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Walnut Creek Magazine

Under-the-Radar Red Car Celebrates 20 Years

Aug 10, 2020 08:33AM ● By Fran Miller


Though not exceedingly far from the arid East Bay hills, the proposed West Sonoma Coast AVA feels like another world. Often shrouded in fog and always inundated with Pacific breezes, it’s a wonder that any winery can successfully grow grapes here. Yet dozens do, including the under-the-radar, wine-lover favorite Red Car

Red Car celebrates two decades this year, providing the perfect reason to hop into your own car and drive the 1 hour 20 minute route to their Sebastopol tasting room to toast the winery’s anniversary. Here you can enjoy (in accordance with Sonoma County Department of Health Services regulations and guidelines) a Coastal Reserve Tasting on their patio. This introduction to the winery’s limited production, single-vineyard varietals includes tastes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah wines from their Sonoma Coast vineyards. Tastings are by reservation only, and are offered at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm daily. Red Car’s retail room is open 10am to 5pm daily. 


The drive - and the wine - are worth it. The proposed West Sonoma Coast AVA has distinguished itself as one of the world’s leading regions for top quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and Red Car was an early leader in its formation. Red Car farms five dramatic ridge-top vineyards in Occidental, Sebastopol, Freestone, and Cazadero. This rugged terrain’s coastal influence - where the Pacific fog filters in daily through giant redwoods until warm sunshine sends it back out to the sea - provides perfect growing conditions for Red Car’s hallmark style: perfumed aromatics, bright fruit, crisp texture and uplifting acidity. 

Winemaker Tanner Scheer and Viticulturist Greg Adams closely work together to grow the highest quality fruit possible. “We strive to produce wines of typicity that showcase the specific locations in which our fruit is grown, as well as the folks behind the glass,” says Scheer, a Colorado native who has been with Red Car since 2015. He adheres to simple but strict winemaking principles. “I believe in minimalism,” he explains. “Don’t manipulate the fruit in the winery. It’s up to the vineyards, the climate, the soil and the farming practices we choose to employ. What’s important for me at a fundamental level is to represent each varietal in its truest form. That’s a foundation of any of our wines.”

Tanner Scheer

Pinot Noir is the heartbeat of Red Car. The Pacific Ocean is within eye-shot of each of the sites, and combined with the cold coastal climate and unique soil compositions, Scheer believes Red Car’s vineyards are in the most ideal geographical region in all of California for Pinot. 

Heavy winter rainfall and typically cool spring days encourage low-yielding vines to produce limited quantities of stellar Syrah fruit. And Chardonnay has found an exceptionally suitable home in this part of West Sonoma County. And finally, Red Car Rosé is treated with the same respect as its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah siblings. This enticingly aromatic wine is bone dry and delicate in structure, with racy acidity framing lively flavors of ruby red grapefruit, lychee, strawberry, and tangerine. 

“The wines represent us and we represent the wines,” says Scheer. “We rely and count on one another to come through with the parts that are on each of our plates so we can come together with a common purpose and shared vision of where we are going.”

Reservations for the Coastal Reserve Tasting can be booked online at Or call 707-829-8500

Photos courtesy of Red Car

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