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“Off the charts great.”Antonio Galloni on the Ceritas 2015s
Our perception of what’s possible in wine changed nearly a decade ago, when we first tasted a wine made by Ceritas’ John Raytek. The wine was 2007 Porter-Bass Chardonnay, and its powerful minerality made you think we were drinking Grand Cru Chablis.
Subsequent vintages—not only of Porter-Bass but of other Ceritas Chardonnays and Pinots—have convinced us that no one in California comes closer to capturing the magic of great Burgundy than John Raytek.
But while in 2007 Porter-Bass was the whole show, today the spotlight is shared by a host of great Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. This is especially the case in the 2015 vintage which has just been released. The level of quality is simply thrilling.
We often hear about California Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays being “Burgundian.” But how often are they really? For our money, no one in northern California comes closer to the Burgundian ideal than John Raytek does.
From the very hands-on farming to his flexibly traditional approach in the cellar, John strives for the purest articulation possible of variety and terroir. To this end, he works only with fruit from cool sites that he deems worthy of such expression. Our 2015 offer includes four wines from “The True” Sonoma Coast, rounded out with a selection each from the Santa Cruz Mountains and Anderson Valley.
Through perfectionist farming and minimalist winemaking, our 2015 Ceritas Assortment takes you on a tour of some of northern California’s most geologically and climatically challenging sites, their individual characters rendered with John’s hallmark clarity.
Our exploration begins in “The True,” Ceritas’ original region of focus. Here the Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay’s rich fruit and saline minerality contrasts with the high-toned Chablis-like personality of the flagship Porter-Bass Vineyard Chardonnay.
And, for the first time, we’ve been honored with a Pinot Noir from John’s and Phoebe’s home vineyard, the Porter-Bass Vineyard. Deep, darkly fruited and firmly structured—yet light on its feet—this complete wine shows that Porter-Bass is as gifted a terroir for Pinot Noir as it is for Chardonnay.
Further west in “The True,” adjacent to the iconic Hirsch Vineyard, is the Old Shop Block in the Hellenthal Vineyard, one of the Sonoma Coast's oldest Pinot sites, having been planted, on their own roots, to the prized Calera clone in 1980. This direct transmission of Hellenthal’s sandstone soil provides a brightly red-fruited, deeply concentrated complement to Porter-Bass’s, darker-toned character.
From a southwest-facing bench in the cool, northern Deep End of the Anderson Valley comes Hacienda Secoya Vineyard Pinot Noir. This finely structured, red-fruited Pinot Noir beautifully expresses the site’s volcanic sandstone-based soil.
Rounding out the case is the iconic Peter Martin Ray Chardonnay. Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, on the site of his father's mythic and eponymous vineyard—the Martin Ray Vineyard—these four-decade-old vines are, in John’s hands, producing Chardonnay of riveting concentration and complexity, characterized by aromas and flavors of orchard fruits, flowers and crushed stone.
The Ceritas 2015s are not only extraordinary, they are truly rare. The already tiny production of less than 200 cases per wine was slashed by between 25 and 60 percent in this very low-yielding vintage. We are particularly appreciative, therefore, for the loyalty of John, and his wife and partner Phoebe Bass, in again giving us a precious allocation.
Concentrated, highly expressive and focused by bracing acidity these are remarkably complete wines, the character of each terroir rendered with startling clarity. For California wines that are brilliantly expressive of site, you won’t want to miss these.
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