As you all know by now, I am a perpetual fan of sports, wine, and music. I have burdened you with my opinions on all of the aforementioned subjects over the years.
February 10th of this year, Lyle Mays, a truly great pianist and keyboard virtuoso, passed away. Lyle Mays performed and recorded with one of my musical heroes, Pat Metheny, for over 30 years. The music of Metheny with Mays, mostly under the Pat Metheny Group, has served as my musical muse and meditative inspiration since I first heard them in my twenties. If I were having a particularly difficult day or period of my life, I could always count on their music to put a smile on my face.
I discovered Lyle on the early Pat Metheny records while I was in college. While I loved the music, I didn’t really appreciate Lyle’s playing until Metheny and Mays recorded the album As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. Having just finished college I moved to San Francisco. I was all by myself in a big city, so music was especially important to me. The San Francisco jazz station often played a song from the Metheny Mays record called September 15th, a song that forever changed my impression of Lyle.
The song is dedicated to legendary pianist, Bill Evans (another musical hero of mine), as 9/15 was the date Evans passed away. After one listen, those familiar with Bill Evans understand his profound influence on Mays and Metheny. The back half of this brilliant piece features Mays playing his version of Bill Evans, and it is deeply emotional. Clearly Lyle’s love of Bill Evans made him a more distinctive and compelling musician. I’ve probably listened to September 15th at least 500 times in my life. It never gets old.
It brings to mind the great wines of the world that have influenced all of us here at Unti. While we may never achieve the ethereal heights of our favorite wines, we are inspired to continue the chase. In a completely chaotic and challenging year like 2020, we can all use such emotional clarity. Thank you, Lyle.
2017— A Vintage of Precision.
2017 rendered some of the most distinctive wines in Unti history. Our constantly improving methods in the vineyard were combined with moderate to cool post-veraison weather resulting in very aromatic wines with solid natural acidity. This is especially apparent in our featured October wines.
2017 CUVÉE FOUDRE
40% GRENACHE 30% MOURVEDRE 30% SYRAH p u r c h a s e h e r e
Our penultimate Southern Rhone blend is really complex and polished this vintage. It just received 92 points from the Wine Spectator, which is the third consecutive vintage they have raved about CF.
One of THE biggest challenges making full-bodied Grenache based reds is to achieve balance in a wine that will be close to 15% alcohol. I believe Grenache is best (complex aromas and flavors) when it is fully ripe. Most of the world’s prestigious producers, be they in Southern Rhone, California, Spain, Sardinia or Australia, harvest Grenache at high sugars.
Our 2017 Cuvée Foudre is our finest effort making balanced Grenache-based wine. Over the past 15 years we’ve learned that having a significant amount of Mourvedre and Syrah is vital to accomplishing this goal. Furthermore, we have settled on which blocks we use - Grenache Alban clone, our oldest Mourvedre and Syrah clone 383. The Alban Grenache clone is strong enough to absorb this much Mourvedre and Syrah while maintaining a Southern Rhone personality.
I love this wine, and so does anyone who has tried it. The 2017 CF will definitely go down as one our best. Available in Magnums.
WATCH MICK'S REVIEW OF THE 2017 CUVÉE FOUDRE
80% GRENACHE 17% SYRAH 3% MOURVEDRE p u r c h a s e h e r e
On several occasions, I have mentioned that our Grenache bottling can possess Pinot Noir-like attributes such as complex and expressive aromas, structural balance from acid and tannin, and a high pleasure quotient. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2017 Grenache.
Grenache has benefited more from our diligent crop-thinning than possibly any other variety we grow. Since 2014, we have achieved a level of consistency with this mercurial grape by using the famous Mayor Daley axiom for crop-thinning: “early and often.” By limiting the Grenache crop, we have allowed our vines to deliver more complex, distinctive and more balanced wine… consistently, regardless of the vintage.
Our 2017 Grenache straddles the weird but fine line of Southern Rhone personality with Burgundy aromatics and finesse. It is the perfect retort to those who say Grenache can’t make a balanced wine, even at alcohol levels in the high 14 % range. The beauty of this 2017 Greanche is its versatility and food compatibility - at an affordable price.
While our 2017 Grenache is drinkable now, it will age gracefully for at least 3 to 5 more years.
2017 AGLIANICO Three True Outcome Wine?
100% AGLIANICO p ur c h a s e h e r e
2020 is our fifth vintage of producing Aglianico that is clearly worthy of Taurasi, Italy’s DOCG famous for the full-bodied red called “the Barolo of the South.” I find myself often telling our customers that I wish we had planted Aglianico back in 1992, when my dad planted Sangiovese. Who knew? If we coulda, I’m not sure we woulda, and now I wish we hadda.
Increasingly, wine experts are realizing that our climate in Northern Napa and Sonoma Counties might be a tad warm for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and yes, even Cabernet Sauvignon. While I believe this has always been true, global warming, and its impact on our lives from wildfires, is accelerating the conversation.
What are the viable replacement wine grape varieties to consider? Well, as you know, I prefer my guys, Grenache Blanc and Vermentino over Chard and SB in Dry Creek. Aglianico is my draft pick for replacing Cabernet in Northern Napa Valley, Alexander Valley and, yes even Dry Creek Valley. Montepulciano is a close second, but I choose Aglianco because it checks boxes for tannin structure and aging potential found in the most coveted cult-Cabernet wines.
This process is akin to what general managers are doing in MLB. For years GMs would value players who had a high batting average and low strikeout totals. Today, advanced metrics suggest that players who hit for power and take walks (bases on balls) are more valuable-even if they strike out at absurdly high rates. (Three True Outcome players). Aglianico’s natural skill set seems ideally suited to draw significant interest from growers and winemakers in Northern California.
In the meantime, our Aglianico vineyard is crushing it as a highly touted “prospect.” Our 2017 Aglianico, like the previous year, has more than exceeded our lofty expectations. The wine is dark and firm, as one might expect with incredible perfume, depth, and complexity. As with our other Italian varietal reds, Aglianico has a nice balance of natural acidity which leads us to believe it is more than an excellent choice for a cultivar in our AVA.
As with Taurasi, our Alianico has the tannin structure to age at least 7 to 10 years, making it one of the most age-worthy UNTI wines. It should start softening in at least a few years.
It is an amazing confirmation of my dad’s intuition.
2017 SYRAH BENCHLAND
100% SYRAH p u r c h a s e h e r e
Benchland Syrah, our oldest vineyard, continues to produce some of our nicest fruit. Like most of our 2017 reds, our venerable Benchland Syrah shows the heightened aromas and bright fruit that characterizes this vintage. It is a good look for the wine that started it all for Unti.
I’m often asked what age constitutes the moniker “old vine.” No regulation exists requiring a vineyard to be a certain age before a winery can label it “old vine.” It is up to the individual winery. Most winemakers agree that when vines reach 30 to 40 year-old, they produce less fruit in more concentrated wine.
Our Benchland vineyard has always produced small, thick-skinned berries that make for a more concentrated and structured Syrah. Now in its late twenties the vineyard is producing this quality on a consistent basis. The 2017 Benchland conforms to the pattern of this vintage. It has almost perfume like aromas of blue and blackberry and cassis. I even notice a slight dried herbal element reminiscent of Northern Rhone Syrah.
Maybe it is too soon to use “Old Vine” on the label. But it is not premature to appreciate the pedigree of an older vineyard - precise aromas and flavors with depth and structure. Our 2017 is just beginning to show all of this, while it has the structure to age well over the next 5 to 8 years. Viva 2017!
Also available in magnums.
All wines may be ordered here on our web store or by calling the winery (707) 433-5590