Walt and Joan Flowers are among the pioneers of the West Sonoma Coast. In 1990 when they planted their first vineyard, most winemakers regarded their location near the Pacific as too cold for growing grapes. Time has shown the Flowers were prescient, and our reviews below confirm our impressions of earlier vintages. We visited winemaker Chantal Forthun at the winery in the Fort Ross Seaview appellation while preparing our 2019 report on The West Sonoma Coast, and we recently had a Zoom chat with her about the new releases.
Flowers Vineyards & Winery operates two estate vineyards located on ridgetops between 1,150 and 1,875 feet of elevation just 2 miles from the rugged Sonoma coast. The Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard, part of a 321-acre ranch, has 18 acres of Chardonnay and 11 acres of Pinot Noir, initially planted by the Flowers in 1990. In 1998 the Sea View Ridge Vineyard, part of a 327-acre estate, was planted with 39-acres of Pinot Noir, 2-acres of Chardonnay, and nearly 2-acres of Pinot Meunier. The coastal elevation provides a long growing season of warm days and cool nights, which allows ample ripening of these varietals. Climate change has led Flowers to change vineyard management to slow down ripening by decreasing leafing and introducing shade cloth. Today, the vineyards are all cane pruned and organically certified.
The Flowers sold their vineyards and winery to Huneeus Vintners in 2010. Winemaker Chantal Forthun joined Flowers in 2012 and was named wine director in 2016. She previously made wine at Oak Ridge in Lodi, Quartz Reef in New Zealand, and Rhys Vineyards in the Santa Cruz mountains. She was also assistant winemaker at Bonny Doon where she learned organic and biodynamic practices under the tutelage of Randall Graham. Jeremy Seysses of Burgundy’s Domaine Dujac is consulting winemaker.
Flowers 2019 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($50) 92 The Sonoma Coast Chardonnay sources fruit from several vineyards in the West Sonoma Coast including the estate’s Camp Meeting Ridge. It’s especially clean and crisp, yet there’s lively melon and orchard fruit aromas and plenty of upfront fruit on the palate. There’s an appealing mineral character to the wine and a wonderfully long finish. It’s all oak aged but with only 18% new French oak for 11 months. 13.5% alc.
Flowers 2019 Chardonnay Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast (Fort Ross-Seaview) ($85) 94 The Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay (planted to the Hyde-Old Wente clone) begins with a serious bouquet of tropical citrus complemented by flint-like notes. Broad and seamless in the mouth with a clear, bright focus of rich fruit with a saline accent and beautifully integrated with the oak. A refined Chardonnay showing superb balance and depth. Made predominantly from Hyde Old Wente clone and some Dijon 95 clone grown above the fog line at 1450+ feet elevation and 1.8 miles from the Pacific in the Fort Ross-Seaview appellation. Matured in 30% new French oak puncheons for 13 months.
Flowers 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($35) 92 This Rosé of Pinot Noir exudes refinement. Showing bright red cherry skin, pomegranate and river stone scents, it’s full-flavored with layers of pomegranate, cranberry, stone fruit, and minerals. Finishes very long and rich but more savory than fruity. A great food wine. Sourced from coastal vineyards including the Seaview Ridge Estate and farmed specifically for rosé; direct press using Champagne cycle, gradually increasing the pressure; fermented with ambient yeast. 13% alc.
Flowers 2019 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($55) 92 The Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir shows good red berry freshness on the nose and a fruit forward youthfulness on the palate. Characterized by freshness and bright acidity, it reveals pure red cherry with touches of raspberry and savory herbs. Sourced from Seaview Ridge and other family-owned vineyards along the Sonoma Coast; 5% whole cluster and given a 5 day cold soak. Matured in 18% new French oak for 10 months; 14.1% alc.
Flowers 2018 Pinot Noir Camp Meeting Ridge Sonoma Coast (Fort Ross-Seaview) ($90) 94 Medium ruby red. The Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir reveals a savory herbal and earth with dark red fruit in the background. Firmly structured yet silky in texture with layers of concentrated fruit and earthy flavors. Optimally oaked, well integrated and contributing to a rich mouthfeel. Sourced from the organically farmed Camp Meeting Ridge vineyard at 1150-1400′ elevation; includes clonal selections of Swan, Calera and Dijon 115 and 777. 2% whole cluster, given an 8 day cold soak, and matured in 27% new French oak for 15 months. Alc 13.5%
Flowers 2018 Pinot Noir Sea View Ridge Sonoma Coast (Fort Ross-Seaview) ($80) 93 Red fruit complemented by savory notes show on the nose of the Sea View Ridge Pinot Noir. The palate is full and broad with dense flavors that mirror the bouquet. The finish shows round tannins and good persistence. More ready to drink than the Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot. The organically and biodynamically cultivated Sea View Ridge estate vineyard is at 1400- 1875′ elevation and 1.8 miles from the Pacific; planted in 1998, it includes the Calera, 2A, Swan and 777 clones. Matured 14 months in 23% new French oak. 13.5% alc.