2019 Sheldon, Manus Lux Cuvee, Napa Valley.
The naturally wild or sauvage Manus Lux Cuvee by Sheldon Wines is their latest version of this field blend of old-vine Calistoga Petite Sirah, which also includes small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a touch of Graciano, a grape the Sheldon’s adore and a varietal that is a lesser known Rioja grape, plus a tiny, tiny bit of Frappato, which maybe one of the first known planting of this Sicilian grape in California. Dylan and Tobe Sheldon have been working with this holistic backyard vineyard for more than thirteen years now and this 2019 might be the most intriguing with its deep black/purple opaque blooding color and heady perfume of violets making it highly evocative to the senses before thrilling the palate with cracked black pepper laced blackberries, plum, black currant and a whole bunches crunchiness. This is a raw and transparent red wine that has plenty of grip and structure, but opens with a refined textural quality and with just 12.9% natural alcohol it feels more like a Cornas from the Northern Rhone than what you’d expect of an old vine Petite Sirah, in much the same way that that fabulous Halcon Theopolis Vineyard Petite Sirah does, which is a high praise in my book. I am absolutely thrilled by what is now being made from Petite Sirah by this new generation of winemakers in California with some really cool and exotic examples now available, giving this grape, which has a long history in the state, a whole new range of styles to explore. As this exceptionally expressive Manus Max Cuvee opens up it really lets loose with dense layers of blue fruit that is nicely contrasted with savory elements, mineral tones, anise and sticky lavender notes. This wine is seriously good, slightly stemmy and edgy it will go great with a big range of foods, its inner core of flavors will enhanced by hearty winter cuisine, especially dishes like rack of lamb, flank steak and or casseroles.

The Sheldon’s have been making wines under their own label since 2003 with a focus on Grenache, both white and red being a consistent theme for this micro winery based in Santa Rosa with two red versions, a cool climate one from Ceja Farms, and a more warm climate example coming from another backyard set of vines on a rocky hillside in the Fountaingrove AVA. They also do some other interesting and entertaining things, including this wine, which was called The Red Hat in the past, as well as the mentioned single varietal Graciano, Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and a couple of unique sparklers including a Rosé of Tempranillo and dark red Sparkling Graciano, maybe the only one in the world, which was inspired by Australia’s Sparkling Shiraz! These are small lot artisan offerings, mostly of which are produced in two or so barrel amounts, like this Manus Lux Cuvee, of which only 50 cases were made, making them rare treats. The 2019 Sheldon Manus Lux Cuvee, coming from this old head trained (bush vine) vineyard in Napa’s Calistoga zone set on gravelly loams that is interplanted with an array of fruits tree and herbal shrubs is farmed all organically with a zen like approach that results in absurdly low yields and intense flavors. Winemaker Dylan Sheldon chose to due 100% whole cluster, stem inclusion with this vintage from these mostly ancient and all dry farmed vines with the final blend being close to 92% Petite Sirah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.9% Graciano and under 1 percent of the Frappato, which will feature more heavily in future wines, with the wine being aged in older used French barrels. These latest efforts are some of the best and most exciting wines, with this one with its new label designed by the Sheldon’s tattoo artist being one of my favorites, from Sheldon ever and I highly recommend grabbing some before they disappear!
($37 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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