Dedicated Farming, Masterful Winemaking, & Profound Wines

By Lisa Gmur, CSW

Clinging to a necklace of 30 small mountain blocks atop the steep coastal ridge on the wild Sonoma Coast sits Fort Ross Vineyard. Developed and planted by owners Lester and Linda Schwartz and their small crew, Fort Ross Vineyard is just one mile west of the Pacific Ocean and is all about estate grown fruit.

The vineyards sit at an altitude of 920 to 1800 feet above sea level with steep slopes, cool climate and sedimentary soil types. But Fort Ross is not just the name of the vineyard, it also headlines one California’s premiere AVA’s that was long in the making. In fact It was a 13 year process which began in 1994 and finally approved in 2012. There are 17 growers in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA including Flowers. Peter Michael, Hirsch, Failla, Pahlmeyer and Marcassin.

Fort Ross Sea View

The History of Fort Ross Vineyards

The story of the Fort Ross Vineyard goes back to the 1960’s in Cape Town, South Africa where Lester and Linda met as college students. He was studying geology and she was studying music.

The two married and nine years later moved to San Francisco, California. Missing the country life he experienced in South Africa, he was drawn to the old Russian settlement of Fort Ross overlooking the Pacific Ocean and built an Africa inspired home there. The vineyard project began in 1991.

They tested 16 different grape varieties, three trellis systems, assorted clines and rootstocks until they discovered that the ideal grapes were Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Jeff Pisoni, Winemaker

Jeff Pisoni is the winemaker at Fort Ross and he approaches winemaking with a very specific goal; each vine and each barrel is dealt with individually.



The wines are made with simplicity to let the estate grown fruit and terroir speak. The limited wines produced in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA reflect the very unique terroir with elegance, fine structure, seamless balance and vibrant fruit. The tempering influence of fog, the cool climate challenges the grapes in this region so they develop slowly and evenly to perfection.