Masterclass Californian Wines

Sonoma is a large wine county and maybe one of the most diverse in terms of climates and varieties planted (more than 60). It also possesses one of the most emblematic terroirs for Burgundian varieties, especially for Pinot Noir. The best known is Russian River AVA, as well as the almost standalone AVA Los Carneros, part of both Napa and Sonoma which it overleaps. However, new potential has been recently discovered on the coastal area, and namely with the introduction of the Fort Ross Seaview AVA in 2012. This area has a long history and like Russian River Valley it is also linked to Russian colons who came by Alaska and settled in the area planting the first vines in 1812 at Fort Ross. 

Sonoma Coast AVA extending from San Francisco Bay to the border with Mendocino is another cool climate appellation focusing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir is said to have come in the area by 1890, but few spoke about this fragile and climate sensitive variety. With better understanding of clones (the area works with a mix of Burgundian and Californian clones) and climate- adaptation, the coastal area is now boasting with superb versions, stylistically different from Russian River Valley of from further Oregon, but worth discovering. 

The parameters to be considered include altitude, proximity to the coast and shelter from the Forests. 

Chardonnay is a more plastic grape, adapting in an easier way to different terroirs. The style here is freshly driven with a firm bite and mastered Burgundian vinification. 

Here are my tasting notes:

Littorai Pinot Noir 2018 The Haven Vineyard – Sonoma Coast whole clusters vinification, 25% new oak 

Area: Occidental city, lower altitudes 366m, proximity to the ocean

Cherry, sour cherry, aniseed, with fine ethereal, floral profile. Juicy palate, fresh crisp, delicate tannins, with sapid grain, it mingles again cherries and sour cherries with pungent spices, mainly liquorice and aniseed. 

Freeman Pinot Noir 2018 Yu-Ki Estate – Sonoma Coast destemmed 13,5% abv.

Area: Redwood Forest, inner side, Yu- ki city

Riper fruit, more solar, more on the sweet cherry- strawberry character with a balsamic touch. Milder acid structure, riper character, pulpy feel, with medium, slightly firmish tannins, notes of cherry, oak- derived spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg.

San Andrea Fault Pinot Noir 2018 Hirsch Vineyards – Sonoma Coast containing some whole clusters

Area: Fort Ross Seaview AVA, coastal area 

Herbal, with fresh sour cherry, kirsch, nutty toast, very Cotes de Nuits style. High acidity, medium plus tannins, a bit firm, smoky touch on the finish. 

Pomarium Pinot Noir 2019 Peay – Sonoma Coast

Area: next to Annapolis, low altitude, cool ocean brises on the Sonoma Coast 

Cherry, plums, balsamic character, blossomy notes of peony. The palate is smooth, fresh, and juicy, tannins are medium, fine, and soft, a lean, fresh wine, finishing with cinnamon, liquorice and peony aftertaste.

“Senses” Chardonnay 2018 BA Thieriot Vineyard – Sonoma Coast 14 months in French barrel 14,4% abv.

Area: Occidental, 247 m altitude, close to the forest

Nutty, peachy, offering citrus, a light lactic touch, some bready notes. Blossoms – melliferous white flowers, balsamic – pine character come along. Dry, with elevated acidity, fresh still generous, nutty, spicy finish.

“Flowers”  Chardonnay 2018  Camp Meeting Ridge – Sonoma Coast 13,5% abv.

Area: Sonoma coast – Biodynamic viticulture 

Layers of oaky -nutty aromas, displaying some vanilla, spices, the palate is creamy, elegant, still fresh and digest with long toasty finish.