Wine Tasting Along the West Sonoma Coast

Wine tasting along the West Sonoma Coast on the kind of day that inspired “California Dreamin'”, including some tips for how to maximize your trip to the West Sonoma Coast.

Last weekend, on the spur of the moment, my wife and I decided to head up to the Sonoma Coast to visit an old friend.

And by friend, I mean Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery. We last visited about 3 years ago when the tasting room, in its current location in Jenner first opened (I was so impressed by our experience I wrote a review on the American Winery Guide click here to check it out).

The drive from our home in the East Bay is about two hours, but it took us longer because we stopped at Whole Foods Market in Santa Rosa to pick up provisions for a picnic lunch at the winery.

Once we got back out of the road, we took California Highway 116 (a.k.a. River Road) west to through charming towns like Guerneville,  and Duncans Mill past cow filled pastures out to the coast (with plenty of breathtaking scenery along the way!) through the main section of Jenner, past the River’s End Restaurant….


Then a right turn and up Meyers Grade Road to the winery…


Just beyond the sign above there is an automatic gate the leads to this road…


Past this pond…


The Tasting Room

Just beyond the pond, as if fashioned by Divine providence, is a clearing in the midst of a meadow where you see the rustic exterior of the Fort Ross tasting room.

This amazing video from David Moss showcases the beauty of the Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery tasting room and property…

Once inside the beautifully appointed tasting room…my eyes, like a both to a flame, were drawn to the view of the gradient shades of blue skies and languid cirrus clouds above the Pacific Ocean in view just behind the tasting room bar.

We immediately walked past the tasting bar out onto the patio and to bask in the breathtaking beauty of this view that befitting the closest vineyard to the Pacific Ocean in California.

The view from the patio of the Fort Ross tasting room. And, yes that is the Pacific Ocean under azure blue skies and low clouds in the “crook” of the tree line

Trust me…the photo doesn’t do the stunning view justice, but it’s what I got y’all…

Located in one of Sonoma County’s newest AVAs, Fort Ross-Seaview. The tasting room brings to mind one of the many historic barns that dot the landscape on our drive out to the coast.

Surrounded by Madrone trees, the tasting room has an industrial chic vibe inside with its concrete floors. There’s a long onyx bar that can be illuminated from underneath and is lighted from above by pendants on heavy metal pulleys. Outside, the patio is enclosed by a handmade wrought iron railing that depicts grapevines. – Carolyn Jung

For more photos of the tasting room and property check these photos I took(click on the photo to enlarge and see the slide show):

It was the perfect day for tasting – sunny and warm. The winery offers Pinot Noir, Chardonnay(including a delicious late-harvest dessert wine) and Pinotage, all made from grapes grown exclusively on the Fort Ross Vineyard Estate.

Kristin, our tasting room attendant started us off with a splash of Chardonnay, which was fantastic.  It was vinified using more oak than I typically prefer, but the acidity was there to balance it out.  Delicious.

Thereafter, we moved on to several Pinot Noirs.  But the patio got to be a bit too warm so we moved inside.  You can see all the wines we tasted below (click on the photo to enlarge and see the slide show):  All the wines were outstanding.  A magnum of the 2010 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Fort Ross Vineyard, and a bottle of the 2012 Fort Ross Pinot Noir The Terraces made its way home with us.

After the tasting, Kristin was kind enough to let us borrow a couple of glasses and we headed out to the picnic area for lunch…

We enjoyed a bottle of bubbly with our picnic lunch

It was glorious day to bask in the singular beauty of the Sonoma Coast.  And that’s what we did – taking a two-hour lunch.  By then it was getting to be close to closing time.

Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery website states…Overlooking the majestic Pacific Ocean, floating above the coastal fog and surrounded by forests and meadows, the Fort Ross Vineyard Tasting Room beckons. Indeed it does.  Heed the call for an experience you won’t soon forget!

On our drive back home, my wife and I talked about what things we might do our next trip to the Sonoma Coast.  Here’s are a few of the things we talked about and a few tips for maximizing your trip to the West Sonoma Coast:

  • The West Sonoma Coast is a wonderful day trip, but make it an overnight and stay in on of the great inns/hotels/B&Bs that along the coast!
  • You’ll reap the rewards of planning ahead a bit.  In addition to Fort Ross, Hirsch Winery & Vineyards has a tasting room within a 30 min drive, but you’ll need an appointment.
  • Make some time to visit historic Fort Ross, where the first grapes were planted in Northern California in 1817.
  • The River’s End Restaurant is just down the road from the winery.  We definitely plan to check it our out next trip to the area.  Other restaurants we’ve enjoyed in the area are Nick’s Cove, and Terrapin Creek Cafe Restaurant.
  • If you travel via Highway 116 (River Road) and are looking for a great tasting experience and to pick up some sparkling wine, just a mile or so off of Highway 116 , you’ll find Iron Horse.  Definitely worth the detour!
  • There are plenty of other wineries located along or just off River Road.
  • Likewise, check out Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.  Well-kept trails make this park, two miles north of Guerneville on Armstrong Woods Road, It’s a good stop for a day hike.
  • Once you’ve hit the coast, check out Goat Rock State Beach. There could be no starker counterpoint to the shady redwoods than this wide, sandy beach by the Russian River’s mouth.

If you’ve been out to the West Sonoma Coast, what are you favorites places to go, things to do?  And if you’ve not been…what are you waiting for?


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  1. Cooking Chat says:

    Really enjoyed this post! We had a wonderful to visit to this area, about a dozen years ago. We stayed at a little motel on the coast in Jenner, and would soak in views of the Pacific at sunset, enjoying wine and cheese we’d picked up throughout the day.

  2. dwdirwin says:

    Great suggestions! Maybe some dramamine for the drive to Fort Ross- that’s a very winding road! 😉

  3. Awesome! If I drove two hours in any direction I would be pretty much nowhere! North = Oklahoma border, South = Waco (1/2 way to Austin), East and West = just Texas high plains You live in such a great area! The drive and the winery sounds delightful!

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