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
- Moonmilk “Gold Top”
- White Rhino Grenache Blanc
- Oyster Pal
- Pegleg Chardonnay
- Poilu’s Pinard
Free Solo — Back to the top
Heritage Blend – Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Carignan, Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Black Muscat. Santa Clara Valley, CA – 69 cases
Winemaker’s note: “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.
Making of: All varieties were picked together and co-fermented. The fresh fruit was picked early in the morning and put into stainless tanks for carbonic maceration. Natural CO2 from an established vigorous fermentation was used to gas the tank. After three weeks the fruit was foot tread, pressed off, and sent to neutral French oak. Left sur lees for 10 months. Racked once before bottling. No additions including no added sulfites.
Personality: Herbal, blackberry, cigar box, anise and cherry cola. A nice core of fruit with medium acid and soft tannins.
2019: 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 was destemmed and left to rest on their skins overnight. This allows flavors and aromatic compounds to
leach from the grape skins, as well as contribute some texture. The juice was then fermented with native yeasts in
stainless to preserve aromatics and freshness. This vintage, 35% was aged in neutral oak to explore differences in elevage. Aged sur lies for 6 months before being racked once in preparation for bottling. No filtration, no ameliorations, and no sulfite additions at any point.
Personality: pale yellow color. Aromas of guava, lemon peel, white peach, fresh-cut hay, and yeast. A very slight effervescence from dissolved CO2 due to the stainless aging gives liveliness to the palate.
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 contribute 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
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir Santa Cruz County
Vineyard: 2020 comes from Hunter Hill, Santa Cruz Mountains. Located 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean and tucked into the misty redwoods, the entirety of this vineyard is on a slope and experiences a cool climate. Tended by James’s friend and grower German who is working organically, no-till, dry-farmed. Weathered Sandstone and Shale Loams.
Making of: with the conversion to Organics, 1/3 of the fruit had some small organic blemishes and was direct-pressed, 1/3 of the good fruit was destemmed, and the last 1/3 of perfect fruit was left whole-cluster. Attentive pump-overs were initially used to get a healthy native ferment, and gentle cap wettings were applied in the later stages of fermentation. Gently pressed and sent sur lie to 1 puncheon and 1 barrel. After 10 months, the wine was racked once and then bottled. Unfined, unfiltered, and no added SO2 at any point. Cellared for an additional 9 months in bottle before release in spring 2022.
Personality: “Pomegranate, red raspberry, redwood duft & cedar define the aromatics of this wine. There is no shortage
of structure with driving acidity and firm tannin. Pork & Pinot is a classic pairing and the bracing acidity will cut the fat of a pig roast or salamis beautifully,” James recommends.
2018: 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
Vineyard: JDM Organics – Windmill vineyard, Dunnigan Hills. Pink Gravelly Loam permitting good drainage. Certified CCOF organic, polyculture with fruit trees, olives and bees on site.
The vineyard is located on the east side of the Northern California Coastal Range. A classic warm California climate; Grenache thrives there. They utilize some unique canopy work to protect the fruit from overexposure.
Making of: The fruit was destemmed as whole berries. A combination of pumpovers and punchdowns were used to keep the native fermentation happy, and after 2 weeks the fruit was pressed at dryness. The wine was rested in barrel for 10 months sur lie, racked once, then bottled. No additives including no added sulfites.
Personality: “A delicate and low alcohol vintage. A fresh nose of strawberry, cranberry, rose, wet river stone, and sweet baguette crust. Comparable to Nebbiolo-based wines in the sense that you can’t let the light color deceive you. A firm tannin brings structure to this perfumed wine,” says James.
2019: 100% Grenache from 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. “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.”
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.
Moonmilk “Gold Top” — Back to the top
The ‘Gold Top’ indicates the difference between this old vine Blue Jay vineyard Moonmilk (Gold Top) 2019, and the 2019 Moonmilk from Glenwood vineyard(previously released with a regular beeswax top – see above).
Winemaker’s note: “I farm this vineyard myself with help from
friends. We have replanted most of the vineyard at this point with ‘obscure’ varieties such as Gamay and Savagnin, but we still get a small amount of fruit from the remaining vines that were originally planted in the 1970s.”
Vineyard: Blue Jay, Santa Cruz Mountains. South-facing vineyard with sandy soils, farmed organically by James himself (+ help from friends). Old vines from the 1970s.
Making of: Hand-picked with the help of winemaker’s friends, foot tread and let to rest for 1 night on the skins. Pressed, barrel fermented with native yeasts, no stirring, sur lies for 10 months, racked once. Unfined, unfiltered, 20ppm SO2 at bottling only. Cellared for 1.75 years in bottle before release.
Personality: top! The wine has a golden hue which can be attributed to the skin contact and neutral oak. Aromas of flint, spiced apple turnovers and crème brûlée. Textured and medium rich. A gourmand wine fit for dinners of poultry, pastas, and cheeses. Think burgundy glasses and cheese platter for dessert.
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.
This vintage is a true rare White Rhino: “Unfortunately, they are pulling out the Grenache Blanc due to virus pressure and this will be the last release of White Rhino from Windmill vineyard!”
Making of: This vintage, 2/3 of the fruit was direct-pressed and the other 1/3 was foot tread. “The plan was to ferment the two
styles separately and see the different expressions and evaluate the best way to work with this specific fruit. However, the direct press fermentation struggled to get going for a few days, so the decision was made to combine the healthy and vigorous foot tread fermentation into the still unfermenting direct press juice to avoid any problems,” James explains. After a healthy native fermentation was established, the fermenting juice was racked down to neutral oak barrels. The wine was left to rest for 6 months sur lie before being racked once and bottled. Unfined, unfiltered, and no SO2 added at any point.
Personality: “Grenache Blanc is a unique grape that is known to be sensitive to oxidation. While this wine is not oxidized, the skin contact has intensified the amber color. You can see just how sensitive this variety is by observing the color change the day after opening, particularly dramatic as this is an unsulfured wine. Aromas of pineapple, honeydew, caramel and spice. The palate has a good acidity and nutty finish. I’m snacking on comté cheese as I write and taste. Bon appetite,” James says.
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.
“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…
Pegleg Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Vineyard: Nelson, Sonoma Mountain. Steep south-facing hillside with well-drained metavolcanic soils. Farmed by James’s friend and peer David Rothschild, an upcoming figure within the natural California winemakers garde as a proud and skillful organic grower.
Making of: Half of the fruit was foot tread, and pressed the following day. The other half was direct pressed. Hence the name Pegleg, one foot in one foot out (also David, the grower, is half pirate). Both were barrel fermented in neutral French oak with native yeasts & bacteria. Topped, left undisturbed & sur lie for 10 months before a single racking, then bottled. No additives including no added sulfites.
Personality: “Aromatics of lemon curd, nectarine, creme brûlée, and nuts define the nose. Akin to aged champagne and some Jura-type Chardonnays. A bright palate with minerality and texture. Dry, yet creamy with firm acidity,” its creator says.
Grapes: 55% Syrah, 45% Chardonnay
Vineyard: The Syrah portion for this wine came from Hunter Hill just above Soquel in the redwoods of Santa Cruz, and the Chardonnay portion came from Amaya Ridge just a little further into the mountains. Sandstone & shale loams. Both farmed organic and dry farmed.
Making of: Both vineyards had rather small yields, so James decided to try an experimental style coferment. The chardonnay was direct pressed, and the Syrah was placed as whole clusters to float in the juice, hence the name Lavalamp. This is a somewhat obscure vinification technique referred to in France as “flottaison” (flotation) or “trempouiller” (to dip, to soak). At near dryness, the fruit was pressed off and wine sent to barrel. Due to a slow somewhat tricky ferment, 10 ppm of SO2 was added at barrel down to help the Sacharomyces yeast finish their job. No other additives. One puncheon and one barrel produced.
Personality: A savory nose showcasing some of Syrah’s meaty characters alongside blueberry, raspberry, forest floor, brut cider, and garden herbs.
Kind of Orange Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is a rare bird: “These vines verge on wild, and sadly there is an attrition every year. We may only have another vintage or two of this wine,” James says.
Grapes: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Vineyard: Feliz Creek, Mendocino County just out of Hopland. 1980’s planting on well drained Russian River gravelly loams. Dry farmed, no till, with absolute minimum organic inputs.
Making of: The grapes were handpicked and carefully put into stainless vessels for a 3-week carbonic maceration, using harvested CO2 from an already active fermentation, as opposed to using CO2 from a commercial cylinder. While it was done as carbonic, the soft skins readily bled juice leading to a type of submerged cap maceration for the later portion of the fermentation. The structure of the wine comes from skin tannin, and stem tannin. Pressed off and sent to neutral French oak barrels for 10 months aging sur lie. Racked once and bottled. No additives including no added sulfites.
