Marin one of the coolest appellations
Most of the vineyards in West Marin enjoy a steady coolness through the spring and summer, when the fog-enshrouded grapes are able to ripen slowly with just the right minimum amount of light and heat.
That closeness to the ocean helps moderate temperatures during the winter, too, when it stays relatively warm compared to inland Napa or much of Sonoma, and it gets very wet, like parts of the Sonoma Coast and north. The climatic yin and yang coax a crop of grapes that's rich in natural acidity, restrained in alcohol. If you like this style of wine, particularly pinot noir and chardonnay and the occasional riesling or gew?rztraminer, look for these wines, either made in Marin or sourced from its vineyards.
Bailiwick Wines: Based in Sonoma and a maker of many wines, tiny Bailiwick produces the award-winning Borderline Pinot Noir from Kendric Vineyard grapes, the sole source of fruit in its 2010 vintage, out now. bailiwickwines.com.
DeLoach Vineyards: Russian River Valley's DeLoach makes not one but two pinot noirs from Marin, one from the Skyview Vineyard and another from Stubbs. The 2009 vintages are out now. Skyview is noted for its intensity, all dark berry fruit and peppery allspice. The Stubbs pinot is earthier, round in minerals, cherries and mushroom-y spice. deloachvineyards.com.
Devils Gulch Ranch: A pioneer in Marin County pinot noir, the 65-acre Devils Gulch in Nicasio, "on a convoluted hillside adjacent to the Point Reyes Peninsula," as rancher Mark Pasternak describes the land, is more than just vineyards. It considers itself a diversified family farm, growing asparagus and raising livestock (pigs, rabbit, lamb and quail); much of it goes to places such as French Laundry, Auberge du Soleil and Chez Panisse. They also sell firewood in addition to grapes. Dutton Goldfield and Sean Thackrey buy pinot noir from Devil's Gulch. It also grows tiny bits of chardonnay and gew?rztraminer; the latter also goes to Dutton Goldfield. devilsgulchranch.com.
Easkoot: Named for Marin County's first land surveyor, Alfred Derby Easkoot, this new winery is making pinot noir from grapes grown on the Chileno Valley Vineyard, farmed by Devils Gulch Ranch's Mark Pasternak, only six miles from the ocean. The 2009 vintage is its first release; the 2010 and 2011s are also out now. easkoot.com.
Kendric Vineyards: Stewart Johnson started out farming his mother's syrah and sangiovese vineyard in the Shenandoah Valley south of Placerville in Amador County, but moved over to Marin to grow pinot noir and viognier from an unlikely east-facing slope in view of the Sonoma County border near Mount Burdell and Olompali State Park. Johnson says good soil is hard to come by in Marin — too much clay and magnesium — but he dug hundreds of backhoe pits to get to shallow loams with a good mix of sand, silt and clay. The resulting pinot is light in color and texture, cool-climate in all its glory, with herbal and red cherry layers swathed in silky tannins and a finish of cola and spice. kendricvineyards.com.
McEvoy Ranch: The famed olive oil producer planted grapes on its sprawling Petaluma-Marin site in 2006 and now has five separate vineyards on 7 acres of land planted to pinot noir, syrah, grenache, viognier and rare varieties such as montepulciano, Alicante Bouschet and refosco. It also farms an 18-acre pinot noir vineyard nearby. Look for its 2010 Red Piano, Rosebud and Pinot Noir wines to be released soon. mcevoyranch.com.