Ceja Vineyards

2006 Carneros Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir •Viña del Sol

California: Sonoma County: Carneros

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Mission Codename: Del Soul

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Ceja Vineyards and procure an allotment of their exceptional 2006 Carneros Pinot Noir for our Operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Ceja Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2006 Carneros Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Armando Ceja

Backgrounder: Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the Carneros viticultural area, a wine-growing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Pinot thrives here. Ceja Vineyards is a Wine Spies favorite and we are proud to bring you today’s very special wine. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report to learn more about this fantastic Pinot Noir.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Prevailing medium pink-burgundy hues, a little opaque with a slightly darker core. At the edges of the wine, near the rim of the glass, the wine shows a unique blush-peach color that our tasting panel found intriguing. When swirled, this wine shows a soft surface that leaves behind skinny and fast moving legs

Smell – After this wine opens up, an amazing array of aromatics emerge, lead by bright cherry, wet forest floor, tomato vine and black plum. These coexist with follow-on flavors of dried meats, soft cigar, dried red flowers, black tea, subtle mixed baking spices and jalapeno pepper

Feel – Soft and round on entry, then a roving dryness winds its way around your mouth, starting at the tip of the tongue and working its way around the edges of the mouth, drying the lips and cheeks as it goes. The feel is complimented by an easy acidity, soft minerals and a unique cooling feeling the shows up at the end

Taste – Dark cherry, dried blueberry, black tea, and soft herb on the attack, then soft dried herbs, subtle nutty marzipan and subtle roasted tomato emerge. These are joined by a flinty dark minerality that seems to wrangle all of the flavors together at the center of your tongue

Finish – Ultra-long and very smooth with fruit and spice flavors that actually increase in intensity after the wine is swallowed. Flavors persist for a long while after swallowing, ultimately leaving behind a dark minerality

Conclusion – This is a fantastic wine that really benefits from extended decanting. Initially shy, this wine blossomed after sitting for an hour. The difference between just-opened and post-decant is significant, so be sure to allow the wine ample time to breath. I have always been very enamored with Ceja wines and with Carneros Pinot Noir, so when I had the opportunity to get my hands on this wine, I was thrilled. The wine, like the Ceja family, is filled with heart and soul. With a bevvy of unique flavors and aromatics, this is a very interesting wine to drink. Add to these attributes the fact that the feel of the wine is very unique – and you have a thrilling overall Pinot-drinking experience. Enjoy now, and cellar a few bottles for up to 5 years. Salud!

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Armando Ceja

WINE EDUCATION: My wine education started immediately upon my arrival here to the US from Mexico. I immigrated in 1967 with my family when I was seven years old. We settled in north Napa where I started working alongside my parents and siblings in the vineyards. Over the years I fell in love with the grape growing process and eventually decided I would make a career out of it. I worked at various wineries throughout high school and even had the chance to make my first barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon at the age of seventeen before I headed off to UC Davis where I received degrees in oenology and viticulture. I was on my way!

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: After college I worked for Kenwood Vineyards in both winemaking and vineyard management before joining the management team at the Christian Brothers winery on Mt. Veeder. After a few years at Christian Brothers I decided it was time to strike out on my own; I formed Vina Del Sol (Vines of the Sun), my own vineyard management company.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Grow the best fruit possible in the vineyards and let nature take its course in the cellar utilizing gentle wine-making techniques.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: Wine is not a lifestyle, it represents life itself.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1998, Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir


AGENT RED: Greetings, Armando Ceja. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

WINEMAKER: Thanks for promoting the Ceja love. Can I have a cool “Agent” name too?

RED: We’ve already given you one, Agent Carneros! Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

WINEMAKER: Having been born into a seasonal farm-working family, I had no choice but to work in the vineyards of Napa as a child. During harvest I would follow the grapes to the winery, curious to see how the grapes would end up. That curiosity still leads me to the cellar today.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

WINEMAKER: I was fortunate to have Gino Zepponi of ZD Wines as mentor growing up.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

WINEMAKER: Mother Earth

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

WINEMAKER: Our Carneros Pinot Noir is a classic medley of “New and Old World” styles. It has balanced acidity and low alcohol and features earthy and smoky notes yet is still quite fruit-driven and voluptuous.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

WINEMAKER: My mama’s pozole.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Carneros region so special?

WINEMAKER: French winemakers have a term that “something” about a place grows great wines – terroir. The factors that influence grapes – sun, wind, temperature and humidity – produce a geographic alchemy that results in the white and red magic of Carneros wines.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

WINEMAKER: I’m spending a lot of time moderating malolactic fermentation and racking (the process of siphoning the wine off the lees into a new, clean barrel).

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

WINEMAKER: With a wine glass and corkscrew!

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Vina Del Sol vineyard and Ceja Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

The aromas are fresh and floral with red plum, black cherry blossom and hibiscus scents. The palate showcases a savory medley of Jamaica tea, dried berry, herb and spice flavors. This wine is bright, crisp and balanced with soft tannins and layers of textures.

Vineyard Notes: Viña del Sol, Dale Avenue, Sonoma • Carneros

Production Notes: Fermentation: Open-topped, small vat, cold soaked, extended maceration, gentle punch downs.

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.

Our 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.

Technical Analysis:

Vintage: 2006

Wine Type: Red Wine

Varietal: Pinot Noir

Varietal Composition: 100% Pinot Noir

Appellation: Carneros (Sonoma)

Harvest Date: 10/1/2006

Sugar: 24.2° at harvest

PH: 3.61

Aging: 20 months in French barrels

Alcohol: 13.9%

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