origins cobb wines

The Search

Seeking a place to call home

The origins of Cobb Wines trace back to 1989 and the planting of the original estate vineyard Coastlands. Originally hailing from Marin County, David Cobb spent his career as a marine biologist while Diane Cobb worked in advertising and print marketing. As they closed in on the notion of retirement, they shared a very specific vision; to own and live on property close to both the redwoods and the Pacific Ocean.

Their search for land near the coast began in the mid ‘80s ranging from the Santa Cruz mountains up to the Oregon border. During a series of day trips they scoured the coastline with soil maps in hand. Throughout their journey they found themselves exploring the western edges of Sonoma County, on the hilltops just past the town of Occidental. Having spent much of the ‘60s working at the Bodega Bay Marine Lab, David was familiar with the region. He was on the hunt for good soils that could be a home for great Pinot Noir. When discovering a stunning piece of land that boasted views from Mount Tamalpais to the Russian River mouth at Jenner, they know they found their home.

The dream becomes reality

They moved quickly, building a redwood sided home and enlisting the help of their son Ross to hatch a plan for cultivating the property. The arduous path toward a hand-planted vineyard had begun. In 1989 Coastlands was born with the planting of four acres of Pinot Noir. David, Diane and Ross reached out to friends and called in favors for help with the work. Every end-post, wire, and hole dug was done by hand with friends and family.

The idea was to grow cool-climate Pinot Noir and sell the fruit to the highest regarded producers in the area. Burt and Ed from Williams Selyem were the first adopters of Coastlands Vineyard, buying the fruit in 1992 and making it as a single vineyard designate in 1994.

“Digging was brutal, the soil was so wet we put down pieces of cardboard to stand on so that we wouldn’t twist our ankles when moving about.”

Ross Cobb

Vintners to vignerons

While farming Coastlands was rewarding, Ross Cobb had greater aspirations for the vineyard. In those early years the family made a small amount of hobby wine from the estate at home, scratching the surface of what Coastlands could become. It wasn’t until Ross took over as viticulturalist and enologist at Williams Selyem in 1999 that he was able to properly work with his family’s estate fruit.

Throughout his tenure at Williams Selyem, Ross continued to gravitate to the complex and graceful wines from the Sonoma Coast; specifically those from Coastlands. After several years of low yields, but phenomenal quality, Ross approached his parents with the idea of starting their own brand.   In 2001, Ross harvested a portion of the original plantings and bottled 130 cases of Cobb Wines Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir.

“We dug a little cellar out under the deck of our house at Coastlands. We would punch down the wines in little open-top fermenters 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.”

Ross Cobb

Finding their way

Over the next decade Ross, David and Diane worked tirelessly to bring Cobb Wines into the narrative of great Pinot Noir. Diane crafted the first iteration of the Cobb Wines label. Ross and David tended the original vines, eventually bringing on a vineyard manager in 1998 to plant an additional 10 acres of Pinot Noir down the western slope of the property.

As they judiciously grew the family brand, Ross knew that to be taken seriously they had to have their Pinot Noirs featured in the great restaurants in San Francisco. In 2003 Ross sat David down with a recent copy of the Zagat Restaurant guide. He had highlighted the best seventy-five restaurants in the greater San Francisco area. This would become Cobb Wines’ first target account list.

cobb wines origins

Hitting the road

Armed with a six-pack of 2001 Coastlands they hit the road. Knocking on doors and cold calling for appointments David and Ross hustled their way into meetings with the best and brightest sommeliers in San Francisco. Ross knew these opportunities to showcase their coveted first vintage were precious and was meticulous about the temperature of the wine. In the early days he would have David bring the wines in a cooler with a thermometer, making sure the wines were sitting right at 62 degrees before going into the tastings.

Through these collective efforts the family placed Cobb Wines into 120 restaurants in the Bay Area without the aid of a distributor. Ross aggregated years of business cards and personal contacts into a simple spreadsheet to send out their first direct mailer. With a fax machine, a lot of stamps, and sheer will they sent out their first offerings directly to consumers from the family home at Coastlands.

Small batch. Big love.

Ross continued his career as head winemaker for multiple Sonoma Coast brands, all the while keeping his focus on crafting the best possible wines for Cobb. He leveraged years of relationships with growers across the Sonoma Coast to bring phenomenal cool-climate sites into the Cobb Wines portfolio.

In the 2006 vintage Diane Cobb tragically passed away in the height of harvest. In commemoration of her amazing life, the original own-rooted nursery block of Coastlands was renamed in her memory. In addition, a single bottling of this parcel would be created. The Diane Cobb: Coastlands Pinot Noir remains the apex of winemaking and viticulture within the portfolio today.

diane cobb

Diane Cobb

1941 - 2006

The kids are alright

In 2014 Ross, his wife Cindy and their young daughter Kennedy moved to Coastlands Vineyard. David had decided to retire back to Belvedere and Ross jumped at the opportunity to live on and farm the family vineyard.

Today Cobb Wines is fortunate to oversee three estate vineyards in the western Sonoma Coast, and source fruit from a variety of hand-tended, independently owned vineyards. Over the years, Ross added Chardonnay into the portfolio, along with small lots of Riesling from Anderson Valley, Mendocino County and the Sonoma Coast.

Ross, Cindy and Kennedy still live on the property today, continuing the 30-plus year legacy of the Cobb Wines history.