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Taste Chardonnay at Fog Crest Vineyard

Fog Crest Winery

It’s hard to say you’ve “discovered” Fog Crest Vineyard, or some other new, under-the-radar Sonoma County winery, when they and everybody else has posted their winemaking and food pairing videos on YouTube for the world to see. But take a chance on this hidden Russian River Valley villa, with its surprise vista and silky Chardonnay, and you might be tempted to say that you did.

Picture yourself here
Regular travelers on busy Occidental Road might not have noticed it, but a handsome little winery was built on this hill overlooking the Laguna de Santa Rosa in 2008. Plans for a tasting room were put on hold during tough economic times, and the addition was opened in early 2014.

It’s brand-new everything here: a fireplace built by Sebastopol’s Bohemian Stoneworks that warms up the room with a flick of the switch on chilly days; a long table and stuffed sofas where you can take your tasting seated; patio furniture that the tasting room manager is thrilled to see people using to drink in the view. On the first Friday of each month, the winery is open from 5 to 7 p.m.

Owners James and Rosalind Manoogian met while she was living in the Peninsula, he in Stinson Beach. “Neither of us wanted to live in the other town,” said Rosalind, so they moved north to Sebastopol. Former winemakers and consultants include Daniel Moore and David Ramey; new on the job is University of Burgundy alum Jérôme Chéry.

Take a sip
Spring and summer, you may have the chance to catch a sip of the reportedly in-demand rosé, otherwise, it’s all Chardonnay and Pinot Noir here. I like the way the 2011 Estate Chardonnay ($39) comes at the nose like a bucket of multiplex buttered popcorn, and then slips away under silky cover of sweet, caramel apple, and savory olive notes.

Crunchy and dry, only sweet with cherry syrup aromatics, the 2011 Estate Pinot Noir ($49) is a bright and supple Pinot with a little extra vanilla bean exoticism over the cherry-cranberry fruited 2011 Laguna West Pinot Noir ($39).

Geek out
You’ll amaze wine-tasting friends with your deep knowledge of Sonoma County terroir when you speak knowingly about the Laguna Ridge, upon which Fog Crest is perched. An unofficial region within the Russian River Valley AVA, Laguna Ridge is an elevated, hilly strip of land hardly half a mile wide along Highway 116 between Sebastopol and Forestville. Generally, soils are sandy Goldridge series, but Fog Crest may have something different — take a vineyard tour with the winemaker or owner to find out more.

Hit the road
Continue west on Occidental Road to a trailhead of the West County Trail, great for an easy walk or for biking; explore the new Laguna de Santa Rosa walking trails to the east at 5420 Occidental Road. Or pick up local, farm-raised pork pairing for your Pinot at Victorian Farmstead Meat Company.

Fog Crest Vineyard, 7602 Occidental Rd., Sebastopol. Daily, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. June through November; Thursday–Monday 11am–5pm, December through May. Tasting fee, $20. 707-829-2006.

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