asian spice play along a palate of refined balance and enduring complexity. —V.B. abv: 13.9% Price: $80
93 Points Complex, savory and full of tension, this acid-driven, cool-climate wine is remarkably memorable and well structured—a study in rhubarb, cranberry and dried herb. Light and elegant, it unwinds slowly with intrigue in the glass, offering a length of exotic spice. —V.B. abv: 13.8% Price: $80
92 Points Editor's Choice This red offers outstanding value for the quality: a balanced, textured and varietally satisfying expression of coastal coolness and acidity. Earthy flavors of tea, cola, black licorice and dried herb provide an exoticism amidst elegant layers of orange peel and cranberry.
91 Points Dark in color this wine offers tangy strawberry, tangerine and grapefruit in good measure, building to a meaty midpalate of weighty viscosity and substance. Building complexity as it goes, it weaves within its fruity edges nuanced hints of dried herb.
91 Points This opens in a thick concentration of dark cherry, plum, and undeniable cola spice, the midpalate built around firm integrated tannins and oak. Complementary aspects of forest, black tea, and coastal sea spray add to the complexity and overall appeal.
93 Points From a field selection planted to old Hyde and Wente clones, this white has soft rounded corners of caramel oak and vanilla bean. The complex, balanced richness is defined in tropical fruit accented by a brightness of tangerine and white peach. — V.B
93 Points Tangy red cherry, rose petal, and spicy cola combine on the palate around softened, silky tannins. Though smooth in feel, the palate still offers plenty of defined structure and elegant acidity. — V.B
91 Points A robust nose of forest and smoky leather give way to a grippy midpalate of tension and tannic structure in this coastal estate wine. Strawberry compote and blueberry flavors are sumptuous and sultry on the palate, becoming velvety smooth within twists of black tea and cardamom. — V.B
92 Points Editor's Choice Brioche and almond flavors meet a sleek, smooth and tightly focused core in this meticulously made white. Apple, pear and lemon meringue provide complexity on the midpalate before finishing crisp and slightly spicy.
92 Points Editor's Choice An impressive selection from Winemaker Jeff Pisoni. A hint of forest-floor spice and strong flavors of dark cherry and orange combine on a light, silky texture. This offers a great sense of finesse within a framework of structure and freshness. —V.B.
94 Points Astounding quality for the price, a juicy expression of fruit and spice with a depth of firm resolved tannin, lively acidity and layers of black cherry and cola. Approachable and delicious, it hits the mark on every level being light bodied and refreshingly balanced while complex. - V.B.
94 Points Cloudy as dark hay and still evolving, this memorable wine is deliciously toned in lime zest, salty brine and a supporting note of clarified butter. Intense on the palate at first, it relaxes to let its sublime, innate acidity speak as a twist of hazelnut delights on the finish. –V.B.
94 Points Jammy blue fruit and cherries immerse themselves within a context of inviting and densely packed earth in this coastal, estate-grown wine. Spicy acidity and pronounced wood add additional weight and complexity as the texture takes on velvety lushness that's fully balanced and considerate. —V.B., October 2017
2017 Chardonnay Sea Slopes
90 Points Made by Jeff Pisoni and sporting a vivid gold color as well as terrific notes of crushed citrus, white peach, and honeysuckle, the 2017 Chardonnay Sea Slopes is medium-bodied, beautifully textured, balanced, and vibrant on the palate. It’s a terrific value in Sonoma Coast Chardonnay to drink over the coming year or two.
2016 Mother Of Pearl Chardonnay
91 Points A step up, both in price and quality, the 2016 Chardonnay Mother Of Pearl is another ripe, sexy wine that offers terrific notes of honeyed peach, tangerines, brioche, and a touch of attractive reduction and minerality, It’s a big, mouthfilling white that has solid purity, a balanced texture, and outstanding length. Brought up in 25% new French oak, it’s well worth following for 2-4 years.
91 Points The 2016 Chardonnay FRV Fort Ross Vineyard is a beauty. Clean, classic, and medium-bodied, with good acidity as well as notes of buttered orchard fruits and spice, it has plenty of fruit, good balance, and classic Chardonnay profile.
91 Points The 2016 Pinot Noir Sea Slopes is another terrific value from this estate. Cherries, strawberries, spice, and an undeniable salty, marine-like minerality give way to a fresh, elegant medium-bodied effort that shows the cooler, complex style of the Sonoma Coast appelation. Bravo.
91+ Points Similarly colored, the 2016 Pinot Noir FRV offers cooler notes of black cherries, currants, and salty marine like notes as well as a medium-bodied, nicely balanced, concentrated style on the palate. This is another terrific Pinot Noir from winemaker Jeff Pisoni that has both richness and elegance. It will be better with another year in the bottle and have a decade of overall longevity. The 2016 spent 10 months in 40% new French oak and will be released later in 2019.
