Flowers

True Pioneers of the “Extreme” Sonoma Coast

One trend in California winemaking has been a push toward growing grapes on increasingly marginal lands ever closer to the Pacific Ocean. The reasoning is simple: cooler temperatures allow grapes to ripen slowly while retaining acidity, which is particularly desirable in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay if they are to achieve Burgundian levels of excellence. But when Walt and Joan Flowers purchased land on a remote ridge in northern Sonoma County just two miles from the Pacific Ocean, they may have pushed the envelope just a little too far. After all, cool temperatures are less than welcome if grapes can’t get ripe. (Just ask the folks in Chablis or Champagne how easy it is to make wine in their respective climates!) Fortunately, it soon became clear that their 350 - 550 meter ridge really was a “warm site in a cool climate” – well above the fog line but cooled by ocean breezes. Moreover, the volatile geology of the Pacific coast has blessed their land with shallow soils teeming with sandstone, schist, greywacke and greenstone. Hence, the long growing season from the maritime climate coupled with the rocky soils that stress the vines results in low yields of intensely flavored grapes that grow in tight bunches of small berries – just perfect for making the kind of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that encouraged Walt and Joan Flowers to leave their home in Ohio to pursue a dream of making wine.    Situated upon two ridges in the northern part of the Sonoma Coast AVA, Flowers Vineyard and Winery grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in one of the highest vineyards on the United States. Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard (so named because the Native Americans used to gather there for the summer months) consists of 21 acres of Chardonnay and 8 acres of Pinot Noir that were planted in 1991. The Sea View Ridge Vineyard is somewhat higher in elevation and even closer to the ocean (though still “a warm spot in a cool climate); it was planted to 41 acres of Pinot Noir and a smidgen of Pinot Meunier in 1998.   In the vineyards and winery, Flowers employs a range of cutting edge methods. The vineyards are planted with 4 clones of Chardonnay and 11 clones of Pinot Noir and are farmed sustainably and organically without irrigation. The winery utilizes gravity instead of pumps to move wines from tank to barrel. Winemaking employs hand sorting, cold soaking, extended maceration, fermenting with native yeasts, aging in new French oak, lees aging and lees stirring (in the case of Chardonnay) and whole-cluster fermentation (for some Pinot Noirs). The results of such painstaking attention to detail are critically acclaimed wines that are aromatic and flavorful, complex and provocative and that have enough structure, acid and minerality to capture the essence of the extreme coastal terroir. 

Wines from this Winery

2015 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

2015 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

This Chardonnay comes primarily from the Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard with additional fruit sourced from other growers in the AVA with vineyards located close to the ocean. The rocky soils and cool climate produce Chardonnay with fresh, bright fruit flavors, complex minerality and bright acidity. And Flowers Winery has only continued to get better at producing wines with balance, freshness, pure fruit and elegance. While 2015 was dry for California overall, the coastal ridges received enough spring rain grow a decent cover crop. Coastal fog moderated warm summer days, allowing for a later harvest than in vineyards further inland. This bright and zesty Chardonnay would pair well with grilled seafood or creamy risotto with scallops.

Details
¥ 8,300
2015 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

2015 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

This Pinot Noir was sourced from Flowers’ Sea View Ridge Estate Vineyard as well as other family-owned vineyards located along Sonoma’s Pacific coast. The cool climate and rocky soils produce an elegant, structured wine with a complex profile of opulent fruit, soft tannins, bright acidity and minerality. Conditions in 2015 led to a smaller yield as well as small grape clusters and small, intense berries. According to Flowers, the vintage “shows concentrated fruit expression, with intense aromas and flavors balanced by remarkable acidity.” It’s a lovely wine: soft and nuanced, elegant and polished, with distinctive coastal minerality and brilliant acidity. Grilled salmon or shiitake risotto would make an excellent match with this bright and elegant Pinot Noir.

