2011 Ceritas, Chardonnay, Charles Heintz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
When people tell you California Chardonnay is too fat and buttery and not as interesting as Burgundy, you can rest assured that they haven’t had wines like this, John Raytek’s brilliant Ceritas Charles Heintz Sonoma Coast 2011 Chardonnay, at 10 years old it is unbelievably racy, mineral intense and low alcohol with fantastic acidity still being pumped out vigorously, but also displaying a depth and class that reminds me of some exceptional Premier Cru Chablis bottlings. Thanks to Lee Lightfoot, long time wine professional and who was celebrating his birthday by opening his last bottle of this wine, for sharing it, it was drinking fabulous, even on day two. The Ceritas Heintz Chard, coming from the extremely cold vintage of 2011 and the from a very western site on the true Sonoma Coast, saw a good lengthy hang time for complexity and retained its heightened acidity finishing with just 12.9% natural alcohol, all of which made for perfect conditions for this wine to really shine with age, as it does. The palate of this golden hued Chardonnay is zesty and lemon toned with a medium body that gets more textural with some time and warmth in the glass, it hints at some age with secondary elements coming out, including a delicate wild mushroom note and a hint of orange tea to along with a classic array of crisp apple, pear and the mentioned lemon fruits along with touches of clove spice, hazelnut, clarified creme, wet river stone and a whisper of oak toast. I have really enjoyed my experiences with the Ceritas wines, especially their Trout Gulch Chardonnay, another wine that impresses for its stunning quality, vibrancy and old world charm, like this one does.
Ceritas happily shares the organically farmed section at the Heintz Vineyard with a fellow winery, Ted Lemon’s Littorai and uses an old clone selection here that is set on Goldridge sandy loam soils, and it sits just above the fog line, located just east of the town of Occidental. Raytek says this site defied the conventional wisdom in the 1980s, when it was planted and he adds that the Heintz Vineyard has since proven to be superb Chardonnay terroir, with inherent richness, but balanced by bright acidity and briny minerality, all of which is clearly on display here in his 2011 Heintz Chardonnay. Ceritas, a small hand-crafted wine label with a real enthusiast follow, is led by the husband and wife duo of John and Phoebe Raytek, who are committed to sustainable and organic farming, ensuring each of their growing partners follow that path, in their pursuit of producing terroir driven wines. Ceritas makes a series of outstanding small lot single vineyard wines focusing on Chardonnay, as well as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a range of vineyards set in the Santa Cruz Mountains and in the coolest zones of the Sonoma Coast, with all the wines being styled after traditional old world wines. The Raytek’s winemaking is, as he explains, flexible rather than dogmatic, allowing each vineyard to speak for itself, employing low intervention methods to achieve purity and transparency in his wines. John Raytek has a wealth of experience in winemaking and notably worked in the cellars of Flowers, Rhys, Lioco and Copain before striking out on his own, his success is the result of hard work and a deft touch, like many of his generation, Raytek uses mostly native yeasts and well used French oak barrels to raise his wines. The 2011 Heintz Chard is a beauty and in a perfect spot right now, it makes me very excited for 2019s here at Ceritas, they should be outrageously good, I suggest checking them out and not missing out!
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive