It all begins in the vineyards. Formed by the San Andreas fault, the upthrust of the coastal range is above the fog line—allowing for that critical afternoon sun—and consists of a variety of soils ideal for growing Red Car’s Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Winemaker Tanner Scheer and Viticulturist Greg Adams work closely together to grow the highest quality fruit possible. “We strive to produce wines of typicity that showcase the specific locations in which our fruit is grown, as well as the folks behind the glass,” says Tanner. “With each vintage, we set out to represent our varietals in their most authentic sense and to their fullest potential.”
Red Car Estate
Elev 1000 ft. / Pacific Ocean 3.7 MI.
Our original estate vineyard, planted in 2005, crowns the northwestern corner of King Ridge Road above Fort Ross on the coastline of Sonoma County. It sits at 900–1000 feet and is defined by giant coastal redwoods and the fog-laden Pacific Ocean. This proximity to the ocean moderates temperatures and makes it susceptible to rain and fog during the flowering season, which keeps yields very low.
The vines are planted in fractured marine sandstone that weathered over millions of years from an uplifted seabed known as the Ohlson Ranch Formation. This soil offers the same viticultural advantages as the oft-referenced Goldridge series found in the lower West Sonoma Coast elevations around Sebastopol, yet differs by including less clay and more stone than sand in its composition.
The vineyard is densely planted to multiple “clones” of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Over 90% of which are actually heritage field selections such as Jackson 16, Calera and other special “suitcase” budwood. The Chardonnay is 100% from an old Wente “clone” that was chosen over the course of decades by Larry Hyde specifically for the small size of its clusters and mineral flavor profile.
It is generally thought that Northern California saw its first wine grapes when the Spanish brought up the Mission grape through their iconic missions. However, Russians got a good jump on the Spanish in 1817 when they planted wine grapes at Fort Ross, then a Russian fur-trapping outpost situated directly on the Pacific. English settlers were next, planting vineyards in the area in the late 19th century that supported a robust winemaking community until Prohibition, when all known vineyards in the area were converted to orchards. In the 1980s, the hills above Fort Ross regained notoriety for winegrowing and are now considered one of the most exciting enclaves for world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in America. The TTB responded in 2011 and granted the region its own AVA entitled Fort Ross – Seaview. View a map of Fort Ross-Seaview Vineyards and Wineries here.
Heaven & Earth
Elev 650 ft. / Pacific Ocean 8 MI.
All of the fruit for our Heaven & Earth Pinot Noir has been grown on a 4.5 acre site less than one mile northwest of Occidental. The vines were planted to our specifications in 2004 using the Calera, Pommard and 828 selections of Pinot Noir. When you take into account the planting density of over 2,000 vines per acre, average yields of less than 2.5 tons per acre take on new significance. Nestled into a picturesque little valley just east of the Bohemian Highway, the vineyard site is protected from the harsher offshore winds while still enjoying cool coastal temperatures. This sheltered yet cool environment keeps extreme temperatures to a minimum, effectively lengthening the hang time and enhancing site expression while preserving acidity and moderating alcohol.
Elev 850 ft. / Pacific Ocean 4.6 MI.
The Hagan Vineyard perches high above the edge of the continent fully facing the cold Pacific Ocean on the esteemed Taylor Lane west of Occidental. Dramatic, awe-inspiring and windswept, it produces wines of extraordinary complexity and perfume. Red Car leased this twelve-acre site in 2011. We made a thirty-year commitment and are proud to have utilized organic farming practices from the beginning. Along the tiny ridgeline of Taylor Lane are some of the most revered Pinot Noir vineyards in the country, including Summa Vineyard (the plot that put cool climate California Pinot Noir on the world map), Theiriot Vineyard from Littorai, and Evening Land’s Occidental Vineyard. Here, at the end of the road just past these revered sites, lies our newest estate property.
Elev 525 ft. / Pacific Ocean 8 MI.
Carved out of the lows hills above Freestone, a tiny village on the West Sonoma Coast, sits the seven acre vineyard known as Zephyr Farms. Deep coastal fog and afternoon westerly winds yield tiny berries with thick skins, resulting in wines that are highly perfumed and complex. These are wines of wonderful irony as they combine concentration of fruit and spice with freshness on the palate. The tannins are more pronounced than our other Pinot Noirs, attributable to the intense winds the grapes face (Zephyr quite literally means a western wind in Greek). Yet, the mouth-feel and body of the wine remains delicate and silky.
