There’s such a want of wine-tasting opportunities on the Sonoma Coast that the loss of the Joseph Phelps Freestone tasting room, a few years back and a few miles inland, was one to be lamented. So why has it taken me so long to stop by Sonoma Coast Vineyards, which opened five years ago in a convenient pitstop location on the road out of Bodega Bay?
Maybe it was the name. Sonoma Coast is an officially recognized appellation that’s gained a good rep for cool-climate wines. And here’s this outfit taking that designation for themselves. Does it sound like something worked up by one of those wine groups run by investment bankers? The brand was actually founded by a local couple in the 1990s. Later, it was acquired by Vintage Wine Estates. So, investment bankers. But I got over it as soon as I was greeted by friendly staff and tasted the appellation-worthy wines. Visitors may taste at the bar, arrange for a tasting by appointment in a room with a gas hearth or order a local cheese plate and hang out on the cozy deck.
The economy pop-and-pour-at-the-beach option here is the 2018 Sonoma Coast Sauvignon Blanc ($25), a sweet-and-sour sipper with atypical apricot and honeysuckle notes that ring like a Riesling-Viognier mix. Different for a “Savvy,” but a good bet on the strand and even better in a “tote+able”-brand plastic flask, sold at the tasting room along with flexible GoVino wine cups, hats, sunglasses and hoodies for visitors who arrived at the Sonoma Coast dressed for a sunny day in Santa Monica.
Short of gale-force winds, the maritime setting shouldn’t spoil a Chardonnay-lover’s hit of toasty, caramelized oak that the 2017 Gold Ridge Hills Chardonnay ($30) delivers. Though I did not taste the 2018 Rosé ($25), or the North Coast Brut Rosé ($35), it’s hard to imagine going wrong there. Move the party inside for the reds.
Bright and tangy, like hibiscus and cranberry herbal tea, the 2017 Freestone Hills Pinot Noir ($40) is a pleasant intro to the reds of the area, while the 2017 Bodega Ridge Pinot Noir ($50) rewards a little more attention paid to it, with enticing hints of fresh raspberry, carob and complex stem aromatics from whole-cluster fermentation, and a bit of orange peel.
With its aromatic melange of strawberries in hay, dried fruit and spice, and mustard, the 2017 Koos Family Pinot Noir ($60) is a fireside-contemplation kind of red wine. Just not the beach-bonfire kind.
Sonoma Coast Vineyards, 555 Highway 1, Bodega Bay. Daily, 11am–6pm. Tasting fee, $25. 707.921.2860.