Details
¥ 8,700
2014 Flowers Sea View Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir

2014 Flowers Sea View Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir

The Sea View Ridge Vineyard looks out across the Pacific Ocean from an elevation of 1400 - 1875 ft (426 - 521 m). An ancient seabed, the soils are shallow and rocky with a mix of broken sandstone and shale as well as volcanic soils in the lower blocks. The mix of Dijon, 777, Pommard, Calera and Swan clones were planted in 1998 and are farmed organically and biodynamically. In this older vineyard, the vines struggle in impoverished soils and strong winds, and they give their all to producing fruit rather than to shoots and leaves. In turn, grapes from such nutrient-starved vines produce a wine that resonates with the ruggedness of the terroir – bracing acidity, dense berry fruit, spice, and earthy minerality. While 2014 was rather dry in California, the extreme Sonoma coast received enough rainfall to sustain the vineyards throughout the growing season. Sunny afternoons and cool, foggy mornings produced Pinot Noir grapes of exceptional finesse and flavor. The wine is fresh and subtle, with a lovely perfume of red fruits and dark berries. Pour a glass and be patient: layers of nuance and mystery will unfold slowly from the glass. 

Details
¥ 11,500
2013 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay

2013 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay

At an elevation of over 1200 ft (365 m), Camp Meeting Ridge sits well above the fog line. The vines enjoy plenty of sunshine, but the air remains cool because the vineyard literally overlooks the ocean. Planted in 1991, this organic and biodynamically-farmed vineyard produces exceptional fruit that is being made into some of this winery’s most distinctive Chardonnays. In 2013, plenty of water from winter rains and moderate temperatures throughout the growing season led to a bountiful harvest of optimally ripe grapes. A wine that captures the rugged terroir of the Sonoma Coast, this is a crisp Chardonnay with lively citrus fruit, intense focus and mouthwatering minerality. Try it with cracked crab or fresh figs sprinkled with gorgonzola.  

Details
¥ 13,400
2014 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir

2014 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir

Although the Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard is primarily planted to Chardonnay, it includes 8.8 acres of Pinot Noir. While that may sound like a small vineyard, it was planted according to Burgundian practice – with vines packed together in closely spaced rows. This increases the overall yield of the vineyard while reducing the number of grape clusters per vine. Because of nature (the steep slopes, shallow, rocky soils, and cool maritime climate) and nurture (biodynamic farming) this vineyard consistently produces Pinot Noir with great complexity, depth, minerality, and natural acidity. Though winter rains were scant in most of California in 2014, they fell heavily enough on the extreme coast to mitigate any need for irrigation in the Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard. Summer temperatures were generally mild and grapes were uniformly ripe and flavorful at harvest. The extreme coastal terroir has produced a Pinot Noir of exceptional depth and finesse.

Details
¥ 14,000
2012 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (1.5L)

2012 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (1.5L)

This Chardonnay comes primarily from the Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard with additional fruit sourced from other growers in the AVA with vineyards located close to the ocean. The rocky soils and cool climate produce Chardonnay with fresh, bright fruit flavors, complex minerality and bright acidity. In 2012, summer days along the Sonoma Coast were alternately warm and sunny or fog-drenched, resulting in a long, excellent growing season. Conditions were ideal throughout the harvest, which ran through the second week of October. This fresh, creamy yet vivacious Chardonnay would pair well with grilled seafood or creamy risotto with scallops.

Details
¥ 17,400
2012 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (1.5L)

2012 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (1.5L)

The Pinot Noir grapes used in this wine were sourced exclusively from vineyards on the extreme Sonoma Coast; that is, no further than a day’s hike from the ocean. The cool climate and rocky soils encourage a complex profile of opulent fruit, soft tannins as well as elegance and structure from the minerality and bright acidity. The 2012 growing season saw conditions alternate between warm, sunny spells and days of thick fog that allowed small bunches of grapes to ripen steadily and evenly. The result is an elegant wine – refreshing and well-structured with nuances in the finish that keep the wine interesting through the last delicious drop.

Details
¥ 17,600