With 18 commercial vineyards and five wineries located within its 27,500 acres, the Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticultural Area (AVA, wine region, or appellation) on the Sonoma Coast produces delectable Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as wonderful Pinotage, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne varietals.
Offering stunning views from its perch high above Fort Ross (and even higher above the ocean), Fort Ross Vineyard & Tasting Room (15725 Meyers Grade Road, Jenner, 707-847-3460) is actually closer to the Pacific Ocean than any other vineyard in California. The design of its attractive tasting room honors the rustic barns of Sonoma County.
The Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery pours Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinotage made from grapes grown exclusively in the winery’s vineyard. Expect a tasting fee. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. In winter, the tasting room closes one hour earlier.
Hirsch Vineyards is also located in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, but now pours its wines at its tasting room Healdsburg (57 Front St., Healdsburg, 707-847-3600). Tastings there are by appointment only, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Monday. You can also purchase Hirsch Vineyards’ wine online.
Located entirely within the Sonoma Coast AVA, Fort Ross-Seaview AVA occupies a mountainous area rising just east of Fort Ross State Historic Park (19005 Coast Highway One, Jenner, 707-847-3437). The weather here can be foggy, cool, and windy, but grapes have been grown here since the early settlement days of the Russian-American Company.
In fact, the first grapes ever planted in Sonoma County went into the ground at Fort Ross in 1817. They were Peruvian grape cuttings planted by Captain Leontii Andreianovich Hagemeister, a Russian sailor of Baltic origin who developed a reputation for his explorations in the Pacific and for two circumnavigations of the globe.
Today, vineyards in this area are typically planted at a minimum 900-foot elevation but can be as high as 1,800 feet. These means the temperatures are typically warmer and the periods of sunlight are longer than the foggy bluffs of the coast. When the sun goes down, though, vineyard temperatures plummet. It's these unique growing conditions that shape its distinctive wines and earned Fort Ross-Seaview its AVA designation.