Fort Ross State Historic Park ocean view in Sonoma County
Fort Ross State Historic Park

Fort Ross-Seaview Wine Region and Appellation

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One of Sonoma County's newest and most distinctive American viticultural areas is located in the coastal hills above Fort Ross State Historic Park and overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Fort Ross-Seaview was carved out of the larger Sonoma Coast AVA with special consideration to elevation and other characteristics specific to growing wine grapes in this remote and rugged region. Some of the most sought-after Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are grown on 500 vineyard acres here, yet there are few wineries open to the public. The 27,500-acre Fort Ross-Seaview American viticultural area was awarded AVA status in 2011.

Top Grapes

Green rolling hills of vines on a foggy day
Fort Ross Vineyard

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most popular grapes in Fort-Ross Seaview, although because the appellation is so new, many wines continue to carry the Sonoma Coast designation. One of the surprise runners-up is the South African varietal Pinotage, planted by expatriates at Fort Ross Vineyard, Winery & Tasting Room.

The first wine grapes in Sonoma County were planted in 1817 at the Russian-American Company's Fort Ross, but the area's modern viticultural history began in 1973, when sheep rancher Mick Bohan, struggling with low wool prices, planted Riesling; the possibilities for this varietal remain tantalizing.

The Lay of the Land

Vineyard along Sonoma Coast in Sonoma County
Sonoma Coast AVA

The Fort Ross-Seaview AVA arose from a conundrum: Grapes here are grown in truly coastal conditions, yet the Sonoma Coast AVA was drawn to include parts of vastly disparate AVAs including Cabernet country like Chalk Hill. 

To understand Fort Ross-Seaview, picture a vineyard on the crown of a coastal ridge, surrounded by a sea of fog. Although the AVA is located just a few miles from cold Pacific Ocean waters, between Jenner and The Sea Ranch, it is also significantly defined by its higher elevation. In the summer, vineyards bask in warm sunlight indeed, while many are above the damp belt of fog that invades the Petaluma Gap and Russian River Valley. Fort Ross-Seaview is an essentially chilly climate on the edge of grape-growing possibility, yet, at times, may receive more sunlight than areas like Green Valley of the Russian River Valley, which is defined by immersion in fog.  

Notable Wineries

Fort Ross Vineyard, Winery & Tasting Room was founded in the 1990s by Lester and Linda Schwartz, and is open daily for tasting Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinotage with spectacular views. And because guests found it difficult to visit their remote location, Flowers Vineyards & Winery recently opened the House of Flowers, offering tasting experiences just minutes from downtown Healdsburg, in northern Sonoma County.

Many of the other wineries operating within or sourcing grapes from the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA are not open to the public, and often their wines are available only by waiting list or from specialty retailers. They include Wild Hog, Marcassin, Failla, Williams Selyem, and Peay.

Backroad Bodegas

exterior of Red Car winery tasting room in Sonoma County
Red Car Wine

Grape grower David Hirsch knew that he was onto something good when, one month in the early 1990s, Kistler, Littorai, and Williams Selyem all called up asking about his grapes at once. However, Hirsch Vineyards now pours its wines only in its tasting room in Healdsburg. 

Wineries located outside of the AVA that make wine with grapes from Fort Ross-Seaview vineyards and are open for tasting include Martinelli Winery in Windsor, Red Car Wine in Sebastopol, and Tin Barn Vineyards in Sonoma.

Stop by Sophie's Cellars, located in Duncans Mills and known locally as wine seller to the Bohemian Grove Club, and inquire about wines from the Fort Ross-Seaview area.

Restaurants and Lodging in Fort Ross-Seaview 

Timber Cove Resort in Jenner, Sonoma County
Timber Cove Resort

Coast Kitchen at Timber Cove Resort provides dramatic cliffside views of the ocean. Further south, look to Jenner Inn, River's End Restaurant & Inn, or Tides Wharf Restaurant.

Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight.

Sonoma County Appellations (AVA):

Alexander Valley
Bennett Valley
Carneros - Sonoma
Chalk Hill
Dry Creek Valley
Fort Ross - Seaview
Fountaingrove District
Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Knights Valley
Moon Mountain
Northern Sonoma
Petaluma Gap
Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak
Russian River Valley
Sonoma Coast
Sonoma Mountain
Sonoma Valley