The White Meds are the Right Meds

My, how my tastes have changed. A million years ago, when I first started enjoying wine, I thought barrel fermented California Chardonnay was the #*%@. The richness of fruit combined with toasty oak was easy to identify and appreciate for my novice palate. I then discovered Chardonnay from White Burgundy, wines with more subtle fruit and higher acidity (minerals?). Some of these wines were fermented and aged in oak (Puligny Montrachet, Meursault) and some were made in either stainless steel or concrete (Chablis, Pouilly Fuisse, Macon-Villages). What these wines may have lacked in obvious fruit aromas and flavors was more than compensated for by what one would call "terroir." Then someone introduced me to German Riesling and that was it - I was gone. German Riesling had complex aromas and flavors, combined with searingly high levels of acidity (more minerals) that were uniquely reflective of their vineyard sites. Many of the Rieslings had residual sugar, but the acidity and minerality made them perfectly balanced. Pretty heady stuff, this thing called "terroir" in wine. It also taught me to follow my own path.  At that time Riesling was decidedly unfashionable thanks to the dubious reputation of a popular wine called Blue Nun Liebraumilch. Today, I'm open to trying any almost any kind of interesting wine from anywhere. As such, I drink a vast array of whites from Italy, Southern France and even Greece. Soave, Friuliano, Verdicchio, Vermentino, Pigato, Fiano, Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, Trebbiano, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Rousanne, Assyrtiko. So many whites and so little time. Most of the above wines have some elements of fresh fruit, crisp acidity and that component of being unique to it's geographical origin....you know, that terroir thang. Very few of these wines are barrel fermented or even aged in oak. You could safely say that the above wines have had a profound impact on how we make whites here in Dry Creek Valley. If our vineyards were located in a climate similar to Germany's Mosel or Nahe, we'd have planted Riesling a long time ago. But here in Dry Creek Valley, we have a Mediterranean climate, so we opted for Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Fiano and Verdicchio. So far the results have exceeded our expectations, and our 2015's are the best examples. 2015 Fiano:  Harvested August 29 at 21.7 brix.  Fermented with native yeasts and aged in concrete.  3.44 pH. 13.2 % alcohol. A winemaker from Campania told my dad "If you think Fiano is ripe, go harvest. By the time you've finished thinking, it might be too late." We have learned to err on the side of picking Fiano early, in order to preserve acidity and avoid higher than desired sugars. In 2015, we nailed it, making a wine that is fruity and expressive but with great minerality and acidity. Fiano has plenty of richness due to the thickness of it's skins. If the wine does not have a spine of acid, it can be a little oily and heavy. I love this grape in Campania and here in Dry Creek. 2015 Cuvee Blanc: Harvested August 31st (Vermentino), September 8th (Grenache Blanc). Fermented and aged in small Concrete and stainless steel tanks. Native yeasts. 3.29 pH.  13.9% alcohol. Both the Vermentino and especially Grenache Blanc in 2015 were particularly expressive. This could have been due to the drought conditions and the fact that we thinned the crop a little bit more than in previous years. It seems that Vermentino and Grenache Blanc were simply meant to be together. The former provides the floral and fruity aromas and flavors while the latter lends texture and body. And Picpoul adds a touch of citrus. This is easily the best vintage of Cuvee Blanc we've made, and we look forward to making more vintages like this in the future. 2015 Vermentino: Harvested August 31st. Fermented in concrete and small stainless steel tanks. Native yeasts. 3.29 pH. 13.9% alcohol. We love Vermentino from Italy's Liguria region. The best Ligurian whites are fresh and crisp making it the perfect fit for summertime drinking. Our 2015 Vermentino has a little more depth than you might expect, but it is still perfectly gulpable. Vermentino is "Bound for Glory" Here in California because it will perform well in most of our wine growing regions. Amazingly only 330 acres are currently planted in the State, but that should dramatically increase in the coming years. Vermentino shows expressive aromas and ripe flavors at low sugars here. That means you can wines with great flavors and acidity. 2015 Grenache Blanc: Harvested September 8th. Fermented in concrete tanks with native yeasts. 3.25 pH. 13.9% alcohol. Grenache Blanc has been the other main component of our Cuvee Blanc along with Vermentino. While not the fruitiest white we make, GB provides excellent body, texture and mineral flavors - sort of like what a Chardonnay can do in Burgundy. In 2015, however, our Grenache Blanc was the most floral, expressive and complex wines in our winery. It will have you swirling and sipping for hours. I'm not sure exactly what caused this to happen, but we are hoping it is a result of the vines carrying a little less crop than normal. We decided to bottle up 95 cases as a mono-varietal wine, if for no other reason than to show what is possible from Grenache Blanc.  

Newsletter 51

2013 MONTEPULCIANO 2014 ROSSO

2013 PETIT FRERE 2013 ZINFANDEL

2015 ROSÉ

FANTASY  WINE  DRAFT  GUIDE

2013 MONTEPULCIANO          

           For those of you foolish enough to engage in fantasy sports, you know there are certain players who go under-appreciated.  These players are available in the late rounds of a draft, or, go undrafted, and are subsequently listed on “the waiver wire.” My sleeper fantasy wine pick for the next several years is Montepulciano.

