Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 29, 2018

2015 Ceritas, Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains -photo grapelive

2015 Ceritas, Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
John Raytek, winemaker and his wife Phoebe’s Ceritas is one of the most celebrated modern Chardonnay producers in California and their 2015 Trout Gulch Vineyard from the south Santa Cruz Mountains is one of the most sought after in his impressive lineup, it is a wonderfully textured and mineral driven wine with purity of fruit and terroir influenced character, it is a serious Chardonnay that proves why this is one of the hottest lists to get on. Raytek didn’t appear out of nowhere, he was part of the team at Rhys, he adds he is a self-described old world vigneron, who cultivates wines in the vineyard first, by implementing a traditional (old school) winemaking approach in the winery, always considering the grapes’ experience on the vines as a guide to their treatment in the cellar. He also notes, that winemaking techniques continuously reinforce his belief that often, it is more important to know what not to do, than what to do when it comes to his wines, and so far he’s done little wrong. While known as a Chardonnay specialist, he also does some great Pinot Noir and awesome Pinot Noir, especially the Ceritas bottlings from the Sonoma Coast. Phoebe meanwhile is the farmer of the couple and oversees the vineyard sites to get the best out of their plots, parcels and grapes from the selected growers they use on these limited production wines. The cooly brisk, but textured 2015 came from tiny yields at Trout Gulch where it gave the Ceritas Chardonnay wonderfully layered fruit and a very Burgundy like restrained low alcohol, coming in at a remarkable 12.5%, while still having an impressive concentrated palate and complex detailing. Ceritas’ southern most vineyard, Trout Gulch is located a mere 3.5 miles from the ocean, sitting at about 750 feet above sea level near the hamlet of Aptos, just south of the city of Santa Cruz very much influenced by the deep Monterey Bay and the bitterly cold Pacific Ocean, in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains, just northwest of Corralitos. This unique vineyard site was planted back in 1980, with a selection of old Wente clone Chardonnay and Mount Eden Pinot Noir vines and is carefully tended to by winemaker/vigneron Richard Alfaro of Alfaro Family Vineyard, who also makes a version under his own label, as does all-stars Jamie Kutch and Arnot Roberts, all which has brought considerable fame and attention to this out the way spot. With oceanic sandy soils and a touch of hardened clay with exceptional draining helps send the vines deep into ancient seabed marine derived sub-soils that add to taste of chalk and mineral in the wines. Trout Gulch is cut out of a coastal redwood forest which allows temperatures here to stay cooler than the surrounding area, giving a special micro-climate that expresses itself in the wines, especially in Raytek’s examples, like this one with it’s crisp pear, apple and citrus fruits, wet stone and bitter melon in a Chardonnay that has a generous mouth feel, but with a tight steely frame with delicate wood notes and lime blossom perfume, gaining a sensation of honeycomb, clarified cream and clove spices when it get air in the glass. This 2015 is elegant, though expressive and has a touch of chalk and saline which again reminds me of Burgundy, as does the hint of hazelnut and precise and lifting acidity. Ceritas is almost all mailing list only and very limited, but the extra effort and searching is rewarded when you get a bottle or two!
($60-65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive