PICK of the RACK: Ceja Vineyards | Vino de Casa | Napa Valley | California | 2009 | $25 (Avg.) | 88 pts

CejaAn unusual blend of Pinot Noir (60%) and Syrah (40%), the Ceja family’s “house wine” fulfills its self-designated role with equal measures of refinement and dexterity. Syrah is dominant on the nose, offering brawny aromas of dark fruit, smoked meat, black peppercorn, and toast; then the Pinot makes its presence known on the palate, offering more delicate, finely-woven flavors of red-ripe Bing cherry, herbal tea, and cinnamon stick — all rounding out with a hint of menthol on a mouthwatering finish. The wine is medium-weight and elegantly textured on the palate, framed by subtle tannins, moderate acids, and integrated oak. It is a food-friendly wine that will serve with considerable versatility at the table. Pair it, for example, with medium-sharp cheeses and charcuterie, grilled salmon, pork tenderloin, seared duck breast, and sautéed mushrooms.  (13.4% ABV)

Availability: Ceja’s Vino de Casa is distributed nationally, so check with your favorite wine merchant for local availability. We found it at Altura Wine & Gourmet in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia (www.alturawinegourmet.com), which we introduced you to in our review of Corralitos Vineyards and Winery’s 2012 Syrah. For more information on Vino de Casa, the Ceja family, or their other selections, visit the winery virtually at www.cejavineyards.com. The 2010 vintage of Vino de Casa is now available directly from the winery and we are eager to taste it.

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