Montepulciano is a classic example of a non-glitzy draft pick. Like Grenache in Spain and France, Montepulciano is a prolific grape used for excellent everyday table wine in Italy’s Abruzzo. It’s a lovable wine, but not to be taken very seriously. In other words, it doesn’t have the “sex appeal” serious wine buyers would spend on an early round draft pick, such as Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir or Howell Mountain Cabernet. Think Detroit Tigers’ outfielder J.D. Martinez.

High-quality Montepulciano is a player whose contributions don’t always show up in the box score, and even when they do, few notice. In sports terms, MP would be a solid bench player, which would limit its fantasy value. But what if a team gave it a chance to start, and play every day in crucial situations?

Shrewd fantasy owners know a player’s statistics depend on several situational circumstances beyond that player’s control.  A manager decides how much playing time a player receives in games.  A good line up around the player improves his chances of putting up better statistics.  A player who plays in a small park has a better chance of hitting home runs. And so on.

Our Montepulciano, planted in Dry Creek Valley is in a perfect position to succeed, poised to have a bright future ahead. Dry Creek Valley’s climate is generally warm and dry, but the evenings allow for flavor development and better acid and tannin structure.  We have high quality wine in mind when we farm our Montepulciano, so we employ aggressive crop-thinning to facilitate more concentrated aromas, flavors, and structure.  The result is a wine worthy of batting clean-up on any special occasion.

Our 2013 is the best example of why we love Montepulciano. It is a concentrated, full-bodied wine that has the acidity of a Russian River Pinot Noir (3.65 pH). It clearly dispels any myth that says Montepulciano can’t make a sophisticated wine with balance and aging potential. This is a result of planting a noble Mediterranean grape in a Mediterranean climate. Go figure.

So don’t hesitate to spend an early draft pick on our 2013 Montepulciano. If my track record for picking wine sleepers is any indication (see my earlier selections of Grenache, Sangiovese, and Barbera), you’ll be glad you did.

100% MONTEPULCIANO

$35 BTL / $28 AS PART OF A MIXED CASE / 550 CASES PRODUCED

Order this wine HERE

 

OLD SCHOOL, CENTRAL DRY CREEK STYLE   

2013 ZINFANDEL                    

We tasted about 18 Zinfandels the other day. And other than running into a pole afterward, I came away with some interesting impressions.

My favorite non-UNTI wines of the day were the Ridge Lytton Springs and Rafanelli. Both Zins were excellent examples of the non over-the-top style with depth, complexity, and balance. Lytton seems always to have at least 15% Petite Sirah, which I believe helps make a balanced, yet still full-bodied wine. That is precisely what we do.

Part of the gig with a well-made Zin is to have alcohol levels in the 14% range. There is almost no intelligent way to avoid it. Lower alcohols in Zin either mean you are harvesting some under-ripe grapes with green flavors and harsh tannins, or you engaged in winemaking trickery (de-alcohol method), which is both manipulative and disingenuous.

I applaud blending multiple grapes into Zin to make it a more complete wine. It leads me to my second conclusion of that day: there was a similarity between the Dry Creek Valley Zins. If I had to propose a theory for this, it would be the notion of “typicity.”

Geoff Kruth, Master Sommelier and the orchestrator of GuildSomm.com, an excellent source of wine information, says “typicity” will be one of the next trends in California wine. Kruth says wines that exemplify the region due to the grapes, climate, and style of winemaking will become more recognized by the market. This idea is really another way of defining French Appellation Controlee  (AOC) or Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) systems of marketing wine. And I like it.

Many years ago, when my dad and I first started frequenting DCV wineries, every winemaker said they blended at least one grape (usually Petite Sirah and sometimes Carignan) into their Zin. They made it sound like it was such an obvious tradition here. This is not the tradition in Amador County or Paso Robles, two other prominent Zinfandel regions. Perhaps blending tradition is a part of DCV “typicity.”

One of the reasons Dry Creek Valley became known for quality Zinfandel is the presence of “Old Vine” Zinfandel planted here. Many of those vineyards contained at least two or three other grape varieties. Old Vine Zins derive their structure from tannin, not simply alcohol. Petite Sirah is the grape providing this tannin structure.

Today, we recreate “Old Vine” by blending Petite Sirah. Our 2013 is a classic example of Old School Dry Creek Zin, with a bit of an UNTI twist (9% Barbera). I’m proud to say it would make the old schoolers here proud.

2013 ZINFANDEL (82% ZINFANDEL 9% BARBERA 9% PETITE SIRAH)

$28 BTL / $22.40 AS PART OF A MIXED CASE / 550 CASES PRODUCED

Order this wine HERE

 

TWO FOR THE TABLE

2013 PETIT FRERE

2014 ROSSO DEL CAMPO

In keeping with the baseball theme here, I’ll interpret a famous quote from Ernie Banks, “Let’s play two table wines today.”

The 2013 Petit Frere is a classic Côtes du Rhône blend of Grenache and Mourvedre. True to CDR form, this wine is medium-bodied, fruity and spicy (not the way my wife is spicy, more in its peppery tone). Very aromatic and juicy, this wine should be consumed early and often.

