Despite its relatively recent AVA designation, viticulture in the area now known as Fort Ross-Seaview dates back as far as 1817 when Russian explorers planted an unnamed Peruvian variety here on the Pacific coast. Grape growing and subsequent winemaking has been part of the landscape ever since, albeit intermittently, with a more sustained commercial approach adopted in the 1970s.
Elevation is the single most significant factor in Fort Ross-Seaview’s terroir. Only grapes grown at altitudes above two-hundred-and-seventy metres can apply this label to their wines and many vineyards occupy plots well beyond this. Above the fog line grapes experience uninterrupted sunshine during the growing season tempered by the ocean breeze and the fog below. The general climate of the region might be described as cool maritime but the advantage of the AVAs elevated position ensures its vines receive more sunshine and higher temperatures than nearby lower-lying areas, thus making high quality viticulture possible.
The rugged mountain terrain of the Pacific coast provides rocky, shallow marine soils with excellent drainage and minimal risk of rot or mildew. The resulting low yields of balanced, deeply concentrated grapes enable the production of characterful, well-structured wines.
Pinot Noir varietals from Fort Ross-Seaview are often bright and alluring with flavours of red and black cherry, pomegranate, raspberry and thyme whilst Chardonnays are typically fresh, with a brisk acidity and an aromatic profile that includes tangerine, lemon peel and pear. Other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are cultivated further inland though in much smaller quantities, and one producer - Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery, makes exceptional wines from the South African Pinotage grape.