Jonata Fenix 2016
Jonata Fenix 2016, 58% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. “Blackberry, loam, elderberry, cacao, graphite and baking spice. Massive wine that somehow manages to remain delicately focused. Impenetrable and dense. Grounded by delicious and fine, chalky tannins. The joy here undoubtedly lies in the unctuous layers of black and red fruit that form a cascade in the middle of this wine. Early accumulation of fresh and delectable tannins that pushes with fruit through the long and graceful finish.”
Jonata (the sister winery of the Napa Valley cult brand Screaming Eagle) is dedicated to expressing a range of reds—and a handful of whites—from its estate in the Central Coast of California’s Ballard Canyon appellation (within Santa Ynez Valley). Jonata is one of a new breed of producers throughout the world who are thriving with a non-traditional amalgam of varieties and blends (in particular, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah). Hotstuff wunderkind of wine, Matt Dees, came to Jonata armed with a degree in Soil Science from the University of Vermont, and vintages at Staglin in (Napa Valley), and Craggy Range (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) under his belt. Matt has an intrinsic feel for wine, from dirt to glass, whose approach to winemaking is grounded in the vineyard (pun intentional). Here’s what Matt has to say about the 2016 “Todos,” Jonata’s entry-level red:
Jonata is located in California’s Ballard Canyon within the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA and is the sister winery to Napa Valley’s Screaming Eagle. The name Jonata stems from the 1845 ‘Rancho San Carlos de Jonata’ Spanish land grant that at the time spanned a large proportion of the Santa Ynez Valley. This word was in fact borrowed from the Native American Chumash people and translates as ‘tall oak’.
The 33 hectares (84 acres) of vineyard owned by sports mogul Stan Kroenke occupy highly sandy soils and are planted with grape varieties rarely seen cultivated side-by-side: Syrah, Sangiovese and Bordeaux. Cabernet varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc have also successfully born fruit, an unusual feat in the Ballard Canyon. Jonata is committed to sustainability. Indeed, the estate keeps livestock and employs a revolving system to ensure the soil and land is kept healthy. The farmers are also allocated plots on which to grow their own food and absolutely no pesticides or herbicides are used on the estate.
The estate favours the production of red wine blends with a small selection of white wines. Their flagship wines include ‘Todos’ a red wine blend that can include Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc – literally everything the vineyard has to offer – and ‘El Desafio de Jonata’, or ‘The Defiance’, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. The estate’s 2007 vintages all scored highly with Robert Parker and many achieved 95 to 98 points. This automatically boosted Jonata’s reputation and today their wines command some of the highest prices in Santa Barbara County.
Precision winemaking is a trademark of Jonata. This starts with Vineyard Manager Ruben Solorzano who inspects the vineyard twice daily and ensures every shoot and cluster is carefully manicured. Then Winemaker Matt Dees places approximately 150 different lots from different parts of the vineyard into separate oak barrels and steel tanks before mixing them to create the desired blend. Finally, the renowned French wine expert Michel Rolland advises on the aging potential of the wines before bottling.