Our 2014 Rosso is light to medium bodied due to its blend of Barbera, Ciliegiolo and Primitivo. It, too is quite fruity, thanks to Barbera being the primary component. We have been selling this wine in kegs to local restaurants with great success.

2013 PETITE FRERE  (71% GRENACHE 29% MOURVEDRE)

$23 BTL / $18.40 AS PART OF A MIXED CASE / 290 CASES PRODUCED /

2014 ROSSO DEL CAMPO  (56% BARBERA 26% CILIEGIOLO 18% PRIMITIVO)

$20 BTL / $16 AS PART OF A MIXED CASE / 588 CASES PRODUCED

Order this wine HERE

 

2015 ROSÉ

Ordinarily I wouldn’t wax on poetically upon releasing this wine, but the 2015 Rosé is exciting for many reasons.

Our ’15 Rosé marks the first release of wine made by our winemaker, Jason Valenti, who joined Unti last year. Jason is a very intelligent and thoughtful guy who happens to be an excellent wine taster.  He brings a professional level of detail to our cellar operations, and equally as important, Jason has been outstanding working with my dad’s crew in the vineyard.   

The quality of this Rosé reflects Jason’s diligence walking through the vineyard every week from June through harvest. The wine is concentrated, yet has the verve of a classic dry Rosé with bright acidity (highest to date for us).

Speaking of classic Rosé, this 2015 contains more Mourvedre (love saying more Mourvedre. It’s like saying Mingus among us) than any previous vintage, at 45%. I told you we were obsessed with Bandol, and we‘re putting our grapes where our mouths are (wait that doesn’t sound right, does it.)  The tension between fruit, smoke and savory notes in a mineral-driven Rosé is as close as we have come to my beloved Bandol.

Sadly, we made about 400 fewer cases this year, meaning this wine won’t be available late summer, which is why we are telling you about it now.

2015 ROSÉ  55% GRENACHE 45% MOURVEDRE

$26 BTL / $20.80 AS PART OF A MIXED CASE / 1150 CASES PRODUCED

Order this wine HERE

2013 Montepulciano- A sneaky draft pick

Those of you foolish enough to engage in fantasy sports know there are certain players who go under appreciated. These players are available in the late rounds of a draft, or go undrafted and are subsequently listed on “the waiver wire.” My sleeper fantasty wine pick for the next several years is Montepulciano. Montepulciano is a classic example of a non-glitzy draft pick. Like Grenache in Spain and France, Montepulciano is a prolific grape used for excellent everyday table wine in Italy’s Abruzzo. It’s a lovable everyday wine, not to be taken very seriously. In other words, it doesn’t have the “sex appeal” serious wine buyers would spend on an early round draft pick, such as Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir or Howell Mountain Cabernet. Think Astros shortstop phenom Carlos Correa. High quality Montepulciano is a player whose contributions don’t always show up in the box score, and even when they do, few notice. In sports terms, MP would be a solid bench player, which would limit its fantasy value. But what if a team gave it a chance to start, and play everyday in crucial situations? Shrewd fantasy owners know a player’s statistics rely upon several situational circumstances beyond that player’s control. A manager decides how much playing time a player receives in games. A good line up around the player improves his chances of putting up better statistics. A player who plays in a small park has a better chance of hitting home runs. And so on. Our Montepulciano, planted in Dry Creek Valley is in a perfect position to succeed, poised to have a big future ahead. Dry Creek Valley’s climate is generally warm and dry, but the evenings allow for slower flavor development and better structure-both acid and tannin. We have high quality wine in mind when we farm our Montepulciano, so we employ aggressive crop-thinning to facility more concentrated aromas, flavors and structure. The result is a wine worthy of batting clean up in any special occasion. Our 2013 is the best example of why we love Montepulciano. It is a concentrated full-bodied wine that has higher acidity than the average Russian River Pinot Noir (3.65 pH). It clearly dispels any myth that says Montepulciano can’t make a sophisticated wine with balance and great aging potential. This is a result of planting a Mediterranean grape in a Mediterranean climate. Go figure. So don’t hesitate to spend an early draft pick on our 2013 Montepulcaino. If my track record for picking wine sleepers is any indication (see my earlier sleeper selections of Grenache, Sangiovese and Barbera), you’ll be glad you did.

NEWSLETTER 50.5

NEWSLETTER  50½

2012 MAGNUMS  //  2013 SEGROMIGNO  //  LACRIMA  //  PORT

 

If 2012 was the vintage of “power,” 2013 is one of “precision.” Our 2013 Segromigno speaks well to this Chris Farley-like analysis. **

2013 is the first of three drought vintages, all of which are excellent. The growing season was not as cool as 2012, nor was the crop as abundant. That said, 2013 crop levels were heavier than 2014 and 2015. Dry and moderate weather resulted in wines with bright aromas and slightly higher levels of acidity than in 2012.

2013 SEGROMIGNO            

This 2013 Segromigno really expresses this point. Floral, spicy, bright cherry aromas of Sangiovese are complemented by the earthy shades from Montepulciano. It demonstrates how Segromigno has been evolving towards the style of a vineyard designate Chianti, which is just fine with me. When Chianti is done right, it is still one of my favorite wines to drink, anytime.

