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Vintage Valenti
 Angelo Gaja, legendary king of Barbaresco, was once asked to compare his recent wines with the heralded 1990 vintage. He said it was difficult to compare since they are so much better today than they were in 1990—meaning his current wines are as good if not better in an average year than the most acclaimed vintages from the past.
 
For Italian wine fanatics like George, Jason, and myself, Gaja is somewhat of a shaman for observations like these. Like most wineries of our ilk, we have been on a quest to simply get better. While that sounds trite and obvious, it is not always that simple, especially when you produce wine types that are barely made in Dry Creek Valley, or California for that matter. It stretches out the learning curve.
 
Recently I’ve had more than a few of our longtime customers say, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but your wines are much better today than they were 10 years ago.” To which I replied, “Amen, brother!”
 
As I’ve said in previous newsletters, our winemaker Jason Valenti has had a profound impact on our wines. He's upped our game by working closely with my dad’s vineyard crew and in his attention to detail in the cellar. The result is we consistently make good wine, even when Mother Nature deals us a less-than-ideal growing season.
 
When we experience an excellent vintage like 2018, it is like a batter sitting on a 2-0 fastball—we barrel it up. Moderate weather in August and September allows for better flavor and structure in all of our wines, such that 2018 will go down as one of THE great vintages at Unti.

100% Syrah
100% Estate Grown.
Aged 13 MO. 35% New French Oak
470 cases
  
 Over the past 4 vintages, our Winery Syrah has been The Dark Horse in our voluminous line-up. We love wines that out-perform their region’s status in the market, which results in superior value. The Northern Rhône AOC called Saint-Joseph is one such wine. The 2018 Unti Syrah is our humble counterpart to Saint-Joseph.
 
I first tried Saint-Joseph wines many years ago during my first trip to France. They were kind of the equivalent to Côtes du Rhône wines in Southern Rhône. A fruity, spicy, drinkable version of Syrah— available at a low price. Just as winemakers have dramatically improved quality all over Italy,
Saint Joseph has enjoyed the most dynamic improvement among Northern Rhône Appellations.
 
Like Saint-Joseph, our Syrah normale winery block has consistently improved over the past 5 vintages. We now only use three small blocks consisting of four clones, all grown on our winery parcel. This site, the clones, and a touch of whole cluster fermentation have allowed us to make a Syrah that has more in common with Saint-Joseph, while with the fruit and tannin structure you expect from Unti.

 
Syrah makes us Mad Happy.
$38 / bottle
$30.40 In any mixed case
PURCHASE 2018 SYRAH
100% Montepulciano
 100% Estate grown
Aged 17 MO. 30% New French Oak.
440 cases
  
 Montepulciano wines remind me of one of my favorite bands from the 1970's, Little Feat. Both entities always delivered eminent pleasure and are so likable that they weren’t deemed worthy of elite artistic praise.   To which I say, “That’s a hard no!”
 
Little Feat, led by singer/songwriter/guitarist, Lowell George, was the quintessential example of an opening band that consistently blew away the headliner. I think I saw them open for at least 3 bands who were more popular but far less talented.  Lowell George wrote some amazing songs, including the brilliant Willin', which was subsequently covered by Linda Ronstadt. Little Feat offered a unique blend of blues, rock, jazz, and funk—the sound is timeless. I urge you to check them out.
 
Likewise, once someone tries a Montepulciano, it becomes an instant favorite. Montepulciano makes a lovable wine even when it is made at high volumes from heavily cropped vineyards in Abruzzo. Now that many wineries in Le Marche, Abruzzo, and one in Dry Creek Valley are treating it with the respect it deserves, the wines are knockout and worthy of your attention.
 
Our 2018 MP is one such wine. It lives up to our previous vintages (’15,’16, + ’17) in color, depth, and tannin structure. Where it “goes to eleven” is in the complex and perfume-like aromas, and intense fruit not normally associated with this variety. As I’ve said before, Dry Creek is at the cooler edge of consistently ripening Montepulciano, which probably explains why ours is a more complex, sophisticated, and balanced (great acid) version.
 
While you can drink this wine today, it will certainly reward those who hang on to a few bottles for at least 5 to 6 years.


 
I'm still willin'.
$45 / bottle
$36 In any mixed case
PURCHASE 2018 MONTEPULCIANO
 Cuvée Foudre
51% Grenache 
29% Syrah 
20% Mourvedre
14 MO. French Oak Foudre
258 Cases
 The Southern Rhone side of our winery’s personality really shined in 2018, thanks to a solid vineyard strategy combined with a great growing season. If this vintage is any indication, we are proving Dry Creek Valley to be an excellent AVA for Rhône varietal blends.
 
Over the past ten years, wine producers in San Luis Obispo County have garnered far more attention for making Grenache-based wines. This makes sense, since most of the region’s vineyards have been planted within the past 20 years, and you didn’t have high-profile Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir grown there. Rhône varieties have taken on more prominence there due to the influence of Tablas Creek, the partnership between Chateau Beaucastel in Châteuaneuf-du-Pape and Robert Haas.
 
