Above The Fog

Cozy up with some classic reds this month from the coastal mountains of California, above the fogline where the sun shines almost all the time.

Most of the grapes grown by Fogline Vineyards sit atop the peaks of Sonoma County at elevations that lift them above the coastal fog of northern California. During the growing season, these grapes get a head start on morning sunshine with longer ripening days. The temperature inversion at higher altitudes bring cooler days and warmer nights to the vineyards, resulting in more balanced fruit. Other climate niceties of the mountaintop experience give Fogline an advantage in avoiding fungus and mold while allowing environmentally friendly growing practices.

Fogline’s Pinot Noir offerings are quintessential classics. The winery’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir comes from the Sun Chase vineyard on the western slope of Sonoma Mountain. A fruitful aroma and delicate flavor of cherries carries an earthy, plumlike undercurrent and a touch of oak spice. This very fruit-forward Pinot has a smooth finish and is balanced enough to stand up to heavier fall fare. Go ahead and serve it with hearty entrées — soups, chili, roasts and all manner of pork dishes.

In contrast, Fogline’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, from grapes in the Floodgate vineyard, expresses a terroir from the foggy middle reaches of the Russian River Valley. This vineyard is the company’s only one below the fogline, giving grapes here a moister, cooler climate. The wine’s aroma of violets and cherries leads to a tangy taste of fresh cherries with a lingering finish. This valley Pinot is drier than its mountaintop sibling, with a lower alcohol volume. It pairs well with casual fare — pizza, pastas, burgers and other tailgating delights.

Dark fruits and earthy spice characterize Fogline’s Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, a well-balanced, fruitful wine from grapes grown high above the valley atop Sonoma’s Mount Bradford. Boasting a ripe aroma and classic jammy fruit, this Zinfandel has small amounts of Syrah and Petite Sirah added for structure. An underlayer of chocolate punctuates the rich blackberry flavor and mellows into oak spice on the satisfying finish. Smooth tannins let this wine complement a variety of beef dishes, grilled fare, and classic fall and winter cuisine.

Fogline also produces other varietals in its mountaintop vineyards, including Chardonnay, Syrah and Rosé of Pinot Noir. The wines are available in Columbia through N.H. Scheppers Distributing. Inquire at your favorite local wine shop.