The New West Sonoma Coast AVA: Viticulture On The Edge
The West Sonoma Coast, spanning an impressive 141,846 acres, has recently earned distinction as its own American Viticultural Area (AVA). Nestled against a 76-mile stretch of the rugged Pacific coastline, this AVA is a beacon for cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and pockets of Cabernet, producing wines renowned for their intensity, concentration, and impeccable balance.
Of its vast acreage, only 1,028 acres are dedicated to 47 commercial vineyards. These numbers might seem small, but they underscore the unique challenges and intricacies of farming in such a location. The vineyards here are exposed to the relentless cold marine air, frequent heavy fogs, and the ever-present influence of the Pacific Ocean. These conditions, whilst challenging, have a silver lining: they contribute to the creation of wines bursting with character, elegance, and nuance.
For years, many questioned why such a distinct region hadn't been recognised separately, given its clear differentiation from the broader Sonoma Coast, which stretches an overwhelming 750 square miles. The latter, established as an official AVA back in 1987, was often criticised for its vastness, enveloping even most of the Russian River Valley AVA. This confusion led to the passionate formation of the West Sonoma Coast Vintners, advocating for a more defined and genuine representation of the coastal terroir.
Now, with its own AVA status secured in 2022, the West Sonoma Coast stands as a testament to the persistence of those who believed in its unique identity and the challenges and rewards of viticulture on the edge.
From Hollywood to Terroir: Alma Fria Winery
Behind every bottle of wine lies a story of passion, and Carroll Kemp's tale is no exception. Shifting gears from a thriving Hollywood career to dive deep into the world of winemaking, Carroll spent 17 enriching years at Red Car, fine-tuning his skills and understanding of the craft. But it was his desire to intimately connect with the land and its produce that led him to join forces with entrepreneur Jan Holterman and create Alma Fria.
Embracing a more intimate approach, Carroll transitioned from a bustling winery of 40 employees at Red Car to a boutique enterprise, solely captaining Alma Fria. This wasn't just about scaling down but refining the essence of winemaking to its purest form. With a commitment to minimal intervention, a restrained use of new oak, and a holistic approach devoid of additives, Alma Fria embodies the union of tradition and innovation.
Alma Fria’s Wines: Capturing Critical Acclaim
When we first discovered Carroll's wines, it was an immediate revelation. Meeting Carroll only deepened our admiration for his approach and the wines he crafts. But we aren't the only ones impressed. Antonio Galloni, a renowned wine critic, recently commented on Alma Fria's 2021 vintage:
"These are some of the most engaging wines I have tasted from Alma Fria and proprietor Carroll Kemp. As always, the wines are done in a style that emphasizes tension and energy. In the past, I have found some wines too linear, but that is not the case with the 2021s, which have just a bit more fruit density. The Pinots have a touch of whole cluster influence."
It's this attention to detail, from the stem inclusion in their Pinot Noirs to the meticulous use of oak in their Chardonnays, that sets Alma Fria apart. As the West Sonoma Coast AVA gains prominence, Alma Fria stands poised to become one of its defining wineries.
A refreshing Chardonnay with a unique character and bright acidity. This blend of two ridge-top West Sonoma Coast sites offers exceptional quality and complexity. With aromatics of Meyer lemon, white citrus flowers and green almond, this wine offers wild flavours of Kefir lime, Mandarin orange pith, and lemon glaze, combined with a Champagne-like yeastiness and minerality. Click here to shop.
"The 2021 Chardonnay Campbell Ranch is intensely floral, effusive and tropical in its first impression, beautifully layered and creamy, the 2021 is super-impressive. Hints of tangerine oil, mint, lemon confit and a kiss of French oak meld together nicely. The 2021 is a bit richer than some previous wines here. It's a style that works so well." Antonio Galloni – 94 PTS Click here to shop.