Florèz Wines was started by James Jelks in 2017. James grew up in the Santa Cruz area and was schooled in winemaking at nearby UC Davis. He worked in wineries all over the world for 10 years before returning home to make wine in the Santa Cruz area. He is farming some vineyards himself, always dry-farmed, and is also sourcing some fruit from organic and sustainable vineyards. He always works with native yeasts, does not use additives except for a minimal amount of sulfur at bottling, and does not filter the wines.
Read more about James and his fellow young Santa Cruz winemakers shaking the habitual in this San Francisco Chronicle article.
- Free Solo
- Shangra-li Mendo Savvy B
- Noble Oble
- The Pope’s Smoke
- Chardonnay Moonmilk
- White Rhino Grenache Blanc
- Oyster Pal
Free Solo — Back to the top
Heritage Blend – Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Carignan, Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Black Muscat. Santa Clara Valley, CA – 69 cases
Why: This is California heritage. I fell in love with mixed vineyards because they are relics from the past, and they represent what the first settlers were planting to drink. From a tiny family vineyard just about 100 years old. This is a finite resource and I make all the wine from this site.
Vineyard notes: 5th generation Italian owned. Planted ~1920. Organic with one watering per year. They do it how they learned from the previous generation. It used to be about 18 acres until the 101 was built, now only 0.6 acres remains. On alluvial loams.
Tasting notes:Bright-eyed red fruits. Pomegranate, cranberry, & dried cherry with a mentholated signature. The unique vineyard creates a wine with a singular personality that can’t be replicated.
Vinification: All varieties picked together and co-fermented. 1/3 whole cluster was incorporated in the fermentation with destemmed fruit on top. Slow pump overs once to twice a day, and the occasional gentle punch down. The wine was pressed at 7 brix to mitigate alcoholic extraction and to preserve freshness and vibrancy. Fermentation finished in neutral oak. Left sur lee for 10 months. Racked once before bottling. The wine was produced without any additions. Unfined, unfiltered, no sulfites.
Shangra-li Mendo Savvy B — Back to the top
Grapes: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Vineyard: Upton Ranch, Redwood Valley, Mendocino. CCOF Organic, Pinole Gravelly Loam
Originally planted in 1969, these old Sauvignon Blanc vines thrive under the honest and hardworking care of the Upton family. They apply compost and cover crop to keep up soil nutrition, and thanks to regular canyon winds they are able to be minimalist in the organic management of powdery mildew; they have maintained CCOF organic certification since
1990. The yield is rather modest (~3 tons/acre) due to the well-drained soils.
Making of: The fruit is destemmed and allowed to rest on their skins overnight. This allows flavors and aromatic compounds to
leach from the grape skins as well as contributing some texture. The fresh juice is then fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel to preserve aromatics and freshness. No filtration, no ameliorations, and no sulfite additions.
Personality: Zesty and refreshing aromatics of passionfruit, lime, and white flowers are balanced with a mineral austerity. Light and fresh, this wine does well at a garden party, or down at the beach.
Noble Oble — Back to the top
100% Pinot Noir Santa Cruz County, CA – 60 cases
Why: This coastal vineyard is very close to the town of Aptos. The vineyard was an old apple orchard and is planted 880 yards from the ocean. The microclimate is unique and the vineyard is bathed in gentle California sun, fog, and mist. Fruit set can be marginal, and yields are low. With just enough warmth throughout the season to ripen the fruit, it makes for an extremely distinctive wine.
Vineyard notes: Aptos vineyard grown sustainably without herbicides (glyphosate free), or pesticides, dry farmed. Heavy coastal influence.
Tasting Notes: An intensely distinct pinot. Wild black plum & cherry, herbal & smokey, hazelnut & crushed acorn. A very attractive build. A good acidity, a gentle but firm tannin, and toned flesh.
Vinification: Clones include La Tache and Dijon selections. 1/3 whole cluster was incorporated in the fermentation with 2/3 whole berries destemmed on top and allowed to ferment to dryness for about 2 weeks. The wine was aged in puncheon and barrique for 10 months sur lie. Racked once before bottling. Unfined, and unfiltered.
The Pope’s Smoke — Back to the top
Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – 138 cases
Why: Grenache is one of my hallmark varieties and I have wanted to work with this variety because of its suitability to California, its propensity to make both vin de soif and vin de garde wines, and its ability to translate terroir.
Vineyard notes: Bates Ranch grown sustainably without pesticides & herbicides, dry-farmed. Prudy Foxx is the consultant and she is an advocate of soil health and eliminating glyphosate in the vineyards she works with. Spilling out of the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mountains is the infamous Bates Ranch.
Tasting Notes: I often explain that my Grenache is a light and fragrant style which is dictated by the vineyard much more than winemaking because often people expect a boozy ultraripe wine from Grenache. This delicate expression of Grenache showcases a very aromatic nose of crushed strawberry, hibiscus, & tamarind. A lite and silky wine with a low abv. Ever so slightly petillant, best served with a light chill.
Vinification: While an October pick is considerably late by California standards, I was the first to pick to preserve natural acidity. A whole berry native fermentation lent a semi-carbonic character to the wine, and delicate pump overs were utilized to maintain the integrity of the berries. Pressed just before dryness to maintain freshness but also based on tasting the skins. The wine was aged in puncheon, and barrique on lees for 10 months. Racked once before bottling. Unfined, and unfiltered.
Lovebirds — Back to the top
James on this wine: “This wine is part of my continued exploration of Grenache. I believe the variety is aptly suited for California, and I love the terroir expressiveness ranging from vin de garde to vin de soif wines. This wine is a co-ferment of Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc to make a light red wine with some texture. Serve chilled and enjoy.”
