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Fort Ross Vineyard, Jenner
The flagship winery of the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, Fort Ross Vineyard produces single vineyard estate grown wines with a focus on Pinot Noir. The vineyard, which resides 1200 to 1700 feet above sea level, is less than one mile from the ocean and is the closest vineyard to the Pacific Ocean in California. The fog blanketed climate makes for primo Pinot Noir producing environs.
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After turning off of Highway 1, you'll journey up a windy, scenic road to Fort Ross Vineyard's tasting room, which is located above the fog line. On a clear summer day, one can see for miles - and to the Pacific Ocean - from the tasting room. Arrive a bit later in the day and sit on the patio and sip on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinotage while watching the fog roll in. Tastings start at $25. fortrossvineyard.com
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Freeman Winery, Sebastopol
Tokyo-born winemaker Akiko Freeman crafts Burgundian-inspired, cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir using estate grapes from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River. Freeman's unpretentious winery in Green Valley, near Sebastopol, features an expansive wine cave used to age the limited production wines. Japanese aesthetic follows each wine, including their elegant 2015 Ryo-fu Chardonnay. Ryo-fu means "cool breeze" in Japanese.
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The winery produces 5,000 cases and they are only available by allocation. The winery offers private tastings, which are are often hosted by Freeman herself, that include a tasting of current releases in the caves, paired with a visit to Gloria Vineyard, the winery's first estate vineyard. Tastings start at $30. Appointment only. freemanwinery.com
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Marimar Estate, Sebastopol
Marimar Torres' family has been producing wine in Spain since the 19th century. When she relocated to California in 1975, to promote her family's wines. She fell in love with and settled into West County, creating a "Catalan Farmhouse-Winery" inspired by her parents' legacy. Today, Torres produces organic and sustainable Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Albariño and Tempranillo.
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Their tasting room brings the flair of the Old World to the New World, with Catalan architectural features, Spanish fine art and antiques, and expansive vineyard views from an umbrella-laden patio. Torres is an authority on Catalan food, and the winery offers tastings paired with tapas featured in Torres' cookbooks. Can't make it to the winery? Visit their tasting room at the Barlow. Tastings start at $20. Reservations required. marimarestate.com
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Iron Horse Vineyards, Sebastopol
One of the most progressive wineries in California, Iron Horse offers guests a rustic setting nestled amongst English gardens and rolling vineyards. Since it's opening in 1979, Iron Horse wines have been served by five Presidential Administrations, including four events during the Obama years. They produce wines that support LGBT communities, environmentalism, and living the good life.
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Tastings take place in their working winery, with guests bellying up to the open-air redwood bar overlooking Green Valley. Hop in a truck and tour the property with winemaker David Munksgard, taste sparkling wines during the disgorgement process, or simply relax with a glass of estate Pinot Noir, petting the winery cats and enjoying the view. Tastings start at $25. Reservations required. ironhorsevineyards.com
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Lynmar Estate, Sebastopol
Lynn and Anisya Fritz have been creating Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from their 100-acre Russian River property since the 1990s. All of their wines are produced utilizing sustainable growing practices and wines are aged in a 9,000 square foot cave. The estate not only offers wine, but also an organic farm-to-table program managed by a full-time garden and culinary team. Their tasting room offers indoor and outdoor tastings in a contemporary atmosphere.
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Tasting options at Lynmar Estate include a Chardonnay-only tasting (with 8 Chards!) and the famed Lynmar Lunch, in which the winery's culinary team prepares a 3-course, seasonal lunch paired with Lynmar wines. Craving pizza along with your Pinot? They host a monthly Pinot & Pizza event which stars brick oven pizza with toppings from their vegetable gardens. Tastings start at $30. Reservations required. lynmarestate.com