From our mountain vineyard that overlooks the Sonoma Coast in the Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticultural Area, Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery produces limited quantities of single vineyard, Estate grown, cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinotage. With spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean less than one mile away, the vineyard is divided into 32 separate blocks, one-half to two acres in size, that range in elevation from 1700 down to 1200 feet above sea level. Owners, Lester and Linda Schwartz with their small crew began preparing the 52 acre vineyard in 1994. It took them 4 years of preparation before they could begin planting. The year 2000 marked the first vintage from the Fort Ross Vineyard.
90 Points - Jeb Dunnuck
You don't see many Pinotage from California, but the 2015 Pinotage Fort Ross Vineyard is solid stuff. Aged 10 months in 30% new oak, its deep ruby/purple hue is followed by a Pinot Noir-like bouquet of smoked blackberries, peppery herbs, chocolate, and sappy herbs. Balanced and medium to full-bodied, with plenty of tannins and good acidity, it’s an interesting, solid effort. I suspect it will evolve nicely for 4-6 years or more as well.
★★★★ EXCELLENT - Restaurant Wine, Ronn Wiegand MW/MS
The Pinotage is Pinot Noir-like in style: finely flavored, supple in texture, and full bodied. Rich flavors of blackberry, cherry, mint, pepper, clove, and toasty oak show good balance (if a bit tannic), and a long finish. Beginning to drink well, but it will develop further with bottle aging.
While Pinotage shares many traits with Pinot Noir, there is an earthy brambleness that distinguishes it from its more famous cousin. Magnetic aromas of dark berries and lychee fruit are supported by hints of gardenia and white pepper notes. This deep purple Pinotage has a concentrated depth of bold flavors that envelop the palate with tiers of blackberry, loganberry and black plum framed by sassafras and ginger. Prominent dark berry fruit is in complete harmony with the ripe tannins, balanced acidity and long, persistent finish.The layered textural complexities and robust flavors pair beautifully with exotic spices, rich Italian food, smoked and grilled meats, anything from a wood fired oven and for the adventurous - sweet berry desserts. Prior to release, this wine was patiently cellared until optimal, but it will certainly age gracefully for years to come.
Pinotage was first developed in South Africa in 1925 by crossing the two vinifera varieties, Pinot Noir and Cinsault which was called Hermitage at the time. Our Pinotage consists of two Fort Ross proprietary clones, MM1 and MM3, developed at UC Davis from budwood personally imported by Fort Ross from one of the most select Pinotage vineyards in South Africa.The grapes for this Pinotage were handpicked during the cool hours of the night in small two-gallon picking trays. After hand sorting, the fruit was cold soaked for several days and fermented in a single 5 ton tank. During fermentation, the wine was pumped over and sparingly punched down, to carefully control the amount of extraction from the thicker skins in order to produce a well-balanced, age-worthy Pinotage. Shortly after pressing, the wine was barreled in a combination of 30% new and 70% neutral French oak for 10 months.
140 cases made