Personality: Peach O’s, mandarin, guava, passionfruit, cantaloupe, & lychee. There is a near muscat quality to the intensity of this wine. Rather serious; dry, tannic, and with medium plus acidity.
Vineyard: JDM Organics – Windmill, Dunnigan Hills. Located on the east side of the Northern California Coastal
Range, this is a classic warm California climate; Grenache thrives here. The growers utilize some unique canopy work to protect the fruit from overexposure. Pink Gravelly Loam soil permits good drainage. Certified CCOF organic, with a polyculture with fruit trees, olives and bees on site.
Making of: The fruit was picked early at a low sugar level to make a light, fresh red. The fruit went into a traditional open-top French oak tank, 50% whole cluster and 50% destemmed. A combination of pump-overs and punch-downs were used to keep the native fermentation happy, and after 2 weeks the fruit was pressed at dryness. The wine was rested in barrels for 6 months sur lie, racked once, then bottled. Unfined, unfiltered and no additives except 15 ppm SO2 at bottling as there was a small
propensity to grow a few whiskers.
Personality: wine made in the style of a light glou glou red, with a low abv, a zippy acidity, and pale color. Aromas of hard red candies (Jolly Rancher), sour cherry, and briny watermelon. The palate is tart, thirst-quenching, and invites one to drink with gusto. The perfect sunny weather red, best drunk chilled outdoors.
Winemaker’s note: “A lean and quirky Picpoul from the Dunnigan Hills was blended with a ripe and jammy pinot from the
Santa Cruz mountains to balance each other out and make an unpretentious and scrumptious blend. Pinard is French slang for wine, which originated from the WWI rationed wine that the French infantrymen loved so much. The infantryman also had a slang name which is ‘poilu’ or ‘the hairy one’, as they typically were rustic countrymen sporting bushy mustaches or
Grapes: 55% Picpoul, 45% Pinot Noir
Vineyards: Windmill, CCOF Organic, Dunnigan Hills, Yolo County (Picpoul); Hunter Hill, practicing organic, Santa Cruz Mountains (Pinot). Pink Gravel Alluvial soils
Making of: The Picpoul was destemmed and rested for one night to allow flavor and structure to leach out of the ruptured
skins. The juice was then fermented in stainless, before being racked down to neutral oak. “Despite a vigorous and healthy fermentation, the Picpoul had an intense estery and feral character, likely from a wild yeast strain. This led me to consider a complementary blending component which I found in an odd lot of Pinot. The pinot came from a grower who farms an entire vineyard using organic practices specifically for me. We harvested some of the best fruit of the year from this vineyard, but there was a portion of pinot which had ripened to a very high sugar level. So high that it would not ferment to dryness without water addition. This falls outside of my typical winemaking ethos. I could have refused the fruit, but in the spirit of supporting my grower, I worked with what I had for the season. Despite each wine having a bit of troubled youth, they synergistically blended to make a delicious light red,” James explains the birth of this particular wine. Unfined, unfiltered, total SO2 of 15PPM.
Personality: Ruby red in color. Aromas of red fruit, cream, and peach yogurt. Juicy red fruits and a medium tannin palate. A crushable blend to be enjoyed.
Winemaker’s note: “This petillant naturel was produced via the ancestral (méthode ancestrale, rurale, artisinale) method. In this method, the bottling of the wine must be perfectly timed with the correct amount of residual sugar to allow the wine to
build carbonation in bottle as the fermentation finishes. In contrast, there is an increasingly common and easier method of producing bubbles by allowing the wine to go dry, and then back sweetening at bottling to reintroduce sugar (en tirage, or col fondo).”
Vineyard: Nelson, Sonoma Mountain. Steep south-facing hillside with well-drained metavolcanic gravelly soils. Farmed by James’s friend and peer David Rothschild, an upcoming figure within the natural California winemakers garde as a proud and skillful organic grower.
Making of: The grapes were destemmed, foot tread, and allowed to rest on the skins for 3 days while native fermentation began. The fruit was pressed off and allowed to ferment in a stainless tank. The 2021 was a slow fermentation that spanned an entire month before bottling méthode ancestrale. The wine was bottle conditioned for 6 months sur lies before being disgorged by hand. No additives were used at any point in the vinification process, including no added sulfites. The pet nat was finished by hand disgorging the lees after riddling.
Personality: amber hue from the skin contact, aromas of apple juice, and tangerine. The palate has good acidity, and a balancing sweetness that remains naturally from the fermentation. There is a mild tannin from the skin contact and of course, it’s bubbly! Great for festive occasions.