This 2013 Segromigno includes a block of our young vine Sangiovese planted on a low vigor root-stock called 420-A. This block is supplying some of our most expressive and structured Sangiovese. As such, this is another step towards making a more complex rendition of Segromigno.

$28 BTL / $22.40 AS PART OF A MIXED CASE / 1550 CASES PRODUCED

PURCHASE ONLINE HERE

2012 MAGNUMS                                                                       

This is your last chance to experience the magnificent 2012 vintage, in our favorite size…magnums! We still have limited supplies of the following wines in magnums:   2012 Sangiovese  //  2012 Cuvée Foudre  //  2012 Syrah  // 2012 Montepulciano  //  2012 Benchland Syrah 

If you have read any of my over-hyped descriptions of these wines (and who could blame you if you haven’t) you know they are special.  An UNTI Mag would make a great gift, or in the event you bring one to a family holiday gathering, a 1.5 liter gives you a greater chance of getting a few glasses in before your buzzed uncle helps himself to a 20 ounce pour. If you have any desire to test our best wines’ ability to age, this is the perfect vintage/bottle size storm.

PURCHASE MAGNUMS ONLINE HERE

     — ISLE OF MISFIT WINES

LACRIMA                                 

Now for something completely different… Lacrima.   In 2009, we planted Lacrima, an obscure red variety from Morro d’Alba, a province located in Italy’s Marche region. Those of you not-quite-right-in-the-head wine enthusiasts, like my dad and Kevin Wardell owner of Healdsburg’s Bergamot Alley wine bar, are probably familiar with Lacrima. For the other 99% of the wine consuming public, I’ll offer some info.

Lacrima is one of the most aromatic red wines you will ever experience. Floral aromas of roses and bergamot will have you smelling this wine all night long. It is dark and fruity with a slight bit of a tannic finish. Like most of the Lacrimas from Morro d’Alba this wine is 100% varietal.

Our Lacrima is a blend from 2012, 2013 and 2014. We only have about 180 vines and they are in varying states of health, so we haven’t been able to make much wine in any single vintage. Similar to Verdicchio, our Lacrima is still a work in progress.   But this wine definitely shows the obvious Lacrima aroma and vibrant flavors.

$ 22  BTL / $17.60  AS PART OF A MIXED CASE / 85 CASES PRODUCED

PURCHASE ONLINE HERE

PORT                                           

Similar to our previous Port bottling, this Barbera Port is a result of having too many dried bunches.  As I have probably mentioned before, when you see us make Port, you know we are improvising.

This wine is from both 2012 and 2013, and has a bit more structure than our last effort, making it closer to a Vintage Port. Barbera is unique in a dessert wine because of its undeniable acidity. Such is the case with this rendition. (500 ml.)

For those of you who have been waiting, here is your chance.

$20  BTL / $16  AS PART OF A MIXED CASE / 57 CASES PRODUCED

PURCHASE ONLINE HERE

** I fondly remember Chris Farley’s Bennet Brauer character,:  Maybe I don’t “brush my teeth” or “change my underwear everyday.”

First Day of Crush 2015 and KEXP

    Hey , Tommy—What are we listening to? KEXP Isn't that the UDub station? Yes. Geez. I worked in those studios a million years ago, when nobody cared. Today we crushed our first grapes for 2015, Grenache for Rosé. A momentous occasion, first day. We always begin with a glass of Grower/Producer Champagne - 2009 Gastronome from Pierre Gimonnet today. Champagne....it is not just for breakfast. First crush day is both exciting and ominous. Seeing grapes come in never seizes to be fun. But in the back of my mind I'm realizing the summer is over. 2 months from now, when crush is finished and we have some time to think, it will be well into autumn. Until then we have some tough decisions to make about when we pick what vineyard blocks. Hoping we can make that decision on our terms, as opposed to Mother Nature telling us we have to pick, or else. Most important for now is determining the music we listen to when working on the crush pad. We have all taken our turns making various mixes, selecting Pandora stations that somehow mange to include sixteen versions of The Weight or Bruce's I'm on Fire. Tommy Pace, working his second crush here at Unti took the initiative this morning to play KEXP from the University of Washington in Seattle. In the early 1980's, when I was a Broadcast CMU student, I constantly fought with the program director of the UW student-run radio station (KCMU back then).  He wanted the station to feature popular rock with a set playlist. This was my first encounter with Pat Benatar, ugh. I thought college public radio should feature all kinds of music, and other community programming. From Billie Holiday to The Clash to Jerry Jeff Walker. Thirty-some-odd years later, KEXP sort of represents what I wanted the station to be. It is musically all over the place. Perfect for Harvest! How about another glass of champagne?

Newsletter 49 SPRING 2015

WHAT A YEAR IT WAS…

For many folks here in Northern California, 2012 was a magical year. The Giants won the World Series (ughhhhh). The A’s made a miraculous turnaround and won their division on the last day of the season. And, more importantly for you, it was one of the best vintages in the last 20 years.

2012 featured moderate-to-warm weather throughout the growing season with a dry, trouble-free harvest. Similar to the great 1997 vintage, it was an abundant crop of remarkable quality. Virtually all of our varieties made dark, fruity and full-bodied wines. This is especially apparent in this trio of our best wines: Sangiovese, Cuvée Foudre and Benchland Syrah.

