2004 Ceja Vineyards Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir


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

TasteUNIQUE 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.

Mission Report:

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.

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