Just south of the Petaluma GAP rests a gorgeous little Tuscan-setting winery that, for days, sits just in or above the gray depths in the thick of our Sonoma Coast fog line. For anyone that is new to the concept, the Petaluma GAP is an incredible little wind valley that runs from the Pacific Ocean, straight through to the Cotati Grade where Highway 101 begins to slope upward and north.
In this gap, the wind comes through towards the east bringing with it the fog, generally, when the interior of the state has heated to warmer temperatures. This cooling at night allows for maturation on the vine that makes for spectacular wine.
The Tuscan-like winery in mention, Cloud’s Rest, is exemplary of some of the finest pinot noir and chardonnay this cool climate, and soon to be appellation, produces. In fact, it’s one of the very best in the entire state. Just east of Adobe Road and up Sonoma Mountain Road, it is tucked up into the mountain gazing down from its strategic hillside position, looking over the state’s first major wine region of Petaluma.
John Saemann, the owner, chose this location some 31 years ago because he just wasn’t satisfied with a lot of the pinot noir he found out there and knew this town — this appellation to be — would produce some knock-out wine. In 1999, the vines went in and history is still waiting for everyone who loves good wine to get their lips to a glass of these premiere libations.
At the Cloud’s Rest Vineyard, the vine’s exposure is facing west taking the cool winds right in the face. As well, facing west, the vineyards get the warm, afternoon sun which leads to incredible ripening factors. The alcohol is low, the acidity is balanced and perfect, and the depth is incredible.
At the helm, winemaker Anthony Austin has been taking his job very seriously for 30 years. Since his beginnings down in Los Olivos, Anthony’s trust in the terroir means he tries to manipulate the natural process as little as possible in order to allow the fruit to express itself and its origins. In this, he pays homage to old-world, “natural” winemaking, and what he produces is the stuff of legends.
Tasting the 2012 Femme Fatale Pinot Noir, dark stewed cherries and opaque, summer plumb and red raspberry fruit with a hint of farm saddle and cola bounce around your mouth. Slight tones of earth with a touch of silk from the two years in French oak barrels leaves you smiling in pleasantry when you finish each sip.
Pair this wine with the Liberty duck found right down the road. From the Allure Reserve Chardonnay, I find crisp Sebastopol orchard apple in layers with a hint of dried tangerine peel and the classic, California oaky-buttery note, that render this one of the finest white wines in the region. Pair with fresh salmon or trout prepared in parsley and lemon, and stun the guests at your dinner table.
Cloud’s Rest is boutique and as small-production and as specialized as it gets. Biodynamically and sustainably farmed, the production of both the pinot noir and chardonnay is very limited in acreage. This allows the winemaker and vineyard manager to pay very close attention to detail and ensure that the very best fruit is procured.