Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Great Grenache from Unti Vineyards

Thinking about all winemakers with a passion for southern French and Rhône varietals, and taking into consideration that Châteauneuf-du-Pape almost has gained a kind of “holy grail” status over the last decade, one can easily end up believing Grenache would be a very popular grape variety. Well, it is, but not that popular, at least not if one looks at the figures. In 2007, there were 2 818 hectares of Grenache planted all over California, just slightly more than Ruby Cabernet, but less than the not so popular Barbera. One reason for that may be that very few wines are labeled as Grenache, and therefore that few consumers are familiar with Grenache and what to expect from it. It’s mainly used in blends. Since the 90s, some more Grenache have been planted, and its acreage will most likely increase over the coming decade.
Unti Vineyards is a small family owned winery with 24.30 hectares of vines in two vineyards in Dry Creek Valley in northern Sonoma. Of that, only 1.18 hectares in planted to Grenache. The vineyards were purchased in 1990 by George Unti, son of an Italian immigrant, but it wasn’t until 1997 that his son Mick made the first wines under the Unti Vineyards label.
The winery has one small fermentation room with small stainless steel tanks for fermentation and blending, and an adjacent room for the barrels. It’s not big at all, but enough for the annual production of approximately 7 000 cases.
Overall, the wines are predominately made of southern French and a few Italian varieties, they are elegant, quite classic and often more European than typical Californian.

2007 Grenache / 90-92 p
Owner Mick Unti and his winemaker produce some very interesting wines of great value, and this grenache is normally one of their very best wines, if not the best. It’s made of 80 percent Grenache and ten percent each of Syrah and Mourvèdre from vines planted in 1998, and around 20 percent of the Grenache clusters were added in the fermentation tank without being destemmed. After a few days of cold soak, some of the pink grape juice is bled off to make the wine more dense and structures. Fermentation is carried out with the indigenous yeast, and pigeage is utilized as extraction method. Wisely enough, the wine is then (since 2005 vintage) transferred into larger foudres rather than smaller barrels, to undergo malolactic fermentation and maturation over a year. Although the alcohol touch 15 percent (or just under that), the wine is not ripe, overly sweet and fiery. On the contrary, it’s very elegant and – to be very honest – very French! As expected, it shows a lovely raspberry fruit aroma, with some deeper notes of plums, also a lovely spiciness of licorice, white pepper and violet, but it will take at least 10-15 minutes before the wines opens of and shows all that. Therefore, decanting is recommended if poured young. Tannins are young, but not aggressive, and not to firm. Still it is recommended to keep this wine for a year more or two. Since the wines isn’t filtered or fines, it may be slightly hazy.
Drink it 2010-2017.

No comments:

Post a Comment