2004 Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir • Viña del Sol
California: Carneros - Los Carneros (Sonoma)
What we say
Mission Codename: Vinum Cantos Amor
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Determine whether the fabled Carneros region in California’s Sonoma County deserves its reputation for producing California’s finest Pinot Noir
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Ceja Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2004 Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir
Winemakers: Armando Ceja
Backgrounder: Agent Red and our field Operatives fell in love with Ceja Vineyards Vino de Casa, a Red Blend featured here recently. What made such a big impression on Agent Red was what he described as “a perfect 50/50 flavor profile that, remarkably, evenly layers Pinot Noir and Syrah to give the wine 2 distinctly different flavors – an even balance of the two grape varietals made to create a remarkable red blend”. For todays mission, Agent Red returns to Ceja to taste their Pinot Noir and to determine if this wine, this Carneros Pinot Noir, is among the best he has tasted in California. Read the full mission briefing below for full details.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Perfect clarity with a deepening heart of garnet, a very tight surface, sparkling pink edges with long and long-thin tightly-spaced legs
Smell – Bright and earthy with a big dose of the classic gunpowder that I love so much. This wine is aromatic and juicy and delivers deep cherry, raspberry and truffle with a mild green tomato and slight horsiness
Feel – Very round and very cool and very smooth in the mouth balanced with soft tannins that dry the lips
Taste – UNIQUE TASTE ALERT! This wine presents juicy yet classic flavors of Pinot Noir, with dark cherry, plum, candy apple, strawberry, raspberry and cedar, but also unique flavors of darjeeling tea, cigar box and a slight minerality.
Finish – Long, dry and slightly tart, this wine makes my mouth water!
Conclusion – Ceja + Carneros + Pinot Noir = A wine that I want to sing about! My Asset at the winery (codename: Agent Leon) calls this wine, “Pretty darn amazing!”. I have to agree and I must impress upon you that this is a superb wine in every respect. It drinks beautifully and it has enough complexity and layers within that you will find yourself enjoying it for its smells, its tastes, its feel and the happy mood that it puts you in as you sip away.
Ceja wines are SO good that this is the third time we have featured them here. Presented here, for your knowledge, is a re-print of our first mission (adventure!) to Ceja Winery:
Between missions I was enjoying some downtime at my favorite Napa wine lounge, when an urgent dispatch came through on my Wine Spy handheld. Central Command had received a flurry urgent inquiries for a GREAT red wine – for less than $20.
“Leave your misconceptions behind”, was the clear directive. “Find us a wine that drinks well above its price, and find it TODAY!”
I had just one problem: I was hungry!
I asked the owner of the lounge where I could pick up great Mexican food. Before he could answer, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Turning as I reached instinctively for my corkscrew I saw young man with a flashing smile.
“Like Tacos?” he asked.
“Uhh. Yeah. Love ’em,” I replied.
“And great wine, too?”
“Who doesn’t?” I said.
“Follow me,” he said.
After a short car ride later we turned into the driveway for Ceja Vineyards, a winery that I had heard only great things about.
Stepping out of the car, the aromas hit me. Spices, beans, grilled meat and… red wine.
The young man, who introduced himself as Ariel Ceja, led me into a small outbuilding adjacent to the tasting room. Inside was smiling woman who hugged me as I entered. Ariel introduced me to his grandmother and invited me to sit down. Inside this room, the aromas were intoxicating.
Ariel handed me a glass of red wine, explaining that this was their family’s favorite wine. A deep sniff, a swirl and a taste was all it took for me to fall in love with their wine. The tacos were incredible as well and we laughed and shared stories. And more wine.
Postscript: After filing my report with Central Command, I spent the balance of the day with the Ceja family, eating, drinking, roaming their vineyards. It was hard to leave at the end of the day, but at least I left with a feeling that this day had been among my luckiest – and most rewarding – as a Wine Spy. I got to spend time with great people and enjoy their hospitality. And their great wine.
Their Pinot Noir is my favorite!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of Ceja’s Adobe Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Check out The Wine Spies on Wine Library TV
Awards & Accolades:
Critics Gold – The 2006 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition presented by Competition Director Robert Whitley
Gold Medal – 2007 National Women’s Wine Competition
Aromas of plump and juicy fruit, tea, dark cherry. The palate showcases dry fruit and tart cherries with an earthy overlay. Overall a bright, crisp, and balanced wine with soft tannins and layers of textures.
About Ceja Vineyards:
Welcome to Ceja Vineyards. Each day as we gaze at the surrounding vineyards, we are reminded of the first Ceja vine. Planting our first vine together in rich Carneros soil was an exciting moment. That vine symbolized our bond as a family and strengthened our shared commitment to produce premium wines. We proudly continue a three-generation tradition of growing choice grapes in the beautiful Napa and Sonoma Valleys. We invite you to join us on our journey.
As you explore our website you’ll see, repeated often, a bell with the Latin inscription: vinum (wine), cantus (song), and amor (love). In Mexico, church bells ring to reveal the time, announce community celebrations or call parishioners to church. We have adopted the bell as our trademark, and symbolically ring it now to invite you to become a part of Ceja Vineyards.
Terroir, (pronounced tair wahr), is a French term and strictly translated refers to the earth. In the Carneros Region, the term is defined as a special set of conditions encompassing all the components that affect the grapes grown here. The soil’s chemistry and physical structure, the slope and orientation of the hills and valleys and the weather are all factors of terroir.
Located approximately 40 miles northeast of San Francisco, the Carneros Region’s moderate climate is created by fog, moist air, and cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean. Protected from harsh weather by the Coastal Range, Carneros summer days are warm with cool nights and winters are mild. As a result, grapes stay on the vine longer, reaching high acidity and full flavor development.
At Ceja Vineyards, we match vines to terroir, planting each variety where it grows best. Our wines are a true reflection of their origins.
Vineyard: Viña del Sol, Dale Avenue, Sonoma • Carneros
Fermentation: Open-topped, small vat, cold soaked, extended maceration, gentle punch downs.
Wine Type: Medium Red Wine
Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
Appellation: Carneros (Sonoma)
Harvest Date: September 24, 2004
Sugar: 24.7° at harvest
Aging: 20 months in French barrels
Alcohol %: 13.9
Production: 1025 cases produced.