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.
91 Points - Jeb Dunnuck
The base 2018 Chardonnay Fort Ross Vineyard is impressive, offering lots of honeyed orchard fruits and white currant fruits as well as some spice and brioche aromas and flavors. It's rich, medium-bodied, balanced, and simply an outstanding effort to enjoy over the coming 2-4 years.
The hazy yellow hue is evidence of subtle stirring of the lees and bottling without fining or filtration. The rounded, rich mouthfeel is intertwined with the crisp acidity and stony minerality that is an expression of the high elevation and cool coastal climate. Pretty floral aromas of lemon blossom, chamomile and honeysuckle are balanced by hints of toasted hazelnut and honeycomb. On the palate Bartlett pear, golden delicious apples are layered with subtle baking spices, that linger through the long, full finish. This well-integrated and finely-structured Chardonnay will continue to evolve for many years.
The 2018 season was a bit of a roller coaster, with a brief, unusual warm spell in February followed by a chilling frost and even snow! This caused crop reduction but did not affect the exceptional quality of the vintage. We then had one of the coldest summers we’ve seen in several years. The grapes enjoyed a long hang time and were harvested slowly, with great care through the end of September.
The grapes were handpicked during the cool hours of the night in small two-gallon picking trays then
hand-sorted in the vineyard and gently whole-cluster pressed at the winery. After pressing, the juice was put into barrels and underwent primary and malolactic fermentation in a combination of 30% new and 70% neutral French oak. This discrete use of new oak allowed the fruit to shine. This wine is comprised of small-berried old Hyde field selection chosen for its richness and sleek structure and low-yielding Wente for its luscious fruit and grace. These heritage field selections have full, complex flavors that are intensified by the small size of both the bunches and the berries.