A few years ago I came across Ceritas in California and loved their wines. We are now delighted to have them available in the UK, led by husband and wife duo, John and Phoebe Raytek. These are deeply intense Chardonnays that channel all the focus and salinity of the Pacific with laser-like precision. Crushed chalk, oyster shell and lime zest are typical characters of these wines, not your usual Californian styles at all.
'Tucked away just east of the town of Occidental, Charles Heintz vineyard is one of the regionâ€™s oldest historic vineyard sites. Charlieâ€™s grandparents purchased the Heintz Ranch a century ago in 1912, planting Zinfandel the same decade. The vineyards thrived in this idyllic setting until Prohibition, at which time the vineyards were ripped out in favour of vegetables and apples.
But this site simply begged for wine grapes, specifically Chardonnay, with its classic Goldridge sandy loam soils, and the location just above the fog line, offering abundant sunshine with cool ocean breezes. So, in 1980, with the assistance of winegrowing pioneer Warren Dutton, Charlie planted Chardonnay. These three-decade-old vines are one of the oldest Chardonnay vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. At the time, this was the westernmost planting of Chardonnay, which was thought to be suitable only for sparkling wine due to its limited ripening potential.
Defying conventional wisdom of the 1980s, Heintz Vineyard has since proven to be superb Chardonnay terroir, its inherent richness balanced by bright acidity and briny minerality. We happily share the organically farmed section with a fellow winery. While the fruit ripens slowly due to vine age, patience has its rewards: not only is the quality outstanding, but also the contrast of this Chardonnay to our other Chardonnays shows what this varietal is capable of.
The mission at Ceritas is to craft single vineyard expressions of place through Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The sources for our fruit along the Sonoma Coast and westernmost Russian River Valley were carefully chosen for their winegrowing merits and also for their singularity. Each allows us the opportunity to craft balanced and distinct wines which will stand out on the dinner table. Just as oysters grown in Tomales Bay taste altogether different from those grown in Puget Sound, our wines are reflective of the growing seasons and soils from which they came.
In the vineyard we allow our sustainable farming practices to be dictated by observation and empiricism rather than by prescriptive farming. All of our vineyard sites are either farmed bio-dynamically or are in the initial stages of being converted to biodynamic farming methods. We believe that biodynamic farming methods, and focused and site-specific attention, give the vines the greatest opportunity to experience each growing season, to respond accordingly, and ultimately to yield grapes with the unmistakable flavours and smells of their time and place.
In the winery, we keep things simple. We look at winemaking from a standpoint that owes more to tradition than it does to cutting-edge innovation we more often find ourselves trying to understand what not to do rather than what to do. The crafting of each vintage is like a journey, in which nature sets its own course. Our role is to adapt, to proceed with humility, and to learn.'
Origin: Sonoma Coast / California / USA