Thursday, January 5, 2023

Magical Kingdom: The Exquisite Flowers Estate and the Discovery of Sonoma Coast Wines


Happy New Year with great wines from Flowers vineyards.

This week, we visit the new Flowers Winery, House of Flowers near Healdsburg, to taste flights of Flowers Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vintages. Crafted for the last decade by winemaker Chantal Forthun and her dynamic team, these are wines of great finesse, elegance and expression of terroir.

I love their intellectual and sensual qualities, and their freshness and coastal/ forest character. The art of wine. They pair wonderfully with seasonal California cuisine…formal or casual…and are perfect for pouring as an aperitif and for pure enjoyment. Highest recommendation.

Dream region, remote vines, inspiring winery, great winemaker.

Come with me for a close look at recent vintages at Flowers Winery. I was fortunate to conduct the tastings with the great Jen Beloz, estate director of Flowers, (as well as Faust which I’ve written about earlier). Both wineries are owned by Huneeus Vintners of Napa Valley.

And the trio, Beloz, Chantal Forthun and Rodrigo Soto at Flowers are revitalizing and optimizing and nurturing the soil and vines with both organic and biodynamic methods. No wonder the wines are so delicious, sensual, balanced and inspiring.

The remote and vertiginous ridges of the Sonoma Coast are home to some of the very best California wines, world-class. I have recently become rather obsessed with the elegant and refined Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines of Flowers Estate, by winemaker Chantal Forthun. For the last decade, Chantal has been creating Flowers wines in the bioregional landscape of coastal mountains, seaview ridges, native forests and almost-inaccessible knolls and coastal topography.

Some vineyards are so steep that they can only be groomed, tilled and harvested on foot. The acreage, situated above the fog line at approx. 1874 feet, is cooled by afternoon mists from the Pacific Ocean, which enrich the wines’ wild forest and marine delicacy.

Winemaker Chantal Forthun


Recently, Flowers launched its exciting and chic new winetasting center. (The Flowers vineyards and growing region are never open to the public. They are extremely remote, with challenging roads far from civilization or small towns.)

The new Healdsburg winery was designed with aesthetic rigor, and strict eco-goals, by Walker Warner Architects, San Francisco.

A complete renovation and expansion became the perfect union of context and intent, and a new guest experience was created as House of Flowers. Remodeling the existing structures enabled most of the original structure to be ‘recycled,’ and gave focus to the design efforts, elevating what was already present. The strategy was to find ways to reconnect visitors to the landscape while reimagining what was a series of simple industrial buildings. Tucked discretely into the landscape it emphasizes beautiful natural materials.” – Walker Warner Architects

Winetasting at Flowers Winery

Guests can reserve tastings and flights outdoors or indoors. I first enjoyed winetasting in the superbly landscaped garden, in a shaded pavilion that felt private and yet open to the vineyard landscape. Surrounded by lavender and native California trees, and with delightful visits by hummingbirds, we sipped and enjoyed the wines in tranquility. In winter, guests gather indoors. Rooms are casual chic, very residential in feeling. Perfect setting, and lovely frame for the wines.

“My idea was always to make people feel comfortable and relaxed, just as if they were visiting a friend’s home in the  countryside.” – Maca Huneeus, Principal, Maca Huneeus Design

Interiors of the Flowers Winery were designed with panache and understated style by Maca Huneeus Design. I especially admire the use of timbers: wide-plank European oak, wire-brushed Alaskan cypress and American elm. A central focus of the winery is a large-scale natural sculpture of black walnut, crafted from a fallen tree by Evan Shively, Arborica.


2023: A Very Good Year

Launching at the start of 2023 are two new guest experiences at House of Flowers, the still-new hospitality center that brings the beauty of the wild Sonoma Coast to Healdsburg.

The $75 tasting is a survey of Flowers wines from the Sonoma Coast and its sub-AVAs. The $125 tasting is a deep-dive of Flowers estate wines from CAMP MEETING RIDGE vineyards and SEA VIEW RIDGE vines. 

Sonoma Coast Journey ($75)
A journey through the Sonoma Coast and two distinctive sub-regions of this acclaimed appellation. Set amidst the Flowers Winery intimate gardens and redwood groves, this guided flight of coastal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is accompanied by a convivial board of seasonal provisions crafted by the House of Flowers culinary team.

Estate Vineyards Experience ($125)
A focused exploration of iconic Flowers estate vineyards, Camp Meeting Ridge and Sea View Ridge. Hosted within ultra-private and lush gardens or convivial immersive interiors designed by Maca Huneeus Design. This in-depth tasting of estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the far ridges of the extreme coastal sites is accompanied by seasonal pairings crafted by the House of Flowers culinary team.

And be sure to ask about the new Flowers rosé. It’s very special, with hints of strawberry, light acidity, and more complexity. Exquisite.

Special New Pairings

Welcome splash of 2021 Rose
2021 CMR Chardonnay
2016 CMR Chardonnay
2019 SVR Pinot Noir
2021 CMR Pinot Noir

Dungeness crab on brioche toast with preserved lemon and fennel pollen, topped with an edible flower (paired with CMR Chardonnay)

Duck confit with chanterelle mushrooms, kale from Little Saint Farms, and huckleberry compote (paired with SVR Pinot Noir)

Estate Director Jen Beloz

“With our coastal pinot noir wines, you get the cooler climate, slower ripening, and hints of the ocean and the wild coastal forest. Plus a certain enticing flintiness from the soil, superb and delicate minerality. I love the complexity of aromatics. Always evident is the sophistication and decade of experience of the Flowers winemaker, Chantal Forthun. – Jen Beloz, estate director


Flowers Vineyards & Winery

House of Flowers
4035 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(Reservations Required)

Open Thursday-Monday | 10am-5pm
Maca Huneeus Design 
Courtesy Flowers Winery

Landscape Architect: 
Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects 

Consulting Local Landscape Architect: 
Alexis Woods Landscape Design 

Lighting Designer: 
Anna Kondolf Lighting Design 
Cello & Madru Construction Company

Felled timber sculpture: 
Arborica, Evan Shively

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