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