NORTH COAST, CALIFORNIA
At a dinner I hosted about five years ago in Brooklyn with a visiting restaurant dignitary from San Francisco and a few local wine industry folks, my husband decanted a bottle of white to pour blind. We obsessed over the majestic liquid in our glasses for the better part of an hour as it unveiled layer upon layer of mineral expression, edged with a faint sultry hint of Burgundian reduction, arguing over which Puligny- or Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru it came from. The reveal: A 2012 Porter-Bass Vineyard Chardonnay from a little producer then just seven vintages in, run by the husband and wife team of John Raytek and Phoebe Bass.
Ceritas is the culmination of the couple’s talents and experiences. Raytek honed his skills in the cellars of Flowers, Rhys and Copain and made the wines for Matt and Sara Licklider’s LIOCO label from 2011 until 2017. Bass was raised side by side with vines on the very biodynamic vineyard that eye-opening bottle bore the name of, which her family has farmed since 1980. Few California producers are as in tune with the vineyards they work with as Raytek and Bass, as they seem to know the sites’ most intimate details, “wear the dirt,” and make their decisions in the winery accordingly. The sites are farmed organically and sustainably, and the wines undergo long fermentations using indigenous yeasts in old barrels, with some whole clusters for the reds.
“Marena” Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
variety: chardonnay soil type: shale, sandstone & sandy loam
avg vine age: 38 years
Fruit for “marena” hails from the Porter-Bass and Charles Heintz vineyards. The former is a biodynamically farmed site situated between ridgelines in Pocket Canyon, benefitting from the cooling influence of morning and afternoon Pacific fogs. The Chardonnay here is Old Wente Clone, planted in 1980, when the Bass family relocated to the farm. Charles Heintz is a more sun-soaked site due to its situation above the fog line, tempered by ocean breezes.
Hellenthal “Old Shop Block” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
variety: pinot noir soil type: sandstone avg vine age: 35 years
Raytek and Bass consider themselves lucky to be able to farm the oldest vines on this property—a site just east of Hirsch Vineyards in the Sonoma Coast AVA. The vines are own-rooted Calera clone and are dry farmed, resulting in concentrated flavor and a more direct relationship to the soil. 80% whole clusters are used, with no cold soaking, and the wine is aged in barrel for 11 months.
Ceritas in the News
For Pinot Noir, Put Anderson Valley Among California’s Best: Top producers have swarmed to the region in Mendocino to make restrained, nuanced wines. Read More…