2019 Sheldon, Graciano, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
The beautifully detailed, spicy, dark fruited and delicately perfumed Sheldon Graciano, from a home vineyard on the cool rocky hillsides between Healdsburg and the Chalk Hill district, is one of the best yet examples of this Rioja grape in California with ripe flavors, opulent sweet tannins and a smooth low alcohol style. The brilliantly gleaming garnet/purple and ruby color and seductive bouquet are wonderfully inviting and the medium/full palate presents vivid layers of vine picked raspberry, black cherry, plum and garden strawberry fruits, all of which, is accented by an array of spices, mineral and a light earthy character with hints of cinnamon, wild flowers, herbs de Provence as well as forest floor, a cedary elements, loam and tangy sage. Graciano, usually blended with Tempranillo in Rioja has been gaining traction in California, with some of the plantings coming online in Paso Robles, where the grape thrives, was done by a lucky mistake, as they were supposed to be a new Monastrell clone of Mourvedre as well as being grown in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valley area as well, but the Sheldon’s who have loved the Graciano grape a long time have sourced fruit from Ripkin Vineyard in the Lodi area and from this tiny parcel in Sonoma County, where the varietal does exceptionally well, as this 2019 vintage shows. Over the last decade, the Sheldon’s have explored many different styles with their Graciano, from Rosé to a dense red wine, and even two different sparkling versions, including the just released Brut Noir bubbly made from lots of macerated (skins) Graciano, making a dark red sparkling Graciano that is similar to Sparkling Shiraz and or high end Lambrusco! This Sheldon Graciano joins a celebration of obscurity along with Luke Nio’s Filomena St. Laurent, Arnot-Roberts’ Trousseau, Michael Cruse’s Tannat, Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola and Jaimee Motely’s Mondeuse, to name a few fun and rare offerings from lesser known grapes in California.

The rare and limited 2019 Graciano red wine by Dylan and Tobe Sheldon, which is due out soon, was made in a traditional and transparent way with just two barrels being made with indigenous yeast spontaneous fermentation and cool maceration with classic foot treading and small basket pressing to neutral, well used or seasoned French oak for just about a year. The Sheldon’s note that no new wood was harmed during the winemaking process and that this new Graciano was bottled unfined and unfiltered to preserve every nuance from the vineyard and to highlight the purity of the finished wine. In an effort to make a varietally honest wine, the Sheldon’s went with about 50% whole cluster and made sure the fermentation went smoothly at low temperatures to retain the more delicate aromatics that this wine delivers with a sensually that makes this wine additive. Dylan Sheldon, the winemaker, says that to him, this ancient and rare varietal is uncommon to find as a solo varietal in its homeland, in the Rioja region of Spain, but the ones that are done as a single varietal wine has always intrigued and inspired him to do a Graciano here in California, which he has done for more than a decade with great and geeky success, again, as this example does with a flourish. This vintage come in at just 12.5% natural alcohol, which allows this wine to easily enjoyed and is excellent with a variety of food, though obviously fantastic with basque cheeses and or an array of Tapas. The Luc’s Vineyard, all organic, is planted on a west facing hillside on volcanic soils, that give this wine its iron rich and spicy personality, adding red pepper and pomegranate notes after getting air. To the best of Dylan’s knowledge this might be the only Graciano vines in this part of Sonoma County, and notes that there are only about 30 acres in total in the whole State, making it a unique treat that I highly recommend. The Sheldon’s vastest set of wines is an awesome collection of offerings, especially interesting are their micro lots of Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Syrah, this Graciano (both 2018 and 2019 editions) and the Grenache bottlings that are this wineries signature wines.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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