2014 Flowers Sea View Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir


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. 


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. 


90% de-stemmed and 10% whole cluster grapes were fermented on native yeasts. After an extended maceration of 25 days, the wine aged for 18 months in French oak (25% new).

Tasting notes

95 points – James Suckling.  Aromas of bing cherry, pomegranate and blood orange are accented with hints of cedar, tea and white pepper. The palate is lively and energetic with darker fruits, savory herbs, silky tannins and refreshing acidity.


Sonoma Coast


Pinot Noir