Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery

Owner(s) Linda Schwartz, Lester Schwrartz
Web site www.fortrossvineyard.com
 
Link to this site
Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery

Lester and Linda Schwartz came to the true Sonoma Coast from an unlikely location, South Africa. While students at the University of Cape Town in the 1960s, they met and shared their love for food and wine. They married in 1967, and emigrated to the United States nine years later, settling in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lester longed for the country life he grew up with in South Africa and located a remote property in the high coastal ridges near the Pacific Ocean, just south of the small town of Fort Ross. He and Linda purchased the 970-acre property, built an unusual house offering dramatic views of the surrounding countryside, and planted a vineyard.

Linda studied viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College and took classes at University of California Davis. Although her background was in music composition, she had an affinity for working the soil and operating farm equipment. Lester and Linda, along with a small crew, began in 1994 to develop their 50-acre vineyard. They installed a sub-surface drainage system and miles of fencing to keep out the deer and wild boar. Preliminary plantings with a test vineyard indicated the area was ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The vineyard is less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean, and is one of the closest, if not the closest vineyard to the ocean in all of coastal California. A total of 28 vineyard blocks ranging in size from one-half to two acres are planted in heterogeneous microclimates scattered over the ridge tops at 1200 to 1700 feet. Pinot Noir plantings included field selections of Calera, Pommard, Swan and Dijon clones 115 and 777. Pinotage is also planted.

There have been a few winemakers with the latest as of 2012 being Jeff Pisoni who crafts the wines in Santa Rosa. The quality of the wines have taken a leap since he took over.

Sales office is 550 Indiana St, San Francisco, CA. The wines have limited retail distribution and are available on the website . Vintages dating back to 2002 can be purchased from the winery’s library. The phone is 415-701-9200. There is also an excellent Chardonnay and Roseĭ available.

Reviewed Wines

2011 Fort Ross Vineyard “Sea Slopes” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.59. 1250 to 1750 feet elevation, southwest aspect, 5-30% slope, Calera, Pommard, Swan, 115 and 777 clones on 101.14, 3309, 110R and 420A rootstocks, various clay and sandy clay loam soils. Average Brix 22º, 5% whole cluster, aged 10 months in 20% new French oak. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of red fruits. Crisp and lean, featuring flavors of red cherries, pomegranate and cranberries with a touch of spice. Soft tannins make for easy drinking. Could pick up intensity over time in bottle. Reviewed August 14, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard Sea Slopes Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $36. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 10 months in 24% new and 76% neutral French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Upfront aromas of plum and wild berry fruits, sandalwood, spice, and moss. Tasty core of dark red stone fruits and berries with an underlying savory herb and dried flower note, wrapped in muscular, sinewy tannins. Lightest in concentration of the three Fort Ross 2009 Pinot Noirs tasted here but with an appealing dry, black cherry-driven finish. Good. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »

2009 Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard Sea Slopes Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $26.99. · Darkly colored in the glass. A varied array of aromas including very ripe, roasted dark berries, black currants, oak and bell pepper. Very ripe fruited with flavors of black raspberries, boysenberries and plums with a vegetal undertone. Rich, sultry and earthy with some length on the finish. Considerable better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Good. Reviewed April 4, 2012 ARTICLE »

2009 Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.5% alc., 800 cases, $26.99. From a 50-acre vineyard at 1200 to 1700 feet elevation, one mile from the coast above the coastal fog. Winemaker is Jeff Pisoni. · Light golden straw color and slightly cloudy in the glass. Aromas of golden apple, lemon curd and seasoned oak. Tasty core of baked apple, oak spice, and nutty flavors. Polished and well-crafted. Very good. Reviewed April 4, 2012 ARTICLE »

2009 Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.63, 1,438 cases, $42. Dijon 115, 777, Pommard and heritage selections of Calera and Swan. 100% de-stemmed, aged in French oak barrels. Aged 10 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, sassafras, soy sauce, seaweed and vanillin oak. Relatively full-bodied flavors of dark cherries and raspberries, root beer, brown spice and subtle oak. This wine has a definite minerality to it with an earthy, salty, soil-bound quality. A long finish adds to the appeal. Very good. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »

2009 Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.55, 303 cases, $65. A barrel selection. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Dark and inky in the glass. Very aromatic with scents of blackberry jam, plum pudding, dark red rose petals and seaweed. Compared with the regular Fort Ross Vineyard bottling, this wine has more concentration, more sweetness, more tannin, and more length on the finish. Dark-fruited with subtle spice, the sheer fruit volume tunes out most of the minerality. About as big as Pinot Noir gets without falling into the realm of Syrah. Bigger is not usually better for me, but to its credit, this wine is not jammy. Good (+). Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »

