Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ceja Vineyards

Ceja Vineyards closed their downtown Napa tasting room on September 21, 2014.  They are relocating their wine tasting salon to their Carneros Brewing Company site on Highway 12, on Burndale Road, in Sonoma.

Ceja Vineyards is as well known to local Napans as is the Ceja family, and both are equally loved.  It is one of the very few Latino family owned wineries in Napa Valley.   In 1983 the Ceja family purchased 15 acres in the Carneros region but that has now expanded to 115 acres of vineyard in Napa and Sonoma counties. Established in 1999, Ceja Vineyards began by selling their grapes to other producers. They offered their first commercial release under their own label in 2001. About half of their grapes continue to be sold to other producers.

Entry sign

The tasting room for Ceja Vineyard is located in downtown Napa.  They are building a new winery with tasting room which should be open in several years.  Please do not let the downtown location of the tasting room deter you.  This is premium winery by a family that is so well known and esteemed that they are something of a Napa Valley icon.  Amelia Moran Ceja, among many other awards, was recognized by the California Legislature in 2005 as being the "Woman of the Year."  Just down the street from the tasting room, Ariel Ceja runs the fantastic Bistro Sabor, my favorite restaurant for lunch, that was awarded the Best Latin American Restaurant in the Bay Area in 2012 and 2013 by the Bay Area A-List. Bistro Sabor awards 

Tasting room entrance

The tasting room is open to the public daily Sunday - Thursday 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM and Friday - Saturday 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM.  The tasting fee is only $10 and two tasting fees are waived with the purchase of $100 or more.  (They are also in the Napa Neighbor Program.) Cheese plates and Carcuterie plates are available for purchase.  Service was very friendly and down to earth, thanks to our host, Mike.

Tasting bar

Our first pour was the Ceja 2009 Chardonnay at $34 but on sale for $17.  It is 100% Chardonnay, comes from Carneros grapes and 650 cases were produced.  It saw no malolactic conversion and was sur lie aged for 11 months in one and two year old French oak.  If you like to taste the Chardonnay varietal characteristics and are put off by Chards that are overly buttery or oaked to death, then try this one.  It had an excellent apple and floral nose.  On the palate it was dry, very well balanced with lemon, pear and apple and a medium length finish. Both of us really liked this Chard and it is an incredible bargain on sale, although well worth the retail price.  It will be added to our list of favorite Napa Valley Chardonnays.

Next up was the Ceja 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir at $40.  950 cases were produced. It had a very nice aroma of red cherry, plum and floral notes.  It is a Pinot that emphasizes fresh fruit and subtlety with red cherry, light spices, good acid and soft, well integrated tannins.  Finish is medium length.  This is a very pleasant, easy to drink Pinot that can be enjoyed right now but should continue to improve over the next several years. Solidly recommended.

Tasting room

The third pour was an unusual blend, the Ceja 2009 Vino de Casa at $20.  It is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Syrah.  2000 cases were produced.  It had a light nose of mostly cherry followed by a palate of soft red cherry with hints of spice, smoke, plum and blueberry.  Balance was very good, the fruit being balanced with good acid and soft tannins. This medium bodied blend had a medium length finish.  I did not think a Pinot and a Syrah would come together so well, but they did.  A bargain at only $20.

The Ceja 2009 Merlot at $34 was next.  I got some oak and cherry on the nose and a fairly light, fruit forward, rather simple presentation on the palate, mostly cherry.  If you like a light, easy to drink Merlot, you might find this one appealing.  It is certainly very drinkable and pleasant.

Tasting room

I was surprised to be offered a 2007 Cabernet as a current release.  Ceja holds back release of their Cabs longer than most wineries and it is always a pleasure to be offered a taste from this great year in Napa Cabs.  This one is 100% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and was aged for 34 months in French oak barrels with 26% of it in new French oak.  500 Cases were produced.  This Ceja 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $50 and is an excellent Cab.  I loved the aroma of black cherry, forest floor and mushroom.  On the palate I got black cherry, blackberry and some spice with very nice, well integrated tannins and excellent structure.  The finish was very long and exceptionally pleasant, one of the hallmarks of a really superior Cabernet.  This was my favorite of the wines we sampled and is highly recommended.  It is comparable to many Napa Cabs that sell for twice the price and will be added to our list of all time favorite Napa Valley cabernets.  It is a very good Cab.

View of street from tasting room.

Ceja Vineyards offers some excellent wines at reasonable prices.  I have had Ceja wines in the past and have been impressed at how consistently good they are from year to year. Their tasting room in downtown Napa is well worth a visit, and we are looking forward to being able to visit their new tasting room at the winery when it opens. Be sure to stop by to see them before you head up valley.

Ceja Vineyards
1248 First Street
Napa, CA 94559
Phone: 707-226-6445
Date of visit: July 31, 2013

From the Ceja Vineyard website:
"Enjoy and sample a minimum of four wines from our portfolio that may include our Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, two blends (Vino de Casa White and Vino de Casa Red) and a crisp Rosé called Bella Flor. Tastings are $10 per person. Wines may also be enjoyed in flights, by the glass or by the bottle.
Open to the Public Daily
Sunday - Thursday 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Friday - Saturday 11:00 am - 8:00 pm"

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