Like the two Bay Area teams of 2012, the above wines feature power, balance and depth. Unlike the Giants and the A’s, our Sangiovese, Cuvée Foudre and Benchland Syrah wines will improve with age,  and they will not be filing for free agency anytime soon. Fortunately for you, the wines aren’t represented by agent Scott Boras, otherwise they would be at least twice the price, and I would be offering some lame explanation about UNTI only being in it for the love of family, not for the money.

Like the debate over Steph Curry vs. James Harden, you can make a solid case for any of these wines being MVP of the 2012 vintage.

 

2012 SANGIOVESE

Sangiovese, when done right can be one of the world’s greatest wines. Yet there have been, and still are countless obstacles in the variety’s path to stardom.” - Ian D’Agata from Native Wine Grapes of Italy

By now you are all well aware of our infatuation with Sangiovese. As wine lovers, both my dad and I wholeheartedly agree with the first sentence in the above quote from Ian D’ Agata’s outstanding new book on Italian wine grapes. As winemakers, we are painfully cognizant of the second sentence.

Our 2012 Sangiovese might be the best Sangiovese we have ever made here. It demonstrates what can happen if you remove some of the obstacles to making great Sangiovese wine, and have a kick-ass vintage. Good and Luck.

Anyone remotely interested in Sangiovese (or Italian wines at all) should read D’Agata’s section on Sangiovese from the book.   D’Agata covers Sangiovese better than anyone I’ve ever read… so much so that it is now required reading for everyone here at UNTI D’Agata accurately cites many important factors associated with making high-quality Sangiovese:  finding the right sites, using the right clones, selecting low vigor rootstock, keeping your crop yields low and  hoping for good fortune.

Well, we only use Sangiovese Grosso (right clone). Our 100% Sangiovese comes from the West Hillside of our original vineyard (great site) and our young vine block is planted on 420-A (right root stock). We also thin the crop by 40 to 50% each year. Yet, the best vintages for our Sangiovese seem to involve a little luck. Such is the case with 2012.

From the first few days of fermentation, our best lots of Sangiovese were stunning.  They showed dark color, intense fruit, great tannin and bright acidity. Something about the long growing season must have worked for this difficult variety.

When things work out, ours is not to question why. Let’s just enjoy my favorite wine type when it is on. This is by far the best Sangiovese since our 1999 vintage (that includes the brilliant 2010). It will need a year or two to soften, but it should be solid for another 6 to 8 years (2019?) longer.

HARVESTED:  9/15 & 9/17, 9/24 2012                      BLEND: 100% Sangiovese TOTAL ACIDITY: 6.7 g/L                                                  ALCOHOL: 14.5% PH: 3.42                                                                                 BOTTLED: 3/13/14 AGING:  18 Months, French Oak 35% New                CASES PRODUCED :  575

$40/BTL   $32 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE 

$85 / 1.5 Liter Magnum

Order from our online store HERE

 

2014 ROSÉ

As the great Orson Welles once said “We will sell no Rosé, until it’s time.” Or something like that.  Well, we bottled our 2014 Rosé two weeks ago, so it must be time.

68% Grenache and 32% Mourvedre. Dry, full-bodied, fruity, savory…you know what it is. Production is slightly down from the past couple of vintages. Order now, and we promise to ship before it gets too hot.

HARVESTED:  GRENACHE:   8/22, 9/3, 9/7, 9/9, 2014   MOURVEDRE: 9/17-9/23 2014

BLEND: 68% GRENACHE, 32% MOURVEDRE

TOTAL ACIDITY:   5.8 g/L                           ALCOHOL:  13.8%

PH:   3.38                                                          BOTTLED:  3/6/15

AGING:   STAINLESS STEEL TANKS         CASES PRODUCED:  1,496

$24/BTL   $19.20 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE

Order from our online store HERE   

 

2012 CUVÉE FOUDRE

I’m often asked “which of your wines is your favorite?” The person usually acknowledges that this question  might be impossible to answer, since, after all, how can I prefer one of my wines over another—as if they were my children. Well, my wines are decidedly not like my children. It is okay to like some over the others. Cuvée Foudre has the apple of my eye.

While most of our wines really represent the kind of wine I personally consume, I must admit this winery isn’t simply a philanthropic endeavor. The wines are made to be sold and hopefully enjoyed by our customers. However, if there was a wine that we made for sheer self-indulgence, it would be the 2012 Cuvée Foudre.

Cuvée Foudre has the intrinsic character of the first great Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines I ever tasted way back in the early 1980’s. The pepper, tar, licorice and dark raspberry/blackberry aromas and flavors blew my mind. And typical of the day, these wines had tannins. Old school southern Rhône has captivated many aspiring wine geeks, including one Robert Parker.

So what makes the 2012 Cuvée Foudre my kind of town? It’s the Mourvedre, baby. This is only the second time in UNTI history we have made Cuvée Foudre, and in both instances it was due to the quality of our Mourvedre. Our vineyard site, which is next to Dry Creek, might be a cooler edge for consistently ripening Mourvedre. (We just planted 2 acres of Mourvedre on our Benchland site, which is slightly warmer.)

