In 2001, two generations of the Cobb family came together to explore a shared passion for pinot noir with the founding of Cobb Wines. Focused exclusively on crafting single-vineyard, Sonoma Coast pinot noirs, Cobb Wines combines the winegrowing expertise of David Cobb—one of the pioneers of pinot noir viticulture on the far Sonoma Coast—with the winemaking talents of his son, noted pinot noir specialist Ross Cobb.
The original seeds for Cobb Wines were planted in 1989, when David began cultivating pinot noir vines at his sustainably farmed Coastlands Vineyard. A marine ecologist by trade, David spent years studying soils and climatological charts in his search for the ideal place to found his vineyard. His search led him to the ridgetops of the Sonoma Coast, where he believed he would be able to grow grapes perfectly suited to a more complex and graceful style of California pinot noir. On weekend and summer breaks from college, David would be joined in the vineyard by his son Ross, who quickly grew to love the hands-on work of growing winegrapes.
After graduating with a degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture, Ross embarked on a winemaking career, learning his craft from an array of pinot noir winemakers on two continents. At the same time, Ross and David began making small, homemade lots of non-commercial pinot noir from Coastlands fruit. “We dug a little cellar out under the deck of our house at Coastlands,” says Ross. “We would punch down the wines in little open-top fermentors on the deck and then gravity flow the wine into barrel. Even though it was all very primitive, the wines showed promise, and each year we learned more.”
Though David’s original plan for Coastlands Vineyard was simply to sell grapes to a few artisan vintners, Ross had a different vision for Coastlands’ exceptional fruit. After spending nearly a decade developing his winemaking skills, he approached his parents with the idea of founding Cobb Wines—a goal that would allow David, Diane and Ross to guide every step of the winemaking process, from the planting of the vineyard to the crafting of a sophisticated, cool-climate style of pinot noir. This goal was realized in 2001, when David and Ross crafted 130 cases of Cobb Wines’ inaugural Coastlands Vineyard pinot noir. The wine sold out almost immediately, and continued to do so with each new vintage.
Since then, the Cobb Wines vineyard program has evolved to include four other hand-tended, independently owned vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. Though these vineyards share certain essential Sonoma Coast characteristics, they each have individual soil types, subtly different microclimates, and unique combinations of pinot noir selections. Not only does this diversity distinguish the Cobb Wines portfolio, it also ensures Ross and David access to excellent fruit every vintage.
In the winery, Ross focuses on a style of pinot noir that authentically reflects the terroir of each vineyard, striving for a more complex, aromatic, lower-alcohol expression of the varietal picked at lower Brix and aged with a modest amount of new French oak. By remaining true to this elegant and complex style, Cobb Wines has earned a reputation for crafting benchmark single-vineyard, Sonoma Coast pinot noirs.
The Sonoma Coast AVA is large in area but, not counting overlapping regions like Russian River Valley, only has a few thousand acres of grapevines—and it’s no wonder. Much of the region is rugged and not easily accessible. Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean’s fog and cool breezes limits the varieties that can be cultivated, but it proves to be an ideal environment for high quality Pinot Noir.
Since fog is a frequent fact of life here, as are heavy marine layers that sometimes bring rain, the best vineyards are wisely planted above the fog line, on picturesque ridges that capture enough sun to provide even ripening. That, with the overnight drop in temperature that reliably preserves acidity, results in fine expressions of Pinot Noir that often receive tremendous critic and consumer praise alike, and are often in high demand.