91+ Points The 2016 Pinot Noir Stagecoach Road saw the most new oak in the lineup spending ten months in 50% new French oak. It’s more concentrated and focused, yet is also the most backward, offering firm notes of mulled red and black fruits, chocolate, damp earth, and sappy herbs. With good acidity, medium to full body, and ripe tannins, hide bottles for 2-3 years and it should drink nicely through 2030.
92 Points Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak and a block selection from the estate vineyard, the 2016 Pinot Noir The Terraces offers a forward, charming, sweetly fruited profile that includes lots of red and black fruits, spice, and underbrush aromas, medium body, supple tannins, and outstanding length. Drink it over the coming 7-8 years.
93 Points More red currants, bay leaf, rose petal, and forest floor notes emerge from the 2016 Pinot Noir Top Of Land, and this has a rounded, sexy style that’s already drinking nicely. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak, it’s beautifully textured, has moderate acidity, and sweet tannins. Drink it anytime over the coming 7-8 years.
91 Points I think a step up over the 2014, the 2015 Pinot Noir FRV offers complex red and black fruits, dried herbs, flowers, and a touch of salty minerality. With medium-bodied richness, outstanding overall balance, fine tannins, and a great finish, it’s another classic Pinot Noir from this estate that’s well worth seeking out. The 2015 spent ten months in 50% new French oak and should continue drinking nicely for another 5-7 years.
94 Points White peach, caramelized citrus, and white flower notes dominate the nose of the 2015 Chardonnay Mother of Pearl Fort Ross Vineyard, which is fresh, vibrant, and pure on the palate. There's a touch of oak, it has integrated acidity, and good purity and elegance. It's a terrific white.
93 Points More expensive, the 2015 Pinot Noir Stagecoach Fort Ross Vineyard is all Calera clone and spent 10 months in 50% new French oak. It offers a medium ruby, youthful color to go with caramelized currants, tea leaves, dried earth, smoke, and minty aromas and flavors. Its rounded, nicely concentrated, has fine tannin, beautiful elegance and purity, and a great finish. It's the gem of this lineup and is going to drink nicely for upwards of a decade.
90 Points The 2014 Pinotage, Fort Ross Vineyard is terrific, and I suspect it is the finest Pinotage I've ever tasting from outside South Africa. Outstanding notes of scorched earth, black cherries, graphite, and some classic herbal characteristics all give way to a medium-bodied red that has a layered texture, terrific balance and a great finish. Hats off to winemaker Jeff Pisoni for making a truly outstanding Pinotage.
90 Points The 2013 Pinot Noir FRV Fort Ross Vineyard sports a ruby color as well as an open knit, ready-to-go bouquet of dried cherries, tobacco, menthol, and dried herbs. It's pretty, medium-bodied, rounded, and supple, with an evolved style ideal for drinkning over the coming 4-5 years.
92 Points A vibrant, red-fruited style of pinot that has a wealth of gently grippy tannins and a convincingly long palate that holds a clear, juicy finish. Drink now.
91 Points A ripe array of melon and peach aromas and flavors, leading to a finish that's framed in attractive, toasty, and spicy oak. Drink now.
2015 Sea Slopes Pinot Noir
90 Points Some earty and savory, dry-spiced cherry aromas that lead to a neat, supple and approachable palate with a laid-back, open-knit finish. Drink now.
92 Points Lots of dried berry, meat and walnut aromas follow through to a full body, with layers, of fruit and a juicy finish. Hints of chocolate and vanilla underneath it. Drink or hold.
2014 Symposium Pinot Noir
93 Points Complex aromas of chocolate, meat, and foie gras with dried strawberry Full body, layered and rich. Flavorful finish. Needs a few years to come together. Drink in 2020.
93 Points Dried strawberry and cherry aromas with hints of mushroom. Medium to full body, round and tangy tannins, and a savory finish. Shows bright acidity with rich fruit. Medium velvetly texture. Drink in 2019.
Fort Ross Winery "Sea Slopes" 2016 (Sonoma Coast) - Aromas of morel cherry, cardamom and nutmeg. Medium-bodied, this has very good ripeness and varietal character, very good acidity, moderate tannins and pleasing notes of brown spice and herbs in the finish. Approachable and very drinkable now, this will drink nicely over the next 3-5 years. Very Good
Fort Ross "FRV Fort Ross Vineyard" 2013 (Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast) - aromas of cherry compote, red currant and a hint of tobacco seed. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Ample oak, good acidity, medium-weight tannins. Earthy Pinot Noir with a delicate herbal note in the finish (cumin, sage). Beautiful complexity. Approachable now, best in 3-5 years. Excellent
91 Points Well-defined, ripe-cherry fruit is met in the nose by a nice dollop of sweet oak and hints of stony soil spice, and the same is true of the like-minded flavors that follow, but in both cases, the wine holds back just a bit owing to its very obvious youth, and it winds up for now on the firmer side of the varietal spectrum. That, however, is certain to change over time, and we are eager to see what awaits once it has had a chance to soften and smooth.