2007 Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $30. · Minty, oaky aromas with alcohol peaking out. Rich and full on the palate with delicious flavors of black cherries, plums, oak toast and a hint of white pepper. A disjointed wine now with the flavors trumping the aromas. Worth visiting in another year. Good (+). Reviewed August 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2005 Fort Ross Vineyard Estate Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 513 cases, $49. Aged 11 months in 40% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. Website availability. · Very dark reddish-purple in color. A big wine that attacks the senses with an onslaught of black cherry, baked plum, spice box and peppermint aromas and prodigious dark fruits, clove and tar flavors. Still young and brooding. A little heat peaks out on the finish. Reviewed April 18, 2009 ARTICLE »

2005 Ft. Ross Vineyard & Winery Ft. Ross Vineyard Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 531 cases, $49. Well-known winemaker Ed Kurtzman (Freeman, August West) crafts superb Pinot Noirs from this vineyard, one of the closest (less than one mile) to the Pacific Ocean in the Sonoma Coast appellation. This bottling is from the most distinctive barrels, many of which are very shy-yielding old clone blocks. Aged 11 months in 40% new French oak. · Still a youngster and will need a good year or two to come in to its own, but it is showing huge promise at this time. Silky entry, richly layered dark fruits, and mouth-coating fine-grain tannins. Immensely satisfying. Reviewed July 7, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Fort Ross Vineyard Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 500 cases, $60. A barrel selection of the property’s finest wine. Not released on winery’s website for sale but obtained thru a retail source. · This is a spirited wine showing black cherry fruit with a touch of Asian spice and oak. The aromatics are unyielding and the wine needs time to shed its tannins. This is a debutante waiting in the wings to come out. A few years in the cellar will highly reward the patient drinker. Reviewed December 3, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Fort Ross Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 917 cases, $39. A year with light berry set. Some blocks only produced a half ton per acre. Harvest was mid to late September. Aged 11 months in 45% new French oak. Pommard, Swan, Dijon 115, 777 clones. · A nondescript perfume with a hint of strawberry and peppermint. Understated with light-weight fruit. Soft, elegant and nicely balanced. Reviewed December 3, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Fort Ross Vineyard Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 370 cases, $49. Calera and Dijon 115 clones. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak. · This wine’s aromatics are a little more expressive with darker fruits, cola and sawdust. The blue and black Pinot fruits are nicely spiced. Soft and pillowy, the balance is right on. This beauty is deserving of the Reserve designation and among the wines tasted, showing the most leg at this time. Queen of the Hop. Reviewed December 3, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Fort Ross Sea Slopes Signature Reserve Fort Ross Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 73 cases, $50. A limited release reserve wine sold by retailer, Bounty Hunter, in Napa. · The nose is rich with black cherry fruit. Lovely, hi-tone cherry and raspberry flavors accompanied by a meatiness and some sauvage with notable drying tannins. The berry fruit on the finish persists for many seconds. The mouth feel is silky. Classical Pommard in character, this wine was drinking beautifully the next day from a re-corked bottle. A keeper. Reviewed May 7, 2008 ARTICLE »

2003 Fort Ross Symposium Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

($28) · An easier drinking version of the estate Pinot Noir with some Pinotage added. Reviewed March 5, 2007 ARTICLE »

2003 Fort Ross Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinotage

14.7% alc., 400 cases, $32. Pinotage is vinified in a similar fashion as Pinot Noir. After a cold soak and fermentation in open-top fermenters, the wine is pressed and aged in primarily one-year-old French oak for 15 months. It is estate grown from proprietary Pinotage clones and is bottled unfined and unfiltered. · A very complex nose featuring cherry, cranberry, iodine, spearmint, wax and even fresh paint. Luscious hi-tone black raspberry fruit with a hint of spice. Velvety in texture with ripe, suave tannins. Excellent! Reviewed December 3, 2007 ARTICLE »

2003 Fort Ross Vineyard Symposium Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 688 cases, $32. 96% Pinot Noir and 4% Pinotage. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak. · An earth-based nose with moodier and darker fruits. A little pepper and farmyard adds interest. Delicious flavors of cherry pie, nutmeg, strawberries and cookie dough. Nicely balanced with an appropriate acid backbone. Reviewed December 3, 2007 ARTICLE »

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2003 Fort Ross Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

($37). The estate vineyard has a nice mix of Calera, Swan and Pommard selections along with Dijon clones 115 and 777. · This Pinot is a love letter from the Coast with its charming perfume, ethereal style, powdery tannins, and refined acidity on the backend. Reviewed March 5, 2007 ARTICLE »

2001 Fort Ross Vineyard Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 112 cases. Individual blocks were harvested on multiple occasions based upon flavor profile and ripeness of each vine. Yields were low. The clones and different vineyard blocks were kept separate during winemaking. The final blend was chosen from barrels which had distinctive fruit concentration, complexity and balance. Aged 18 months in 60% new French oak. · Lightest in color of the wines tasted with a slight auburn cast to rim. Initially the nose was subtle but seductive with cherries and fresh-sawed oak. Over time, the aromas came alive with savory cherry and spice enhanced by old wood and leather charm. Red cherry flavors were soft and light. The fruit has faded a bit, but I liked this wine for its finesse. Drink up. Reviewed December 3, 2007 ARTICLE »