Mohrhardt Ridge Vineyard
Elev 1400 feet ft. / Pacific Ocean 5.0 MI.
We are thrilled to announce our inaugural vintage of cool-climate, single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Red Car’s last decade has been dedicated to reviving classic, old world winemaking styles and techniques and applying them to our true coastal region of the West Sonoma Coast. This wine is a perfect example of unique voices we have uncovered along the way. The Mohrhardt Ridge Vineyard is located in the Fort Ross – Seaview AVA, a region known primarily for its incredible Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards. It is perched high on a ridge a couple of miles inland from our Estate Vineyard, which provides just enough additional warmth to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon. We practically stumbled upon this small, four-acre vineyard that was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon over 30 years ago. Discovering Cabernet vines in the reigning region for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to embrace the true coastal history of the Médoc by farming the vineyard and making wine from this little gem.
Elev 900 ft. / Pacific Ocean 4.7 MI.
This organically farmed micro-vineyard of just 1.3 acres is nestled among coastal redwoods west of the hamlet of Occidental. Planted in 2001, it is one of our coldest vineyards with very low yields and extremely limited production. 2012 is the first vintage we have been able to produce more than a barrel of this wine and we invite our mailing list members to take advantage of this exclusive opportunity to add this seductively aromatic, lively and feminine Pinot Noir to their collection.
In 2008 Bryon and Andie Sheets, the long-time owners and stewards of this property decided to plant additional acreage on an adjacent parcel. With its wild redwoods, firs and madrones poking out above a blanket of sea fog, Doc’s Ranch Vineyard is now one of the most visually dramatic sites in all of California. Despite being about four miles from the Pacific Ocean, its elevation allows it to attain warm enough temperatures to ripen and flavor its fruit.
Three different “clones” of Pinot Noir are now farmed, including Calera, Dijon 114 and Pommard as well as Clone 5 Chardonnay. The vineyard is exclusively cane pruned to give us maximum flexibility in the vineyard, and we use cover crops throughout the winter and spring months to control erosion and enhance our living soils with organic nourishment.
Elev 575 ft. / Pacific Ocean 6.4 MI.
On the outer reaches of the viticultural frontier, this groundbreaking vineyard overlooking the Bodega Valley follows in the footsteps of its legendary namesake, Lou Platt. Lou planted the vineyard in 2004 with the stated intention of growing the best Pinot Noir in California. This achievement capped an extraordinary career that included 10 years as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a few as Chairman of the Board of Boeing. One of the most noted Pinot Noir vineyard sites in California, our 5.2 acre section of the vineyard is challenged to set fruit every year as it is buffeted by chilling winds blowing in from the coast less than 7 miles away. Our blocks are planted to the Calera, 777 and 828 clones. They lie on an exposed southwest facing hillside, which maximizes the sunlight they receive but also exposes them to the coastal influences. The vines are densely planted, with over 2,400 vines per acre, and are farmed intensively with an eye toward minimizing vigor and maximizing vine efficiency.
Elev 130 ft. / Pacific Ocean 15 MI.
Few new world Chardonnay sites rival the famed Ritchie Vineyard. Aubert, Dumol, Ramey and others have showcased the quality of this vineyard for decades, crafting some of the most sought-after Chardonnay this side of the Cote D’Or. Well-farmed old vines (40 years +) planted to true old Wente clone in Goldridge Loam soils is a hard combination to beat. What intrigued us about Ritchie was the opportunity to turn our predecessors’ riper style on its head, and harness the potential of the vineyard to create a California Chardonnay with balance, perfume, texture, minerality, and nuance.
Elev 730 ft. / Pacific Ocean 19 MI.
Vivio Vineyard is perfectly situated where fog enters Bennett Valley from the Petaluma Wind Gap. It is the first Syrah vineyard in the valley to cool down and the last to heat up. It is our only vineyard growing in red volcanic soil, which lends a distinct mineral edge to the Rhône varietals planted there. We have designated it as part of our single vineyard echelon for its lean, focused intensity. The vineyard also contains a bit of Roussanne we enjoy producing every year.
Elev 2000 ft. / Pacific Ocean 3.5 MI.
Wild, exotic, mountainous, and perched above the San Andreas Fault, the Manchester Ridge Vineyard is like no other in California. Close enough to the sea to hear waves crashing yet high enough to rise above the fog, it yields wines of immense complexity and tension. The mountain range that comprises the Mendocino Ridge AVA, where this vineyard is located, is an extension of the Sonoma Coast range just north of the county line, making this Red Car’s only site in Mendocino County.