As I mentioned earlier, the long growing season in 2012 really helped all of our varieties develop ripe aromas and flavors. When Mourvedre is right, it has dark cherry fruit with obvious pepper, meat and Provençal herbs—all in a fairly tannic package. It is the character of the Southern Rhône and Bandol, and it is simply amazing.

40% of this CF was fermented with whole clusters and the wine was aged in a 620 gallon foudre, which is how wine has been made for years in the Southern Rhône.  Both winemaking techniques accentuate savory complexity and provide tannin structure. The 2005 is lovely now, ten years hence. The 2012 is even more age worthy, yet it should really start showing well in a couple years.   As Trombone Shorty likes to say: Here’s to takin it “old School.

HARVESTED: 10/3 – 10/19, 2012          BLEND: 40% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah TOTAL ACIDITY: 6.3 g/L                            ALCOHOL: 14.8% PH: 3.70                                                           BOTTLED: 3/14/14 AGING:  17 Months, 620 Gal Foudre       CASES PRODUCED :  265

$50/BTL   $40 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE

$105 / 1.5 Liter Magnum

Order from our online store HERE   

 

2012 BENCHLAND SYRAH

The Benchland Syrah has been our most consistent vineyard over the years.  Not surprisingly, it fared well in 2012.

During our last release party, I was stationed at the “Library” table pouring six previous vintages of UNTI Benchland Syrah. (Tough assignment, I know.) As my teeth were getting progressively stained, I found myself preferring the 2007 (out of a magnum) and 2005 Benchland Syrah. Interestingly, both wines tasted remarkably similar to the 2012 in their youth.

2007 and 2005 were long growing seasons, which provided intense fruit along with great tannin structure. The same can be said for 2012, which was harvested on September 28th, exactly the same day as in 2007. It seems that our Benchland site responds well to a vintage with a more even ripening cycle.

My guess is that this 2012 has the structure of the 2005 and the fruit of the 2007. Based on last week's tasting, I’m good with that. This 2012 is classic with meat/blackberry/cassis aromas and flavors and serious tannin structure. It should be living large (figuratively and literally, as we bottled a limited number of 1.5 liter bottles) 8 to 10 years from the vintage.

HARVESTED:  9/28 & 10/3, 2012                                 BLEND: 100% Syrah TOTAL ACIDITY: 5.4 g/L                                                  ALCOHOL: 14.8% PH: 3.85                                                                                 BOTTLED: 3/13/14 AGING:  17 Months, French Oak 40% New                 CASES PRODUCED :  525

$40/BTL   $32 /BTL  WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE

$85 / 1.5 Liter Magnum Order from our online store HERE                

Newsletter 48 Fall 2014

2012 GRENACHE  2012 SYRAH

How Wine Works  ::  Terroir in Music and Wine

I’ve been happily reading David Byrne’s How Music Works since my daughters gave it to me this past Father’s Day. One of the reviewers for this comprehensive work by our beloved man in the big suit states: “It should be named How Life Works.” While I’m not ready to go that far, I can certainly see how several themes apply to winemaking.

Byrne strongly believes “that music-making is as much a result of cultural circumstance as it is an act of individual creativity.” Context has had a profound impact on music in how it is played, listened to and appreciated. He cites examples of musicians adapting for, or even creating a style of music that is dependent on the environment or context in which it is heard. This was especially true for the T-Heads, whom he describes as a ‘live performing band.’

Hmmmm. Musical terroir.

Winemakers are all too familiar with this concept, especially in Europe, where laws (such as AOC in France and DOC in Italy) establish guidelines, thereby limiting or downplaying individual creativity.  Even here in the US, where winemakers are relatively free from having to make wine according to tradition and legal guidelines, we are quick to emphasize context over individual creativity. We often hear of a vintner’s specific soils, elevation, and a vine’s age as having more importance than his choice of grape variety or winemaking techniques. Having Napa, Sonoma, or Dry Creek Valley on the label is a stronger marketing statement than the myriad of choices made by a winery in making that wine.

In one of the book’s most interesting chapters, Byrne chronicles the transformation of the Talking Heads from a quirky three-piece band performing in New York clubs, (most notably CBGB) to the juggernaut, tour de force we see in one of my favorite movies, Stop Making Sense. Once they began making records, they explored various methods (multiple tracks and additional instruments) to creatively add texture and complexity to their songs (see Remain in Light).  Byrne then said that in order to play the new songs live they needed many more musicians and vocalists (Bernie Worrell, Steve Scales, Alex Weir, Edna Holt and Lynn Mabry) to execute this new sound. Stop Making Sense, which is the perfect combination of the artist’s creativity adapting to context, is undoubtedly the band’s lasting impression or pièce de résistance.

Here at Unti, we could have comfortably conformed to our “cultural circumstance” by making Zinfandel, Syrah and possibly planted the other popular Dry Creek Valley grape, Sauvignon Blanc—and the business might have done just fine. However, we decided to exert our creative side within our “viticultural circumstance” by planting other varieties we thought would be appropriate for DCV’s climate, based on our experience tasting European counterparts. Sebastien then applied winemaking techniques specific to each variety to make the best wine from our vineyards.

