Updated: Jan 8
I walked to the window and pulled back a thin, tobacco-stained curtain. What passed for a breeze from the street below was hot and close and remorseless. Then a westbound Red Car trolley lumbered by, filled with people. For a fleeting moment, I imagined I was in that Red Car, heading to the beach, where the air was fresh and clean and cool. Riding the Red Car to the edge of the continent, to the edge of everything.
This was the vignette written by the co-founder - Mark Estrin - of Red Car. They named their winery after the Red Car Trolleys in Los Angeles. Red Car has one of the most touching and engaging back stories about wineries that I have yet heard. It's a winding piece with triumphs and sorrows that leaves one quietly convinced this is a winery to love. Or at least that's how it left me. Read it here: https://redcarwine.com/history
Then I tasted their wines and knew I was right to think this way. Inspired the the syrahs of the cool Northern Rhone the partners behind Red Car established their first vineyards in the challengin cool ridges of Fort Ross and Seaview. These high ridge lines north of Jenner present some of the most formidable terrain for growing grapes, and for the winemakers, some of the most unique and sought-after fruit. It's just the proximity to the influences of the Pacific that allows for an extended growing season due to the cooling influences, but the combinations of soils from the ancient sea floor now converted into mountain by the relentless clash of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, the elevation, the winds, the vineyard exposures and the clones that wine growers prefer for these rugged growing sites.
Red Car Syrah from this vineyard are consistently spectacular with tart red fruit and layers of earth, spice, leather and pepper. Some time after their purchase of the vineyards in Fort Ross, they also purchased a vineyard near Occidental and began making the Heaven and Earth Pinot. Another perennial award winner, this wine shows off their love for cool climate Pinot Noir with bright fruit, tangy acidity and savory, herbal notes.
Red Car first cam on to my radar with their coastal style Chardonnay. Crisp with bright citrus flavors, their light touch with oak let the natural minerality shine through. They make several vineyard designate Chardonnays, all with that bright, crisp clean profile that let's the vineyard terroir speak.
Their fun wine is a Rosé of Pinot. Delicious and also characteristically cool climate in style. Tangy cherry, cranberry and strawberry with a lovely depth of flavor.
What I love:
Consistently fabulous wines
Cool climate style
Comfortable indoor and outdoor tasting
Wines they offer:
They have a easy access tasting room near Sebastopol that is very comfortable, with indoor and outdoor seating. Tasting is $25 pp
They also offer vineyard tours and an expedition to the vineyards in Freestone at the Zephyr Vineyard. Availability is limited.
From the winemaker:
We are hands-on farmers, part of a small cadre of wineries in our region who are fortunate to grow a large majority of our own fruit. For several years now we have worked hard to go beyond sustainability and have integrated the concepts and principles of organic and permaculture systems into our farming as we search for nature’s ideal pathways.
Red Car produces site-specific wines, focused on achieving bright acidity and lively aromatics. Sustainability is at the core of why we exist. We operate each part of the business from the belief that less is more. We are stewards of the land and of the people who consume our wine to ensure harmony with the Earth. We farm organically to protect the soil and our consumers from artificial chemical intervention. At each harvest, this philosophy makes its way into the cellar where we allow our wines to purely express each vineyard’s unique character. We achieve this by using native yeast fermentation and minimal intervention practices.