The True Sonoma Coast is famed for its striking landscapes and pioneer spirit. William Kelley offers up of the 10 finest examples of its cool-climate wine styles.
Winemakers committed to cool-climate styles, often inspired by Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, are helping to shape the True’s reputation as a marginal site; the perfect place to produce wines with an Old World-inspired balance between fruit and acidity.
- Scroll down to see the top 10 best Sonoma Coast wines
What makes ‘the True’ special is the marriage between its proximity to the Pacific and its distinctive topography. ‘It’s all about access to the ocean,’ explains winemaker Ehren Jordan, whose Failla label has long specialised in these unique sites.
Area: Only 20% of Sonoma Coast AVA’s 194,000ha qualifies as True Sonoma Coast (an unofficial appellation). The 11,000ha AVA of Fort Ross-Seaview, approved in 2012, was the first distinct macroclimate to receive official recognition.
Location: A narrow band of the coast, running from Bodega Bay in the south to the limits of the Sonoma Coast AVA in the north.
Ted Lemon, a proponent of biodynamics who established his Littorai winery in1993 after a stint at Domaine Roulot in Meursault, was one of the first, though he disclaims slavish reverence for French practice. ‘You’ll never hear what the land is saying,’ he insists, if you simply follow foreign formulae.
Following suit, more and more winemakers in the True are now exploring the parameters of the possible, many of them experimenting with marginal ripeness and whole-cluster fermentation, for example.
Alongside these increasingly diverse expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, other varieties are also attaining prominence. Compelling, cool-climate Syrah from the likes of Arnot-Roberts, Anthill Farms, Ceritas and Peay impress for their finesse and aromatic amplitude.
Of course, not all experiments are so successful. Nor are many wines from the True inexpensive. But for its dynamism, excitement and potential, this strikingly beautiful region has few rivals in North America.
10 best Sonoma Coast wines:
Ted Lemon makes some of the most restrained, ethereal and elegant wines in the Sonoma Coast...
Aromas of lemon, honeysuckle, nutmeg and pastry cream are the prelude...
The nose offers captivating aromatics of cinnamon, red cherry and blood orange.
Planted in 1993, the Que Syrah vineyard is located only 3km from the Pacific Ocean...
Eric Sussman’s wines always stand out thanks to their sophisticated and savoury complexity
The Peay’s Estate Vineyard is another of the very cool sites for Syrah in Sonoma County.
Peter Michael’s steep Seaview Estate vineyards are on the reverse-slope of the first ridgeline
Griotte cherry, coniferous sous-bois and raspberry sorbet lead into a juicy, broad..
The team at Anthill Farms makes an interesting range of Pinot Noirs and some seductive cool-climate Syrah...
Perfumed bouquet of rich rose, red cherry and cocoa, followed by a spicy, sappy and supple palate.