★★★★ EXCELLENT 2014 Symposium Pinot Noir
EXCEPTIONAL Very stylish citrusy, verbena, and faint tropical fruit aroma and hints of new French oak, but lighter toast than many. The acidity is bright and refreshing, and the wine structured to work with lighter seafood dishes. Will benefit from 2-3 more years in the bottle.
EXCEPTIONAL The smaller blocks that are terraced here have some distinctive clones and make a perfectly balanced wine that has huge potential for 6-10 years. Decanting (2-3 hours) helps expand the fruit and indicates how superb the balance is.
EXCEPTIONAL Now already five years old, this complex version of a cool-climate PN is at an early peak of drinkability, but its gorgeous structure (13.8% alcohol) will help it to improve for at least another 5-8. Raspberry compote, blackberry, rose petals, tea, and even a hint of dried tangerine mark the dramatic aroma, and the structure is handsome since acid holds it all together without any tartness.
Sonoma Coast Pioneers at Fort Ross
"Fort Ross Wines have a depth of pure fruit without being over-extracted. The 2005 Reserve Pinot Noir is lively and intense with great structure and acidity; the 2006 Pinotage shows juicy plumy-berry flavors and the 2008 Chardonnay is bright and crisp and more mineral than the tropical flavors found in many California Chardonnays." -Gerald Boyd, former Editor of Wine Spectator
Winemaking in a Hostile Climate on Sonoma's Coast
Among the newcomers are small, idealistic operations like...Fort Ross Vineyards near Cazadero. The Sonoma coast pinot noirs have...shown themselves to be among California's best and most distinctive wines...
In Focus Sonoma
In Focus Sonoma Producers such as...Fort Ross Vineyards, however are taking the coastal risk and making it pay off...
A Dream California Coast Road Trip
Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery: Taste perfect Pinot Noir
Rarely is good wine made close to the Pacific (too cold and windy); a notable exception is Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery, which produces a fantastically lively Pinot Noir. Another benefit of the two-year-old tasting room's location: the panoramic view of the ocean, ringed by redwood and madrone trees.
Best New Chardonnay, Best 18 Bottles, Ray Isles.
A string of tiny vineyard parcels only a mile from the ocean- and anywhere from 1,200- 1,700 feet above it- produced this vivid white. Its intense pear fruit gains complexity from hints of hazelnut and smoky lees.
TOP 100 WINES OF 2008
Highway 1, The Ultimate Sonoma Coast Road
by Peter Fish, October 31, 2016
Highway 1 runs along the Sonoma County coast for 56 miles, from Bodega Bay in the south to the Gualala River in the north. That's not a long distance, but these are some of the most expansive miles in the world. Every twist of the road brings amazements...perched on a hilltop above the coast, Fort Ross [Vineyard & Winery] may be the most spectacularly sited tasting room in California. The wines from the surrounding vineyards — part of the newly designated Fort Ross-Seaview AVA — are good, too, including some lovely Pinot Noirs and a Pinotage, a varietal brought in from the owner's native South Africa.
90 Points Tight and formal in its tart cherry flavors, this shows some reductive rubber and green onion notes at first, then opens to a gentle, gracious pinot noir. Decant it for roast duck." - Joshua Greene
93 Points, Buying Guide: Year's Best Pinot Noirs
This is a new project focusing on more affordable wines from Fort Ross Vineyards, where Jeff Pisoni makes the wines for Lester and Linda Schwartz, a South African couple who planted the vineyard in 1994. An earthy, coastal pinot, this has an elastic tension to the structure that reminded some of our tasters of certain Williams Selyem wines from the far coast. It's black and bitter when first opened, needing air for the tannins to recede and for the refined, fresh flavors to come to the fore. The tannins continue to give it shape and enhance its power; this is a wine to cellar for a few years, or to decant for grille duck breast.
92 Points - Buying Guide: Year's Best Pinot Noirs
This grows in a single block in the Fort Ross Vineyard, where the terraces face southwest and the rocky, sandy loam soil is planted to the Calera clone. This is a sleek and powerfully oaked pinot — and even though that oak does not recede with air, the fruit comes forward and becomes the lasting floral fragrance. You might find this hard, brash and bitter if you open and drink it now, but with three days of air it shows some grandeur, as it should with several years in bottle.
2017 "FRV" Chardonnay
94 Points Powerful and rich, with intense, juicy flavors of apple and butter, flanked by butterscotch notes. Savory accents linger on the intensely spicy finish, layered with creamy and buttery hints. Drink now through 2025.—K.M.
90 Points Robust and richly flavored, built around honeyed apricot, fig and melon notes, with cedary oak accents. Drink now through 2020. –JL
18 Exciting California Reds: James Laube
The best values include a $37 2007 Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir from the true Sonoma Coast.
Tasting Highlights: California Pinot Noir
James Laube- More great wines as vintages shift gears. From the elegant 2005 and the rich 2004 vintages come nearly two dozen remarkable wines.
A Discovery on the Sonoma Coast
James Laube- Fort Ross Vineyard has found a groove. It's a relatively new brand of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that wine lovers should pay serious attention to.