2018 Sheldon Wines, Grenache, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
The deeply hued garnet and ruby edged 2018 Luc’s Grenache from Sheldon Wines is still remarkably youthful and fresh with a crisply detailed dark fruited palate and an inviting floral dimension on display with primary black cherry, purple plum, currant and crushed vine picked berry fruits along with a mix of spices, earth and herbs. There is a precise feeling that is like a taut tension and gives the impression of tannin and acidity holding things tight here, less generous than is usually the case in this bottling, but with air everything gets more lush and pleasing. Interestingly, I held the 2018 vintage of Sheldon’s Luc’s Grenache an extra year, to review it, after the 2019 version, as it was thought to have more firm structures. Made using whole bunches and with a spontaneous yeast fermentation, the Luc’s Grenache, by winemaker Dylan Sheldon, sees daily punch downs and a cool maceration before a gentle basket pressing and being racked into well used French barrels where it matured for just under a year. Sheldon Wines, which was founded in 2003, by the husband and wife team of Tobe and Dylan Sheldon, and they are well studied in Grenache, having helped make it in Australia and France before leading the way in a new cool climate style here in California, first with bottlings coming from Santa Ynez and the central coast, then up in the cold pockets of Sonoma County, with this wine coming from the Fountaingrove AVA, near Chalk Hill.

The tiny backyard Luc’s Vineyard, where this unique Grenache is sourced, is located in the Fountaingrove AVA not far from Healdsburg and the mentioned Chalk Hill AVA, is planted on a west-facing hillside on Sonoma volcanics with iron rich and rocky soils. The Luc’s single acre vineyard, according to Sheldon, is on a bi-lateral cordon trellis and tends to produce around 2.5 tons total, so these wines are wonderfully concentrated and extremely limited. The vineyard, founded by a huge Rioja fan, is split almost equally between between Graciano, Grenache and Tempranillo, all of which are found in Spain’s Rioja region, plus Syrah, it was first planted in 2010, it is all hand tended with holistic practices and has been organically farmed since day one. The latest set of wines at Sheldon are without question some of their best efforts to date, they all show beautiful aromatics, and include some rare and unique gems, including a sparkling red made from Graciano and a dynamite carbonic style Sangiovese, so it is a great time to explore this collection if you haven’t done so yet, but be sure not to miss this serious Luc’s Grenache. Again, it was surprising to find this wine so firm at this stage, but the promise is there for rewards, it should age another 5 to 10 years, so patience is likely to pay off nicely, though, as noted above, when this wine is allowed to fully open it really is beautiful expressive and pure, it also goes deliciously well with food, which helps its full array of Grenache flavors to come alive. This Grenache is maybe less luxurious than the 2019 is, but this grape’s fans will be drawn to this vintage, especially when decanted and served with meaty dishes.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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