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Fortress Vineyards
Kathy Sullivan

Fortress VineyardsSummary: Fortress Vineyards is located in the Red Hills Lake County AVA. Although relatively new, producing their first vintage in 2004, they are winning rave reviews. Already their wines are making an impression on those tracking the 90 and above wine rating systems. Those interested in purchasing Fortress Vineyards wine can visit their website. Visiting the vineyards is by appointment only.

Barbara and Gary Snider own Fortress Vineyards. The have worked unceasingly to tame the land and now have a beautiful vineyard to be proud of. The winery is located high above Clear Lake at elevations of 2,000 to 2,400 feet. The view is breathtaking with the west coast’s bright blue skies, vibrant green vineyards and California’s largest natural lake in the distance. The lake provides a gentle breeze that helps to keep the grapevines dry, cool and healthy.


We met Barbara who drove us up the steep and rocky trail to the ridge of Mt. Konocti where a large platform deck provides a delightful view of the 70 acres of vineyards. These vineyards are comprised of Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Semillon and Albarino. The vines thrive in this area of the Red Hills Lake County AVA where the roots develop in red volcanic soil.

Fortress Vineyards     Fortress Vineyards

The Sniders purchased the property in 1996 when it was covered with bushes and brambles and no access to the high-elevated area. It took two years to clear a path to the top. The vineyards were planted in 1998 with the first vintage wine in 2004.

The vineyards are 100 percent sustainable. They do not use herbicides. The only fungicide used is a bio-fungicide that is biodegradable. The mulch used throughout the vineyards is rice straw. This mulch is long lasting as it does not blow away and is replaced every five years.

Barbara and her husband created a large custom light system that is moveable by tractor. The lighting system can be moved throughout the vineyard to provide light for the workers harvesting at night while temperatures are cooler.

Fortress VineyardsWines

While on the platform deck we had a delightful lunch. Vineyards surrounded the deck and rocks piled in areas gave the feeling that this once was a fortress. We tasted several wines with Barbara as we delighted in the views, fresh air and quality wines. Barbara compared the acidity of wine to using a lemon. “Acidity is like sprinkling a lemon over food.”

The Sauvignon Blanc is Fortress Vineyards' flagship wine. Produced with a 100 percent Musque clone, Sauvignon Blanc 2008 was a light yellow with floral and citrus notes. There were grapefruit nuances on the taste while the crisp finish offered grapefruit nuances with minerals on the finish. Currently the winery is producing 5,000 cases of the Sauvignon Blanc.

Fortress VineyardsPetite Sirah 2007 was a dark opaque purple/black color. The aroma was of dark fruit with a hint of chocolate. The taste was very fruity with dark fruit nuances. The finish was fruity with bold tannins.

Finale 2007 was produced with 100 percent Semillon. The color was a dark yellow. The aroma was floral while the taste offered notes of honeysuckle. The finish was sweet and crisp. This is a delicious late harvest wine.

Fortress Vineyards promotes their wines by participating in consumer events around the country. They have a wide distribution of their wines. The Sniders are exploring the possibility of opening a tasting room within the next few years. You can also order Fortress Vineyards wines online.

Fortress Vineyards
PO Box 6829
Santa Rosa, California  95406




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