THE ONLY WAY TO GO FARTHER
IS TO GO FARTHER.
THEY TOLD US WE’D GONE TOO FAR. THAT SOUNDS LIKE US.
Situated on the edge of vast Sonoma Coast appellation, the Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticultural Area (AVA) is defined as much by its elevation and proximity to the Pacific Ocean as it is by its land boundaries: The American Viticulture Area (AVA) statutes limit plantings to land 920 to 1800 feet above sea level or higher. At that altitude, the terrain gets quite rugged. Out of 27,500 available acres (43 square miles), a mere 555 are actually usable. While these conditions present extra challenges, the elevation, mountainous terrain and proximity to the Pacific Ocean offer the perfect mix of sunshine, cool air and beneficial stress for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to thrive.
Putting down stakes in these remote coastal ridge tops wasn’t exactly the course of least resistance. But, believing that the greatest risk yields the greatest reward, eighteen trailblazing vintners forged ahead.
ABOVE THE FOG LINE
Lingering coastal fog in the valleys below yields the right amount of cool on the vines of Fort Ross-Seaview. The region rises above the fogline to occupy a completely unique ecosystem—one that’s dryer, sunnier and warmer than most. Vineyards within this craggy, mountainous area emerge from dense redwoods on seemingly inaccessible hilltops, ridges and gullies; from the air, they resemble an inspired patchwork of vineyards. Despite the proximity to the ocean, however, at these elevations, there are very few sources of water. Luckily, winters are saturated with heavy rainfall, enabling many vineyards to reduce or eliminate irrigation between spring and fall when rainfall is minimal.
We are willing to reject easy answers in our pursuit of truth and beauty.
This elevated, “coastal cool” maritime climate is ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There are also plantings of Pinotage, Roussanne and, further inland, highly acclaimed Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet.
Over millions of years, this land has been tossed about by the San Andreas Fault and washed over by the Pacific Ocean, with the latter leaving behind seashells in many vineyards. As result, it’s got a wide variety of soil types, most of them derived from sedimentary rocks and deposits. Hugo soils—well-drained, very gravelly loams derived from sandstone and shale—are quite common. Other soils include Yorkville, a moderately well-drained clay loam with a clay subsoil; Boomer, a well-drained loam with a clay loam subsoil; and Laughlin, a well-drained loam with a sandy clay subsoil.