Fogline Vineyards is both a winery and a concept. Launched in 2009, we make small lots of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Our home vineyard is located in the Sonoma Coast appellation, at the top of Sonoma Mountain. This area of the Sonoma Coast is known as the Petaluma Gap, noteworthy for the wind and fog that blows in through a gap in the coastal hills. These conditions create a distinct environment needed to grow world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
We choose our locations for growing and sourcing fruit based on a number of factors. Our name speaks to one that we consider essential – fog. We believe that mountain fruit grown above the fog line creates more balanced, focused wines. The additional exposure to the sun throughout the growing season enables the vines to get an earlier start in the morning. Additionally, temperature inversion results in warmer nights and cooler days than vineyards at lower elevations. This allows the fruit to ripen both physiologically (getting the sugar to the right level) and phenologically (reaching the point where it tastes fantastic) while lessening the need to leave the fruit hanging for extended periods. Being above the fog also gives us an advantage in keeping fungus and mold at bay, lessening the need for spraying, and allowing us to treat the environment respectfully. In addition to our vineyard, we source fruit from the top of Bradford Mountain in the Dry Creek Valley Appellation and The Rockpile Appellation, both located well above the fog line.
Brent Bessire Brent gained an appreciation for fine wine and food while attending Columbia University in New York City, thanks mostly to his future father-in-law’s generosity in treating him and his future wife to some of the finest dining establishments in the world. After graduating and moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, frequent trips to the wine country and great dining experiences around the bay area helped turn an interest into a passion. Several coast-to-coast moves and start-ups later, Brent and his wife, Sara Schachter, realized that it was time to make a lifestyle change. They decided to move back to California and focused their search in Sonoma County, an area that had captured their hearts while living in the Bay Area. After spending 13 years building new companies from the ground up, Brent was eager to put these skills to work in the wine industry. Working with Gary Farrell and Clay Mauritson, Brent began honing his understanding of making world-class wines. Gary’s guidance in showing Brent the importance of great fruit and careful treatment of delicate Pinot Noir grapes during the winemaking process gave him an appreciation for the intricacies involved in making classic wines. While at Mauritson Family Winery, Brent observed the development of the Rockpile appellation and the attributes of fruit coming from these hillside vineyards. This led him to believe that the site of his home on Sonoma Mountain could produce great fruit. When fruit from a nearby vineyard began to produce outstanding wines, the choice to plant what has become the home vineyard for Fogline Vineyards was an easy one.
Evan Pontoriero Like so many other Italian-Americans, Evan’s grandfather made garage wine out of his home in Pennsylvania. As a young boy, Evan loved visiting and checking in on the fermentations during Sunday dinners at his grandparents’ house. Evan came to the Bay Area in 1992 to pursue a career in computer graphics and animation. He got his start working on multi-media games, then made the transition to film when he joined the art department at Lucasfilm. While there, Evan became friends with a co-worker who lived in Geyserville and made wine as a hobby. One harvest, he asked Evan to help him pick and crush. The experience brought back memories of his grandfather’s garage and ignited a new passion that would eventually change the course of his career. For the next ten years, Evan continued building a successful career in film, working at Industrial Light and Magic, then Pixar Animation Studios. But, in his spare time, he poured his energy and focus into learning about wine – first as a consumer, then as a hobby winemaker. After discovering the amazing Zinfandel of the Dry Creek Valley, he developed a palate for the different styles of wine that the Zinfandel fruit could make. As he traveled south on Westside road, tasting all that he could, he fell in love with what could be described as the Grand Cru region for Pinot Noir in America: the middle reaches of the Russian River. During his years working in film, Evan never stopped making wine and gained confidence as a winemaker by fermenting fruit from different appellations that stretched from the Sonoma Coast to Napa. After bumping into Brent at several events, the two began to forge a friendship that led to them taking a class in entrepreneurship in the wine industry. By the end of the class, Fogline Vineyards was born. Vines were ordered and plans were made to plant. The first Pinot Noir vines were planted on Sonoma Mountain in 2007 and the first wine produced in 2009.