A MINIMALIST APPROACH
“I’m not trying to make a style. Fort Ross Vineyard is the style. The fruit lends a certain weight and depth to the wine while the cool climate produces the beauty and elegance.” - Jeff Pisoni, Winemaker
Philosophy: The approach to winemaking at Fort Ross is gentle and minimalistic, as the aim is to produce exceptional wines that truly express the terroir and topography of this unique coastal vineyard. The vision is to create wines that reveal their fruit with elegant structure, balance and finesse.
Harvest to Barrel: Winemaker, Jeff Pisoni, and Owners Lester and Linda work closely together, repeatedly walking the vineyard, carefully tasting the grapes from each block. During the cool morning hours, each block is hand-picked into small trays, sometimes with several passes through a single block to ensure ideal fruit ripeness and acid balance. Grapes are hand sorted, destemmed, cold soaked for several days then fermented in simple open top fermenters and manually punched down. Shortly after pressing, the wines are aged in a combination of new and neutral French oak barrels. All of the wines – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinotage – are fermented using native yeast, which lengthens the process and changes its dynamic. It takes longer to initiate fermentation with native yeast, and the progression is slower, but according to winemaker Jeff Pisoni, “the results are more distinctive and complex.”
Art of Blending: Throughout winemaking, clones and blocks are kept separate to maintain their distinct flavor profiles and structural components. Blending trials determine how to combine the different clones into distinct wines that best reflect their component flavor profiles. Bottling the wines unfined and unfiltered is another minimalistic choice that helps to preserve vineyard expression and the wines’ pristine fruit, as well as contribute beautiful texture. Pisoni acknowledges that it’s not always the easiest road but he insists that the less intervention the better. “You have to be really cautious and careful, just as with native fermentation. It takes constant observation, both through tasting and under the microscope, but bottling without filtering results in a purer, fresher expression of the vineyard.”