Now, Unti is a winery more known for making interesting wines from grape varieties such as Barbera, Grenache, Sangiovese and Montepulciano, than as a Dry Creek Valley grower/producer.

I’m not saying Unti’s creativity is anywhere near the genius of David Byrne. I’m just saying our wines have a little Bernie Worrell in ‘em.

 2012 GRENACHE

We have taken Grenache seriously around here since 1998, when we planted three acres of Grenache Noir from the best three clones available at that time. My love affair with Grenache began many years prior to us planting it, around the same time I learned of the Talking Heads. Back then, even the most prestigious of Southern Rhône wines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape was quite affordable. Others, such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, Sablet (labeled as ‘Côtes du Rhône Villages’ back then) were downright cheap. So it was easier on a college boy’s wallet to drink Rhône, compared to Burgundy, Bordeaux or Napa/Sonoma Cabernet. Well, deservedly, neither Grenache nor the T-Heads and David Byrne fly under the radar anymore. Most grower/producer CDP’s start at $50 and vineyard designate or “luxury cuvées” can sell for $200 a bottle. Heck Gigondas, my not-so-dirty-little-secret, sells for $30 to $50. A part of me “Can’t seem to face up to the facts” when I realize that prices aren’t the”same as it ever was.”  So while it might cost me a little more to drink my favorite Rhône wines, as a California producer, it represents a golden opportunity. Since 1998, we have learned that making high-quality Grenache takes time and effort, which translates to increased costs.  If you plant good clones of Grenache, and limit the vines’ crop yield, our California climate allows us to make compelling, expressive and complex wine.  Wines you can easily compare to my beloved Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas. But this style of Grenache is going to sell for more than $25 a bottle, which is why the current market for high-quality Rhône wine is a good thing. This 2012 is an excellent example of our 12-vintage delusional quest to make expressive Grenache; it is fruity and complex yet with the kind of tannin and acid structure I only see in my favorite Southern Rhône wines.  The fact that this dark and full-bodied wine is 85% Grenache tells you just how good the vintage was for this variety. This wine should have a nice long life ahead of it- 5 to 7 years, easy. We even bottled a few magnums... I guess you could say “This must be the place” for Grenache. 85 % GRENACHE  15% SYRAH   PURCHASE IT FROM OUR ONLINE STORE HERE 1,000 CASES PRODUCED $35/BTL   $28 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE $75 / 1.5L (Magnum) / $60  WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE    

2012 SYRAH

Over the past few vintages, this bottling has showcased the more elegant side of Syrah from our vineyards. This 2012 shows the pretty aromatics and complex spicy flavors of those years combined with the bigger fruit and tannin structure we’ve come to love about all of our reds from this outstanding vintage. Last year I participated in a one-day symposium where several panels of winemakers offered their explanation for the 2012’s level of quality across the board. After five hours, tasting over 30 wines from just as many winemakers, the conclusion was it is better to be lucky than good. 2012 featured moderate weather in the spring and a nice long growing season which resulted in the perfect storm for growers…a bumper crop of outstanding quality. Additionally, this wine derives much of its personality from our Creekside Syrah block, which is planted to the clone we have in our Benchland vineyard. Over the past several years, we have been increasingly impressed with the fruit from this block. Like many of the emerging stars on the Golden State Warriors (Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes) this vineyard has played itself into our playing rotation, and is now enjoying the primary role. It provides big fruit and some Northern Rhône like spice. Whatever the reasons, this is a Syrah not to miss if you are a fan of Unti. Dark, fruity and full-bodied, this wine should have no problem aging 5 to 7 years. Think 2007 vintage. 100 % SYRAH  PURCHASE IT FROM OUR ONLINE STORE HERE 1,050 CASES PRODUCED   $30/BTL   $24 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE      

Every Day is Grenache Day at Unti

  We have taken Grenache seriously around here since 1998, when we planted 3 acres of Grenache Noir from the best three clones available at that time. My love affair with Grenache began many years prior to us planting it, around the same time I learned of this quirky band called Talking Heads. Back then,  even the most prestigious of Southern Rhône wines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape was quite affordable. Others, such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, Sablet (labelled as 'Côtes du Rhône Villages' back then) were downright cheap. So it was easier on a college boy's wallet to drink Rhône, compared to Burgundy, Bordeaux or Napa/Sonoma Cabernet. Well, deservedly, neither Grenache nor the T-Heads and David Byrne flies under the radar anymore. Most grower/producer CDP's start at $50 and vineyard designate or "luxury cuvées" can sell for $200 a bottle. Heck Gigondas, my not-so-dirty-little-secret, sells for $30 to $50. A part of me "Can't seem to face up to the facts" when I realize that prices aren't the"same as it ever was."  So while it might cost me a little more to drink my favorite Rhône wines, as a California producer, it represents a golden opportunity. Since 1998, we have learned that making high-quality Grenache takes time and effort, which translates to increased costs.  If you plant good clones of Grenache, and limit the vines' crop yield, our California climate allows us to make compelling, expressive and complex wine.  Wines you can easily compare to my beloved Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas. But these type of wines are going to sell for more than $25 a bottle, which is why the current market for high quality Rhône wine is a good thing. So, as we prepare to harvest some of the best looking Grenache fruit we have ever seen this weekend (a few weeks early I might add), let's celebrate the fact that as Byrne says, "This must be the place" for Grenache. MJU

Early Returns: It’s early!

