2016 Flowers Sonoma Coast 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. 


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. In 2016 a multi-year drought finally came to an end and winter rains soaked the coastal hillside vineyards. Over the summer, regular coastal fog kept summer days from getting hot, allowing the grapes to ripen evenly and slowly. This is superb Pinot Noir: layered with bright fruit focus, complex minerality and crystalline acidity. Grilled salmon or shiitake risotto would make an excellent match.


Grapes are destemmed and given a six-day cold soak at 10 °C in order to extract color and flavor before the start of fermentation. During the native yeast fermentation, the wine was left on the skins for an average of 20 days in order to soften the tannins. Aging lasted for 11 months in 100% French oak barrels (18% new).

Tasting notes

91 points – Robert Parker. Aromas of red currants, cranberries, raspberry and hints of rose hips and savory herbs make for a complex nose. Cranberry and blood orange flavors are layered with earthy minerality. Refreshing acidity and grainy tannins mingle with hints of herbs through a long finish.


Sonoma Coast


Pinot Noir