Diana Schweiger, the National Sales Manager for Fort Ross Vineyards was conducting the wine tasting at the Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan. When we got there, there was not a crowd at the moment, which made it easier for me to take my rank-amateur photography shots of the wine. It was interesting listening to Ms. Schweiger discuss the winery, the wines as well as her earlier days, as she comes from a wine making family as well, of no relation to the Fort Ross Vineyards. She also had photographs of the winery and how the blocks were laid out, and she had some technical tear sheets as well, which is probably more interesting to wine geeks like me, than to the average person going in to taste some new wines to take home.
The Fort Ross Symposium Pinot Noir 2013 delivered to me what I expect from this grape. This was like all of their wines Estate Grown, but it contained four percent Pinotage. This wine was aged for eleven months in French Oak, of which a quarter was new and the wine was finished unfined and unfiltered. There were three-hundred-fifty-nine cases of this wine and I think it will cellar nicely for seven to ten years. I like the darker color of this Pinot Noir compared to the Sea Slopes, and the nose was much fuller, and I found the wine to be full-bodied and textured.
The last wine of the conducted tasting was the Fort Ross Pinotage 2012 which got my Bride nervous. She has had two Pinotage wines, one that she enjoyed and one she had me finish, so she is still on the fence on this varietal. Pinotage was first developed in South Africa in 1925 and is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (which used to be called Hermitage). Lester and Linda Schwartz the owners and founders of Fort Ross Vineyard are from South Africa and in tribute to their homeland sourced Pinotage bud wood from the original founding blocks in that country and were the first private growers to import grapevine cuttings through the Foundation Plant Services that operates alongside the U.C. Davis School of Viticulture and Enology. This wine was aged for ten months in French Oak, of which fifteen percent was new, and they produced three-hundred-seventy cases. I think that this wine will age nicely for about ten years. Here was a nice dark inky wine, and I have found that Pinotage goes out of its way to discover and unmask the terroir of the estate. From the four or five different Pinotage wines that I have had, I find that it is the wilder and gamier relative of Pinot Noir and can really deliver when it is done right, and this bottle of wine hit all the right notes for me and is perfect for a big hearty dinner in the middle of winter. I have to say that all in all, I enjoyed the wines of Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery and look forward to having them again.