San Luis Obispo County's growing conditions are good for Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah, and while the industry has focused on cultivating the varieties there, it doesn’t mean Sonoma County is any less worthy. In fact, our nighttime temperatures tend to be slightly cooler, which I believe brings an element of freshness to our Rhône blends.
 
For the past 7 years, our vineyard crew has executed a crop-thinning program designed to improve the quality and consistency of our wines. Anyone who makes Grenache-based red wines will tell you how important it is to moderate crop levels. It is the difference between CDP and CDR.
 
No matter how we are in the vineyard, there is always this reliance upon nature. Some years (see 2020) we spend all harvest trying to overcome inhospitable growing conditions. 2018 will be considered one of THE great vintages of the 21st century.
 
2018 marks the fourth consecutive vintage we have been able to make Cuvée Foudre, our most highly rated wine.  If you are lucky enough to have the previous three vintages, a mini-vertical would impress even your most fanatical Southern Rhône geek friends.
 
We have settled on the same three vineyard blocks that can make a full-bodied Rhone blend— Grenache Alban, Original Mourvedre, and clone 383 Syrah. You could call these vineyard blocks our CDP players because they deliver more expressive and structured wine.
 
2018, like 2012, featured a cool August and early September, extending fruit hang time which resulted in more intense flavors with tannin/acid balance. Our Mourvedre yield was low in 2018 resulting in only being 20% of the blend. Fortunately, the Grenache stepped up with a strong year, so we bumped up its percentage to 51%.

Like my favorite Châteauneufs, our Cuvée Foudre has a distinct and consistent personality, while reflecting the subtle characteristics of the vintage. In 2018, that means the wine is dark with more intense fruit and juicy acidity—all in a chewier (nice use of vocab, Mick) Southern Rhône blend.
 
The ’18 CF is definitely showing well already, but it will certainly improve over the next 5 to 8 years. A statement wine, for sure that you’ll want to have in your cellar…or wine fridge.
$70 / btl 
$56 In any case purchase
PURCHASE 2018 CUVÉE FOUDRE
2018 Grenache
79% Grenache 21% Syrah
14 MO. 3-4 year French Oak
475 Cases
I’ve often compared our Grenache bottling to my favorite Gigondas wines from the Southern Rhône in fruit, structure, and most importantly acidity. This 2018 is a prime example.
 
2018 is the kind of vintage for Grenache we wish we had every year. Great color, amazing floral and intense raspberry/blackberry fruit, and tremendous balance. You’ll notice that the ’18 is 79% Grenache and 21 % Syrah, sans Mourvedre for only the second time in our winery’s history. Both occasions were driven by a short crop on our Mourvedre. We used what little Mourvedre we made in 2018 for our Cuvée Foudre.
 
The Syrah we used in this’18 Grenache really bumps up the fruit and tannin. It is from our Creekside block and one barrel of clones 174 and 877. The result is a big style Grenache that has juicy fruit and acidity. Perhaps we won’t include  Mourvedre in future GR bottlings if this vintage is any indication.
 
Drinking great already, this ’18 should age nicely over the next 3 to 5 years.
 
 
$38 / btl 
$30.40 in any case purchase
PURCHASE 2018 GRENACHE
100% Sangiovese
100% Sangiovese
100% Estate Grown
30% New French Oak
148 Cases
 In 2007, George planted the block of Sangiovese that comprises this 2019. It is the original clone of Sangiovese he planted in 1992—the Grosso-clone used for Brunello di Montalcino. As this vineyard matures, it is really starting to show Brunello-like quality, which is why we bottled it on its own.
 
Rosso Di Montalcino wines (DOC) have improved both in quality and consistency over the past 20 years. Once considered a second label to a producer’s Brunello, it has evolved into a wine worthy for its own personality and style.
 
The DOCG laws for Brunello di Montalcino mandate the wines be aged in wood for two years, in bottle for another year, and can’t be released until the beginning of the fifth year after harvest (2017 Brunellos will be released January 2022). Rosso Di Montalcino wines can be released after a year in the cellar. More and more Brunello wineries are designating their younger vine Sangiovese (10 to 20 years) for Rosso—giving us an opportunity to drink a fresher, more fruit-forward style of wine from outstanding vineyards.

 
Our 2019 Sangiovese lies somewhere between a Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. It currently shows bright cherry fruit and dried herbs with more tannin structure than generally found in a Rosso.   This is a really expressive style of Sangiovese with enough body and tannin to be called a baby Brunello, one that should age nicely over the next 3 to 6 years. — MU

$45 /btl  
$36 in any case purchase
PURCHASE 2019 SANGIOVESE
6+ btls 10% off
Any 12+ btls 20% off
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