Taste of Wine

Along Sonoma Coast sits a fortress for Pinot Noir

Along the Sonoma Coast, high on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean and barely accessible, sits Fort Ross Vineyards and Winery, home of the finest Pinot Noirs in California. It meets all the demands of this “queen” of the wine grapes: high elevation, a coastal strip with plenty of sun and nighttime fog blanketing the vineyard during growing season.The Sonoma Coast-Seaview is the region’s newest AVA covering 27,500 acres due to its distinctive identity, a zone that has a maritime flavor to it. The area is teeming with history of a different sort. Fort Ross was a Russian outpost in the western world and two hundred years ago they established the enclave.

Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery on the Sonoma Coast of California makes excellent Pinot Noir and is owned by Linda (above) and Lester Schwartz. Photo by Frank Mangio

The Russians thought they were in the Caribbean and liked the area so much they brought in grapestock from Peru. Shortly after, the American government purchased the land from the Russians, along with Alaska, but the Russians fondness for the area carries over to this day.

“We are bottling a special 200th Anniversary of Fort Ross Pinot Noir for the occasion and helping to plan festivities,” said owner Linda Schwartz.

The only funding for the celebration is coming from the Russians due to their part in the history of the area.”

Linda and her husband Lester came from Cape Town South Africa and immigrated to San Francisco, he as a practicing attorney. Yearning for a farming life, they purchased the land that is now their vineyard of some 50 acres and found that Pinot Noir flourished along with Chardonnay. All grapes are estate grown. The land gets more rainfall than the Amazon Jungle, averaging 75 inches per year on the 1,800-foot high ridges. All harvesting is done by hand. It is the closest winery to the Pacific Ocean.

You will find vibrant, black colors in Fort Ross Pinot kept in French Oak barrels. The Pinot Noir production is on 40 acres with 24 blocks. Total production is 4,000 cases per year.

My favorite of the four current Pinot releases was the 2007 Reserve, that proved to me that Pinot could be aged gracefully and mature with a beautiful intensity. This one had high scores with its black currant and orange pekoe tea complexity. It had mineral notes with a velvet cast. 344 cases were made with barrel aging of 10 months. ($49 at the winery.) Other Pinot Noirs to look for include: 2008 with dark plum and vanilla flavors; 2,064 cases made ($37), and the 2010 Sea Slopes with boysenberry and raspberry notes; 973 cases ($26). Learn more about this fascinating winery at fortrossvineyard.com.

Wine & Dine RADIO Has Food/Drink News

Now into its second month on the air at KFSD 1450 AM on the dial in San Diego, each Saturday from 1 to 2 p.m., Wine & Wine RADIO is truly a feast for listener’s ears.

Ron James (left) hosts Wine & Dine Radio, with commentary by show regulars, left to right, David Nelson, Frank Mangio, Mike Bragg and Caron Golden. Photo courtesy of Frank Mangio

Ron James, long-time industry professional moderates a panel of experts of the wine and dine scene that are passionate about food and drink.

The show is lively and leans on guest appearances by executive chefs and winemakers with trendy ideas. Food and wine enthusiasts in San Diego and anywhere can hear the show on their computers and smart phones as it is streamed live and available on-demand anytime.

Wine Bytes

Jazz is back at the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo on Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Brunch is also served on Sundays at their Café Merlot from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. RSVP at (858) 592-7785.

NineteenChefs from Del Mar’s best restaurants will be wining and dining guests April 22 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Hilton Del Mar. It’s a benefit to support the fight against child abuse. Sample signature dishes. Tickets are $150. Call (760) 754-5500.

North County Wine Company in San Marcos has a Keenan Wine Tasting event April 20 from 4 to 8 p.m. Just $10. Call (760) 744-2119 for more information.

Callaway Vineyard and Winery in Temecula has a Taste of Spring Seminar with the Winemaker April 22 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mimosa, continental breakfast and a walk through the vineyard are included, for $88.50. Call (951) 676-4001 for an RSVP.

Pacifica Del Mar in the Del Mar Plaza presents Terlato Family Vineyards wines with a multi course dinner April 25 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. $85. Call (858) 792-0476.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas offers a “Cab” Ride Around the World April 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. $20. Learn more at (760) 479-2500.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. His library can be viewed at www.tasteofwinetv.com. (Average Google certified 900 visits per day) He is one of the top five wine commentators on the Web. Reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.


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