Newsletter 52

AN AMERICAN IN ASTI— 

It is a crazy world in which we live.

On August 30th, I received an email from Ian D’Agata, contributing editor to Vinous and Decanter, and author the remarkable book, Native Wine Grapes of Italy, inviting me to speak at a conference of the Consorzio Barbera D’Asti E Vini del Monferrato. Damn, it figures he would ask three days before we were about to begin the 2016 harvest with our Fiano.

Of course I would jump at the chance. Any. Other. Time.  But three days before harvest? Surely I’d have to begrudgingly decline. Fortunately, my wife convinced me to eschew logic, and figure out a way to go.   I did, but it would have to be a David Bowie trip—wham bam, ah, thank you Piemontese man.  I zombie-walked back on to the return flight after two days in Barolo and Asti feeling excited, exhausted and, optimistic.

So many things I will remember from this short trip: Piemonte’s stunning landscape consisting of hillside vineyards and castles (think Italian wine country Game of Thrones). Seeing ripe Nebbiolo grapes for the first time (I’ve never been able to go in the fall because we have this thing called harvest). Meeting some fantastic and thoughtful Piemontese winemakers.  Meeting Ian’s crew (including Michaela Morris and Lingzi He) who, had the thankless task of interpreting for me. Tasting excellent Barbera, Favorita, Ruché, and of course Barolo wines. Excellent food. No sleep. Fast driving.

But my favorite memory will be that of meeting Ian D’Agata and Patrick Taylor.

Native Wine Grapes of ItalyIan D’Agata is an Italian wine evangelist. His book Native Wine Grapes of Italy is the most comprehensive book on Italian wine today; making it our bible at the winery.  Meeting him and seeing how enthusiastic he is about Italian wine is more than contagious. When he walks into a room of winemakers he immediately garners respect. His personality is not heavy though, as he has a great sense of humor echoing a seriously loud laugh.

Ian is promoting the wonderfully diverse world of wine grapes indigenous to Italy—one that goes well beyond Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. It is a world that intrigues winemakers from all over the world, particularly here on the West Coast, which, I guess is where Patrick Taylor and I come in.

Patrick is the winemaker for Cana’s Feast in Oregon. He makes Nebbiolo, Barbera, Arneis and Sangiovese.  He is just as goofy about Italian grape varieties as I am.  He also makes even more wines than we do here at Unti. Patrick and I spoke at the conference about growing and making Barbera here on the West Coast. He is thoughtful, funny and very passionate about Italian wines.

I had a blast BS’ing with Ian and Patrick about wine from all over Italy. Ian would like to facilitate a dialogue between producers in different regions of Italy with those of us here in the US—which is an excellent idea. Winemakers from both continents have much to gain.

More importantly, our collaborative efforts should lend credibility to what we are doing making Italian varietal wines here in the New World. Consumers might more easily see that making wine from Italian grape varieties here is the logical approach as opposed to a novelty. THAT is worth every bit of the fatigue I felt on my plane ride home, listening to Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage.

 

2014 BARBERA  

A TEXTBOOK UNTI VINTAGE

To say I have Barbera on the brain would be more than stating the obvious.  I brought our 2014 Barbera with me to Italy two weeks ago. It spoke more eloquently than I ever could about why we are committed to making this outstanding varietal wine.

NIzza

In the 1990’s winemakers favored ripeness of fruit over acid and alcohol balance. In the last 10 years, many producers are going to the other extreme, by making wine from under-ripe grapes in hopes of retaining higher acidity and lower alcohol. Most of the Italian varieties we grow allow for making wines with ripe flavors and solid acidity, in order to achieve balance. I guess I subscribe to the “Have your cake and eat it, too” winemaking philosophy.

This 2014 Barbera epitomizes this ‘ripeness with acid’ argument. 2014, being yet another drought year was warm and dry resulting in an early harvest. We always reduce our crop to less than one cluster per shoot, thus concentrating flavors, which helps to balance out Barbera’s high natural acidity.

Similar to the 2007 and 2009, this ’14 has extremely dark color, concentrated fruit and incredible acid balance. I think that is what surprised Mr. D’Agata and several Piemontese winemakers most. It is easily one of our best efforts with Barbera. 

100% BARBERA     770 CASES PRODUCED

$38/BTL, $34.20/BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE

$30.40 ON A 2 CASE PURCHASE

(& FREE GROUND SHIPPING WITH PROMO CODE: NIZZA)

**NOW THROUGH NOV 30th, 2016: FREE SHIPPING on 1 CASE OR MORE & 20% OFF 2 CASES OR MORE**   

BUY IT FROM OUR ONLINE STORE HERE

 

2013 GRENACHE

Similar to Barbera, Grenache can achieve physiological ripeness here in DCV without losing much acidity. Additionally, there is a long tradition of blending Mourvedre and Syrah, which can also be a great tool for making a balanced wine. This is especially apparent in our 2013 Grenache.