Grapes: 50% Grenache Blanc, 50% Grenache Noir
Vineyard: Windmill vineyard, Dunnigan Hills, Yolo County. CCOF Organic.
The vineyard is located in the foothills on the eastern side of the Northern California Coast Ranges. The soils are pinkish gravelly alluvial soils permitting good drainage which is essential to quality wines. This is a classic hot California climate and Grenache thrives here. They utilize some unique canopy work to protect the fruit from overexposure. They keep things diverse with fruit trees, olives, and bees on site.
Making of: With inspiration stemming from some of the natural legends of Tavel and Roussillon, a short maceration creates a
textured wine that falls somewhere between rosé, ramato, glouglou. The Grenache Blanc & Grenache Noir were destemmed evenly together and allowed to begin native fermentation. Gentle pump-overs were used to keep the ferment healthy and after 6 days the grapes were pressed and the fermenting juice was sent to stainless tank to finish fermentation. After 5 months sur lie, the wine was racked in preparation for bottling. Unfined, unfiltered, with no other ameliorations except 10ppm SO2 at bottling.
Tasting Notes: Aromatics of kiwi, guava, and tangerine lead right into a crunchy and tannic palate of fresh and juicy sour candy. A thirst-quenching spring holiday wine that will keep you cool throughout the summer. Easily enjoyed chilled with a citrus salad, roast chicken, and rosemary potatoes in the sun. Gardenside, oceanside, poolside.
Chardonnay Moonmilk — Back to the top
James on this wine: “The coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains provides a unique climate especially for cool-weather varieties, like Chardonnay. If you look around it is quite obvious what makes it different. Cool fog and mist from the Monterey Bay envelope redwood forest which is a stark contrast from much of California’s sunburned hills. The 2019 vintage is comprised solely of a single coastal Santa Cruz Mountains vineyard that I personally farm and tend. I do the entirety of the work including pruning, canopy work, and spraying. Friends do occasionally help and of course, harvest is a team effort!”
Grapes: 100% Chardonnay
Vineyard: Santa Cruz Mountains. Organic, dry-farmed by James himself, no till
Making of: Fresh fruit was hand-picked by James’s friends and family and quickly whisked away to the winery for a direct pressing. The juice was settled and racked to stainless where the native ferment kicked off. Once the tell-tale signs of ferment had just begun to spark, the lightly fermenting juice was transferred to neutral French oak to allow for barrel fermentation. The wine was left sur lie and without battonage for 10 months. Racked once before bottling. Unfined, unfiltered. No additives or sulfites during vinification or elevage. 20ppm SO2 added at bottling.
Personality: Aromas of citrus, mineral, and Meyer lemon curd. The palate is textured and delicate with a notable finish. With age, the wine will gain weight and power. Wonderful to drink now, but those who cellar the wine for a couple of years will be rewarded.
White Rhino Grenache Blanc — Back to the top
James on this wine: “In 2019, the opportunity opened up for us to work with some fruit from Windmill Vineyard in the Dunnigan Hills. Its alluvial soil permits good drainage essential to quality wines. This is a classic warm California climate and Grenache thrives here. Sergio Villanueva is responsible for farming the vineyard and it is immediately apparent that he does not take shortcuts and is quietly proud of the high bar he holds. As a power combo, Steve Mathiasson, a viticulturalist known for his progressive and organic practices, oversees the cultivation. They utilize some unique canopy work to protect the fruit from overexposure. They keep things diverse with fruit trees, olives, and bees on site.In short, they are growing fruit for quality and expression, in a region that doesn’t have a lot of notoriety. This allows us to make top-notch wines while keeping the prices reasonable.” A true value here!
Grapes: 100% Grenache Blanc
Vineyard: Windmill vineyard, Dunnigan Hills, Yolo County. Pink Gravel Alluvium, CCOF Organic.
Making of: A very long and gentle pressing was applied to the whole cluster fruit and juice was settled. Native fermentation began in stainless to ensure a clean primary before being racked down to neutral oak. Aged 5 months sur lie before being racked for bottling. No filtration, no ameliorations, and no sulfite additions.
Tasting Notes: “The Grenache Blanc was the most beautiful fruit out of this vineyard for the 2020 vintage. Pungent aromas of pineapple, Asian pear, and honeysuckle are matched with concentration on the palate. Good acidity keeps this wine lively without heaviness,” James muses.
Oyster Pal — Back to the top
Grapes: 100% Picpoul
Vineyard: Windmill vineyard, Dunnigan Hills, Yolo County. Pink Gravel Alluvium, CCOF Organic. In James’s own words: “Rolling hills of olives, fruit trees, and grapes assure you that this terroir is well suited to grapes. Cared for by the calm and focused Sergio Villanueva, this CCOF organic vineyard was first consulted for by progressive viticulturalist Steve Mathiasson.” (see also White Rhino above for more details on the site)
Making of: The grapes were destemmed and to rested for one night to allow the flavors and grapes qualities to leach out of the ruptured skins. The juice was then fermented in stainless, before being sent to neutral oak to allow for a little roundness to develop sur lie. Unfined, and unfiltered with no adjustments save for 15ppm SO2 added at bottling.
Personality: Aromatics of apple, green melon, and beeswax. An extraordinarily light and pretty wine, the low ABV (10.2%) allows you to indulge. James says: “I suggest opening tastings or meals with this wine as it prepares the palate and also gives this delicate flower a chance to shine before bigger and richer wines are served. I am excited to see this wine next to fresh oysters, crudo, and other light seafood dishes.” A true oyster pal…