2019 Sheldon Wines, Grenache Blanc, Sperring Road Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
The beautiful and structured whole cluster pressed and 100% stainless Grenache Blanc from Dylan Sheldon at Sheldon Wines bristles with energy and flows across the medium/full bodied palate with graceful smoothness, it reminds me of a top Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc with its clarity, depth and its bright golden presence in the glass. Coming from the tiny Sonoma Coast vineyard, with marine sedimentary soils on Sperring Road, the Grenache Blanc shows orange blossom, zesty fresh picked apricot, a mix of lemony citrusy fruits and white fig fruits along with fleshy melon, bitter peach pit, snappy spices, liquid stones, a faint hint of unsweetened honeycomb and creamy verbena. This is absolute fabulous stuff, highlighting the best qualities of this grape which is found in the south of France and into Spain mainly with a significant role in the mentioned Chateauneuf du Pape along with a host of other white varietals like Roussanne and Clairette Blanche and included in some white Cotes du Rhone as well in the northeast of Spain where it is also known as Garnatxa Blanca and found in white wines in Catalonia, Priorat and Terra Alta as well as being allowed in Rioja as a very minor component. After being brought seriously to California by Tablas Creek and their cuttings from Beaucastel, the Grenache Blanc wines in California have flourished, though have had some trouble finding sales success, but Randall Grahm of the Bonny Doon Vineyard and the mentioned Tablas Creek have made some thrilling wines with Grenache Blanc playing a part, though as a solo effort I think Sheldon has lifted it to another level after searching high and low to find the right vineyard source, which has taken their quest from the south in Santa Barbara to the north in Sonoma Valley and now in the Sonoma Coast region where it, especially in this vintage, looks like a homerun. Grenache Blanc is a grape that can be full of richness, but retains vital acidity, it is less oily and less aggressive than Roussanne, making nicely flexible and while great as part of a blend, it can deliver complexity and personality all on its own, as this wine proves very well.

Sheldon, known to be a Grenache (Noir) Freak, who from 2008 until 2014 focused on their Rhone inspired whites on Grenache Blanc based efforts, making Grenache Blanc as a solo effort in many of those vintages before taking a break from it and turning their attention elsewhere. Curiously enough, as Dylan notes, he has always found a strong similarity between Grenache Blanc and Vermentino both stylistically and viticulturaly, so in 2014 he produced Sheldon’s last Grenache Blanc, before this one and dedicated in the the next 4 vintages to coaxing out various personalities of Vermentino, which was gaining a strong following in California, especially with Ryme Cellars, as well as the mentioned Tablas Creek and Bonny Doon, along with Mark Chesebro in Arroyo Seco. For 2019 Sheldon returned to Grenache Blanc with this lovely 2-acre Gblanc vineyard in the cool Sonoma Coast region close to home, being based in the Santa Rosa area. Sheldon hand harvested the grapes on the 18th of October, with a fairly wide range of brix between the sunny side and shaded side of the rows, which is Dylan’s practice in his whites. He has a love for getting multiple levels of ripeness and flavor development within single varietals to provide fresh zip and to have ripe elements to enhance the flavor and textural pleasures in his whites. This Grenache Blanc was whole cluster pressed, covered with a cold CO2 blanket (dry ice) for an hour of skin contact then settled in tank over night which drops out the green and bitter phenolics, after that the Grenache Blanc is racked down to stainless barrels and sent to the cold room. This cold natural ferment lasted three weeks of cool stainless steel primary and was twice weekly had lees stirring. Sheldon racked it off the heavy lees into a single 75 gallon barrel and allowed no Malo-Lactic to keep exquisite purity and fresh details. The wine rested rest for the winter, then racked twice on new moon/low tide cycles (when there was greater gravity) then bottled unfiltered. This Sperring Road Grenache Blanc is one of the best alternative whites of the season so far, though with just 32 cases made it will not be easy to stock up on, so don’t wait and order directly and quickly!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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