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Uncorked: Cenyth blends fruit flavors and families

Cenyth is an inspiring debut from an all-star winemaking collaboration. 

The Bordeaux style blend comes from hillside and mountain fruit in Sonoma County and is the culmination of a project by Julia Jackson and Hélène Seillan. Daughters of wine industry legends Jess Jackson and Pierre Seillan, and childhood friends, the duo has made a lasting impression with its inaugural vintage.

Winemaker spotlight

Hélène Seillan saw Cenyth as a natural extension of an existing partnership. 

In a wine world loaded with male winemakers and owners, Cenyth is a seamless blend that features fruit from four Sonoma appelations. Because they’ve worked harvests together in France and the Jackson and Seillan families have built extensive bonds, Cenyth was conceived with an impressive pedigree.   

“I think more important than two women is that it is a collaboration between two families that share a passion and vision,” Seillan said. “Jess and my dad have always believed in Julia and I; each encouraged us to not be afraid to follow in their footsteps. To have the emotional support of both families and generations behind me is very empowering. This is our first project together in the wine world; she contributed her artistic talent for the label and the image, while I contributed my winemaking touch to craft the wine.”

With deft touch, Seillan has hit all the right notes with Cenyth. Made with fruit sourced from low-yielding hillside and mountain vineyards, it has distinct fruit notes, a solid backbone and a velvety mouthfeel. The nose conjures images of Bordeaux and a snappy acidity hint that Cenyth can be enjoyed now or further improve with a few years in the cellar. 

Even though she has roots in Bordeaux, Seillan embraced the bold flavors provided by California fruit. The bright sunshine and consistent warmth during the growing season offer California grapes a chance to reach a ripeness that is less predictable in Bordeaux. 

“I only picked fruit that was, in my opinion, a true expression of Sonoma County,” Seillan said. “I focused on mountain fruit, which we farmed with low yields to capture the diverse terroirs of Sonoma Country for a complexity of flavors. As you noticed, the fruit goes directly to the nose and it has good depth. This is where the aging and blending of a diversity of Sonoma County vineyards is especially key.” 

What to buy

Cenyth, Sonoma County 2009 ($60): Bold blackberries and red currant stand out but effortlessly yield to dark chocolate and espresso notes in this wine. It’s a genius blend that has plenty of backbone from Cabernet Sauvignon (47 percent). The Merlot (28 percent) might be the star of the blend as it provides red fruit flavors, softness and lovely mouthfeel. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec round out the blend.     

Where to go 

The DeKalb Rotary Club is holding a Beer and Wine Tasting from 2 to 5 p.m. March 30 at Inboden’s Meat Market, 1106 N. First St., DeKalb. Tickets cost $40. Call John Horn for tickets or more information at 815-790-0407.

• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at

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