For the second consecutive vintage, we are establishing new "earliest harvest dates" with several varieties. For those of you keeping score at home, here are the numbers: Vermentino and Grenache (for Rosé) - August 22 Sangiovese - August 31 Zinfandel - September 1 (earliest by about 3 weeks!) Ciliegiolo - September 2 Fiano - September 2 Grenache Blanc - September 5 Barbera - September 11 Grenache (for Red), Mourvedre and Montepulciano will undoubtedly join this list in the coming weeks. Obviously, the drought and a warm summer have accelerated ripening for almost all of our varieties. Combined with a lighter crop level means we are picking early, and often. Additionally, we are getting better at managing "pre-veraison water stress" with our vineyards. The current school of thought in high-quality viticulture says you want to stress vines immediately prior to veraison (when grapes go from green to black). This helps trigger the vines' focus to ripening fruit, versus growing leaves. The sooner vines engage in fruit-ripening mode, the easier it is to achieve ripe flavors with appropriate acid and tannin balance. We still have enough to learn about this and other qualitative aspects pertaining to farming high-quality grapes. However, 2014 so far is shaping up to be a great vintage;  we have excellent fruit flavors combined with solid acidity. Hope I didn't just jinx things. MJU

Newsletter 47 Summer 2014

2013 CUVÉE BLANC   2013 FIANO   2012 SEGROMIGNO

Wouldn’t it be nice to get the newsletter // Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long To get a few new wines from Unti Vineyards  // By the time it comes they might be gone

ITALIAN SUMMER

I know.  I’m a little slow getting these #*@%*# newsletters out.  It seems like something always distracts me. Little things, like getting married to a guacamole queen, or my older daughter graduating high school, or having both of my daughters play a jazz concert opening for legendary bassist Ron Carter. I’m looking forward to some normalcy in my life, where we go to Santa Cruz to see Jackie Greene and Eric Lindell with my cousins. We are calling this newsletter Italian Summer, featuring our 2013 Cuvée Blanc (Vermentino blend), 2013 Fiano and 2012 Segromigno. It is your chance to live vicariously through our wines. So, pop the cork, fire up the wood burning pizza-oven, and put on the music of The Sunny Boys, a group who calls themselves the Italian Beach Boys cover band—on vinyl of course. Hey honey, is that that Positano or Ischia?  

2013 CUVÉE BLANC — “You didn’t even call me by my name”

This is CB 7 (our seventh vintage of making Cuvée Blanc), and apparently the wine is so good, we are sticking with the schlocky name. After working with Vermentino, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul for 7 vintages, we are convinced the blend is better than any separate part. Grenache Blanc has texture with intense apple aromas and flavors; Vermentino is floral and Picpoul is the wine world’s version of dry lemonade.  Grown in Dry Creek Valley all of these wines have a mineral flavor aspect, and vibrant acidity. The combination of the fruit and floral aromas with crisp acidity, defines the wine’s personality, as it is grown in our vineyards. This 2013 has a bit more richness than our 2012, yet the wine retains the spine of acidity making it ideal with our favorite food, Raw Oysters (Flowers of the Sea) pristinely shucked at the Salt Water Oyster Depot in Inverness. The wine is already a bit more forward at this stage than the ’12 was at this time last year. Perfect Summer wine!

44 % VERMENTINO  40% GRENACHE BLANC   16% PICPOUL 490 CASES PRODUCED   $25/BTL   $20 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE FROM OUR ONLINE STORE

 

2013  FIANO

In the words of Ian D’ Agata, author of a fantastic new book called Native Wine Grapes of Italy, “I think Fiano may well be Italy’s greatest native white wine grape.” He is not wrong. Fiano is a small-berried golden grape that produces a wine with both rich texture and firm acidity.  The wine has richness and texture even though it was not fermented or aged in oak. I love that. In 2013, our Fiano ripened faster than we expected, which is evident in this wine’s   honey and pear flavors. We felt it need a little firming up, so we blended  25% Vermentino for added freshness and acidity. Time for some Amalfi seafood!

75 % FIANO  25% VERMENTINO 160 CASES PRODUCED   $25/BTL   $20 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE

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2012  SEGROMIGNO

 

Might as well get used to hearing accolades describing the 2012 vintage, and how we really can’t come up with any specific explanation for it, other than it was a nice moderate growing season, where nothing went wrong- a stark contrast to 2011. All of our Sangiovese lots in 2012 were dark, fruity and fairly full-bodied.  And our 2012 Montepulciano is, as Miles Davis would have described, simply the baddest wine we’ve ever made from this variety. (Miles would have included a few choice modifiers we can’t repeat here) This means the 2012 Segromigno is a serious version of an unpretentious Sangiovese-based wine.  It is definitely my favorite vintage for this Italian-style blend, worthy of aging at least 2 to 5 years.

76 % SANGIOVESE  24% MONTEPULCIANO 1,145 CASES PRODUCED   $28/BTL  $22.40/BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE

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