2018 Sheldon Wines, Graciano, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
Dylan and Tobe Sheldon have been exploring the rare Graciano grape since the early 2000s, an ancient and obscure varietal, found in Rioja mostly, but it is also known as Tintilla and grown as far away as the Canary Islands and in the flaky white soils of the Sherry region in Jerez, and have been making some of the most compelling versions of this varietal in California, like this gorgeous 2018, a wine I have been sitting at their advice to allow it to fully develop, which it has, making it an absolute joy in the glass. I reviewed the 2019 and loved it, but this wine, from a similar vintage, has a deeper perfume with a bouquet of peony, lavender and lilacs lifting from this dark violet/magenta and ruby colored wine along with spiced berries and subtle minty herbs before leading to a medium bodied palate of silky black fruits including vine picked forrest huckleberry, plum, strawberry and Italian cherries along with a touch of earth, dusty cinnamon, an echo of florals, a iron/mineral element and a faint cedary note. The aromatics are so captivating at this stage it is hard to keep your core away from the rim to soak in all of this beauty which compares well to a morning walk in the flower garden when the smells are completely seducing and at their most intense and the textural feel is fabulous in a wine without any heaviness, it has the sensation I sometimes and hope to find in Vosne-Romanee wines, a heavenly sense of seamless balance and lengthy after taste, this 2018 Sheldon Graciano is addictive and wildly delicious. As I noted recently, the 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 small basket pressed Sheldon Graciano was hand harvested from the tiny Luc’s Vineyard in the Fountaingrove AVA, of Sonoma County, not far from Healdsburg, and fermented slowly in ½ ton open top bins, using whole bunches and indigenous yeasts resulting in a naturally lower alcohol, light to medium bodied red wine with heightened aromatics, plus a spicy pop and a divine textural quality. A effort was made to keep everything nicely fresh, starting with the grapes coming in ripe, but at a bit lower Brix (sugars) and the fermentation was kept cool to ensure all the striking details were preserved and no new wood was used, only well seasoned French Burgundy barrels were used in this Graciano’s elevage, which usually lasts about 12 months. This Sheldon Graciano, comes from a small home vineyard on the cool rocky hillsides between Healdsburg and the Chalk Hill district in the newly formed AVA of Fountaingrove where the Sheldon’s get small amounts of Tempranillo, Grenache and Syrah as well, all of which, especially this Graciano, are tasty and aromatic expressions that are impeccably hand made, with these 2018s being outstanding offerings. Graciano, which is usually blended with Tempranillo in Rioja wines, can be a great solo varietal and as mentioned here, has been gaining traction in California, with some newer plantings coming online in Paso Robles, where the grape thrives, even in some unlikely blends, on the westside’s limestone soils, interestingly some of these vines were a mistake, as they were supposed to be a new Monastrell clone of Mourvedre, but happily they are being embraced by the growers and winemakers there, as well as being grown in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valley areas as well, notably by Verdad winery. There is a lot to love in Sheldon’s lineup these days and highly get on this micro winery’s mailing list and be sure to check out their Sangiovese, Grenache and this Graciano while they are still available!
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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