2019 Sheldon Wines, Grenache, Ceja Farms, Sonoma Valley.
The sexy cool climate 2019 Sheldon Ceja Farms Grenache is as pure as pure gets with a ravishing electric ruby color, showing an inviting lighter look in the glass, but with an incredible burst of crushed raspberry, pomegranate, strawberry and plum fruits on the supply and spicy medium bodied palate with excellent fruit density, energy and silken tannins. The bouquet is intoxicating and there’s a wildly exciting thrill of sweet florals, candied cherries and herbal elements, plus just the right amount of subtle savory notes to keep your attention and just holding you back from the edge of unbridled hedonistic abandon. In other words, yes, this is exactly what Sheldon’s fans want from this small micro winery in Santa Rosa, and I’m happy to report this is just as good as their awesome 2018 is, if not better, making for a blast of Grenache goodness with all of it’s evil joys. I remember talking about Pure Grenache wines with Dylan in his early days as a winemaker and while he was inspired by the legendary Chateau Rayas and influenced by his stint at Chateau de Saint Cosme in Gigondas, when he was on his honeymoon with his amazing wife Tobe, he was also highly impressed with Aussie versions of 100% Grenache, as opposed to the classic GSMs, and in particular his passion for Turkey Flats Grenache, which this wine reminds me of. There’s hints of wild fennel, framboise, loamy earth and tangy sage that pull you away from the forward nature of the opulent fruity character in this lovely and textural Grenache that is somewhat also like the impressive Sierra de Gredos Garnacha wines that I’ve been geeking out on for the last few years, this is captivating stuff that should deliver comforting pleasure for the next 3 to 5 years with ease. I am thinking this Sheldon vintage is one of their best yet, it offers wonderful layers and each detail comes through perfectly, this is a Grenache that Pinots lovers will gravitate to and it will provide endless smiles for the grape’s fanatics, it will be great with smoky sweet flavors of BBQ this Spring and Summer!

Dylan Sheldon, who’s been making Grenache based wines since 2000, explains that this wine is one of his truest loves, the hardest and most watchful of work to produce, but the results are sinfully good with the grapes coming from this two-acre vineyard, set on rocky the alluvial soils, in the south end of the Sonoma Valley, close to Carneros and the Petaluma wind gap. The Ceja’s were skeptical that Grenache would work here, as Dylan notes this plot is largely surrounded by Pinot and Chard vines, it exists in an area most growers would consider a bit too cool to ripen Grenache, he wanted the delicacy and aromatics allowed by the slow ripening, adding that this Grenache tends to get an excellent long hang time, boosting flavor development and physiological ripeness, but with highly desirable lower overall sugars, giving Sheldon complexity and a heavenly lightness of being. There’s a lot of rewards to be found in these cooler climate style Grenache wines in California these days with Angela Osborne’s stellar Santa Barbara based Tribute to Grace versions, Ian Brand’s Brosseau, from Monterey’s Chalone Appellation, and Russell Joyce’s dreamy 12.7% natural alcohol old vine Besson Vineyard, all of which are, along with Sheldon’s two exceptional examples, fine expressions. The Sheldon approach with this Ceja Farms Grenache is to lightly crush on whole cluster to get things ready, after which they cover to fresh must with a CO2 blanket (dry ice) for a period of nearly 24 hours, for a nice little cold soak prior to the primary fermentation. Then this version sees something like four to six days of slow semi-carbonic maceration/fermentation before getting a gentlle de-stemming where Dylan leaves most of berries whole, then carefully and painstakingly lifted in mass to a different bin to complete the remainder of fermentation, before going into well used French oak barrels to complete malos and age just over a year. As loyal followers will certainly know by now, I’m a huge fan of these Sheldon nectars, and in these tough times for small family wineries, it is great to see the passion and commitment to quality payoff with their exciting set of new releases, which includes this one, that will be offered out very soon.
($38 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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