Sonoma Coast’s Flowers Winery offers unique coastal flavors and unmatched scenic hospitality
By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos by Flowers Winery and Douglas Friedman
In 1989, Joan and Walt Flowers took a chance on a mountaintop piece of land they saw in an advertisement in the back of a wine publication. Thank goodness they did, otherwise, Flowers Winery would not be the unique, noteworthy brand it is today. “Flowers is located on the extreme Sonoma Coast, so we are on the most western ridgeline that actually can grow grapes in Sonoma. We’re two miles from the ocean at high elevation,” explained Chantal Forthun, the Head Winemaker at Flowers Winery. “Our founders, Joan and Walt Flowers, purchased the flagship property, Camp Meeting Ridge, in 1989 and the first vine went into the ground in 1991. We are celebrating 30 years of having grapes in the ground this year which is very exciting.”
Since the vineyard is so close to the Pacific Ocean, the climate dictates most of what they produce and the flavors found in each wine. The vineyards are above the fog line, which means they still get the necessary nutrients and benefits from the sun, but the fog can roll through the vineyards, creating a cooling, dewy effect on the vines; they’re truly at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Flowers Wine has two distinct vineyard estates, both on ridges, called Camp Meeting Ridge and Sea View Ridge. Camp Meeting Ridge is the flagship location with 321 acres, located 1,500 feet in elevation and two miles from the ocean. “We only have 29 acres of grapes, so less than 10% of the property is actually planted with vines. The rest of the property is maintained as the true and pristine coastal forest that has existed way before people were growing grapes out here,” explained Forthun. According to the Flowers Winery website, there are 18 acres of Chardonnay vines and 11 acres of Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay is characterized by a citrus aroma and coastal saltiness, a signature taste and aroma to the Sonoma Coast.
After Joan and Walt Flowers realized they would only be able to plant 29 acres of grapes at Camp Meeting Ridge, they decided to go higher in elevation and move four miles away, as the crow flies, from Camp Meeting Ridge to create Sea View Ridge. Sea View Ridge is 327 acres, 1,875 feet in elevation and two miles from the ocean. This is one of the highest points on the North Coast where grapes can grow, according to Forthun.
It contains 44 acres of primarily Pinot Noir vines on rolling land. The Pinot Noir grapes at Sea View Ridge are heavily influenced by the coastal forests that surround it. Intertwined with the vines are wild fennel, mint, sage and bay trees that all contribute to the savory taste and umami aroma.
Flowers Wine is versatile due to the coastal air the grapes develop and ripen in. The cool air from the ocean prompts a long development on the vine, providing lots of flavors, texture and acidity. This means Flowers Wine pairs well with many different foods. “One of my favorite things to cook is roast chicken and you can pair roast chicken with either the Chardonnay or the Pinot Noir; it goes well with both. Certainly, any type of fresh seafood, like scallops, crab and oysters, would be good with the Chardonnay. We eat a lot of pork in my house, so pork goes with Chardonnay, but definitely duck and lamb with Pinot Noir as well,” Forthun said.
Since the vineyards are featured so high up on this ridge, the roads to get there are long, winding and difficult to navigate. Flowers Winery doesn’t have a place on their vineyard property for tastings to occur, and until recently, that option wasn’t available to them. “An opportunity arose to purchase this really cool property just outside of Healdsburg, California. We’re in a really good neighborhood of people who have been growing grapes and making wine in the Russian River Valley for a very long time. It luckily had four acres of vineyards, and a building we remodeled into this beautiful tasting room. The most special part about this property is these beautiful sprawling gardens,” explained Forthun. “There’s little unique cabanas, pergolas and lounge areas where you can sit. You could come five different times and not sit in the same area at House of Flowers. If you come to visit us, you can taste wine with a view of the vineyard within these gardens, and they also have a small seasonal food pairing by the executive chef. It’s been open for almost two years now.” House of Flowers is open to anyone, and they highly recommend making a reservation as it’s becoming a highly coveted spot.
Flowers Winery also has a membership option called Flowers Family Membership. Within this membership, there are three different tiers: Ridgetop, Sea View and River. Each tier receives a shipment of wine three times a year of their single-vineyard estate wines, but each tier has different benefits that come with it. For more information on the Flowers Family Membership, head to flowerswinery.com/flowers-wine-club.
Due to the minimal nature of the estate vineyards and the limited amounts of vines produced, Flowers Winery has partnered with their neighbors to make an Appalachian series of wines; these are grower partner wines. “We purchased fruit essentially from our neighbors out here in the West Sonoma Coast in order to craft Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that are still very coastal specific but they come from more than one property than just the ones we own,” explained Forthun. Sea View Ridge and Camp Meeting Ridge wines are available for purchase on their website, flowerswinery.com/our-wines, and you can find vintage Flowers Wines on some restaurants’ wine lists. Locally, when dining out for dinner, you can find a 2016 Flowers Sonoma Coast on Volare’s menu; Ruth’s Chris features a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, a Sea View Ridge Pinot Noir and a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay; and Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse has a 2018 Pinot Noir. Keep your eyes peeled for Flowers Wine the next time you’re dining out or plan a trip to the Sonoma Coast to experience all that Flowers Wine has to offer.
Flowers Winery & House of Flowers
4035 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448