Traditionally, Southern Rhône producers use Mourvedre and Syrah to provide tannin, body and complexity. These varieties help the wine carry the elevated alcohol which comes with picking Grenache at flavor ripeness. This seems to be more of an older tradition—one that is still valid.

Today, many Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers are bottling “luxury” cuvées from old vine Grenache picked at sugars that would make a Zinfandel blush (no pun intended). While these wines are showy, they are almost as clumsy as a high-octane Zinfandel at the dinner table.

Our 2013 is kind of a throw-back to when CDP’s were a little more elegant (relatively speaking) than they are today. We whole cluster fermented some batches of our Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah (about 30% of the blend), which really shows up in the floral, peppery aromas. It also gives this wine a firm structure. One wine buyer described this as a crunchy (meaning good acidity and tannin) Grenache, and she wasn’t wrong.

While this 2013 Grenache is kind of lovable now, it should really age gracefully over the next 4 to 6 years.

80% GRENACHE  10% MOURVEDRE  10% SYRAH  //  980 CASES PRODUCED

$35/BTL, $31.50 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE                          

$28 ON A 2 CASE PURCHASE

(& FREE GROUND SHIPPING WITH PROMO CODE: NIZZA)

**NOW THROUGH NOV 30th, 2016: FREE SHIPPING on 1 CASE OR MORE & 20% OFF 2 CASES OR MORE**   

BUY IT FROM OUR ONLINE STORE HERE

 

2013 SANGIOVESE TRADIZIONALE

If you haven’t noticed by now, our winemaking approach is squarely influenced by our passion for European wines. (Yes, that is me. Stating the obvious and repeating it twelve times). The 2013 Sangiovese is an example of our Euro philosophy.

Once again this wine is primarily from our West Hillside Block and our newly planted Sangiovese on a lower vigor rootstock.  These two lots consistently produce wines with dark color, intense flavors, and better structure from tannin and acid.

Furthermore, this wine possesses a rich and savory character that we normally only notice in some “tradizionale” Brunello di Montalcino wines such as Uccelliera, and Poggio di Sotto.   Our 2013 Sangiovese, shows the complexity of earth and leather you find in such wine from Montalcino, without some of the harder tannins requiring more time to soften. It is similar to a rich style of Rosso di Montalcino.

Ordinarily I would recommend aging our Sangiovese Traditionale for up to 10 years past the vintage. But this 2013 is already showing well. If you want to enjoy the fruit as it is today, I’d drink within the next 2-3 years. Perfect with porcini anything.

100% SANGIOVESE     475 CASES PRODUCED

$30/BTL, $27 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE     

$24 ON 2 CASE PURCHASE

(& FREE GROUND SHIPPING WITH PROMO CODE: NIZZA)

**NOW THROUGH NOV 30th, 2016: FREE SHIPPING on 1 CASE OR MORE & 20% OFF 2 CASES OR MORE**   

BUY IT FROM OUR ONLINE STORE HERE

 

2013 SYRAH BENCHLAND TRADIZIONALE

If someone asked me which of our wines reminds me of an old world wine it would clearly be our Benchland Syrah.

Ever since our first efforts as home winemakers, this vineyard has always yielded intense Syrah with gamey aromas and flavors, which had us thinking of the Rhône (delusional people in DCV). If you have ever had Cornas from Thierry Allemand or Auguste Clape you know they are some of the most distinctive Syrahs on the planet. The wines are not squeaky clean, but they have awesome texture complexity and personality.  Sort of Syrah lover’s Syrah.

Our 2013 Benchland upholds this tradition. It is a dark and concentrated rendition that has our classic blackberry/cassis fruit with gamey/smoky notes. While the wine has plenty of tannin, this Benchland Syrah appears to be more ready to drink now than in previous years.  If you like the fruit it displays now, I recommend drinking it within the next 2 to 3 years.

100% SYRAH   425 CASES PRODUCED

$30/BTL, $27 /BTL WHEN PART OF A MIXED CASE PURCHASE                                         

$24 ON A 2 CASE PURCHASE

(& FREE GROUND SHIPPING WITH PROMO CODE: NIZZA)

**NOW THROUGH NOV 30th, 2016: FREE SHIPPING on 1 CASE OR MORE & 20% OFF 2 CASES OR MORE**   

BUY IT FROM OUR ONLINE STORE HERE