Extreme Sonoma Coast

Monday, November 19th, 2012

As the filming location of Alfred Hitchcock’s blockbuster suspense thriller The Birds, the Sonoma Coast of Northern California is no stranger to peculiar undertakings.  With its rugged coastline, chilling climate and eerie layer of fog that rolls in day after day, this is by far California’s most mystifying wine region.  Earning its AVA status in 1987, this rather large region is both unique with several sub-climates and breathtakingly picturesque with some of its vineyards lining the slopes that overlook the Pacific Ocean.  Specializing in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and even cool-climate Syrah, the extreme Sonoma Coast has been charming more and more wine lovers with its complex and inarguably well –balanced wines.  2011 James Beard award-winning author and wine writer for SF Magazine Jordan Mackay stopped by the SF Wine Center and took the liberty of feeding a class full of thirsty minds with the insider lowdown on this incredible region.  The class was thrilled to taste some of the area’s benchmark producers such as Hirch Vineyards, Cobb, Kosta Browne, and many more.  Here’s a taste of what we learned…

Simply stated, there is a reason why the Sonoma Coast is so mysterious.  With its intense climate conditions, thick fogline, and receiving over double the amount of rain as neighboring regions, as far as the grapes go, this region is risky business.  One could even wonder how grapes ever fully ripen here.  Believe it or not, this area actually receives enough warmth to successfully ripen these grapes, especially if the vineyards are located above the dense fogline.  Furthermore, with a long cool growing season and harvest taking place from October to November, the grapes are able to ingeniously produce wines with true varietal characteristics and some of the purest expressions of terroir.  And with a complete balance of intense fruit, vibrant acidity, and utter complexity, these ageworthy and food-friendly wines are winning the hearts of restaurants and wine lovers across the globe.  Robert Parker even went so far as to describe the Sonoma Coast as the region “where world class Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are being made that are every bit as complex and complete as the greatest wines in France.”  That being said, it is clear to us that in life there comes a time when risks must be taken for a much greater good.  The extreme Sonoma Coast AVA alongside some of the world’s most skillful and adventurous winemakers has proven itself to be well worth the risk.

-Julie Albin

Wine List

  1. Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2011
  2. Kistler Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2007
  3. Flowers Frances Thompson Vineyard Sonoma Coast Estate Pinot Noir 2007
  4. Nickel & Nickel Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007
  5. Cobb Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2008
  6. Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2008
  7. Peay Pomarium Sonoma Coast Estate Pinot Noir 2008
  8. Peter Michael Ma Danseuse Sonoma Coast Estate Pinot Noir 2009
  9. Hirsch Vineyards East Ridge Sonoma Coast Estate Pinot Noir 2010

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