Wine Tasting Totes, 2009: Unti Vineyards, Dry Creek

untiWith a friend in town from my Hyde Park days, lots of food and wine was on the agenda last weekend. In essence, it was about three solid days of eating and drinking, all jump-started by the Fourth of July, which was super-gluttonous in its own right (and highlighted by a giant lamb leg, slow-roasted in a Caja China). Since then, the festivities have kept me from blogging, up until now (as I type, life is pretty much back to normal). Frankly, I have so many things to cover, it’s daunting. I’ll definitely have a restaurant recap from Terra on the way, but for now, I’m going to recap my top tasting-room experience of the entire week: Unti Vineyards.

I have enjoyed Unti wines for quite some time, and in my mind, it remains as much of a “can’t-miss” winery as Ridge Lytton Springs, which is right down the road, maybe less than a mile, perhaps a bit more. Even by Sonoma standards, Unti is a small producer, although the winery’s portfolio has expanded since my first visit back in 2006. If my memory serves, Unti poured just a few wines in those days — Rosé, Barbera, Zinfandel and Sangiovese (and perhaps Grenache). In contrast, we tasted at least eight or 10 wines during my last visit, all of them well-balanced and engaging.

With winemaker Mick Unti as the host behind the bar, the wines were accompanied by a flurry of information and expertise. Without a doubt, this session was one of my best tasting-room experiences in recent memory. Unti Vineyards produces all sorts of interesting varietals that are nearly non-existant in the Napa Valley: wines such as Grenache, Barbera, and Montepulciano are great examples. The latter varietal is extremely uncommon, even in Sonoma, and I found the 2006 Unti Montepulciano to be a striking wine, trading as much on its complexity as its novelty. The nose was Old World earthiness, while the palate was New World fruit. Really fun, and a great $30 bottle.

My other pick of the day was the 2008 Unti Rosé, which features a saignee blend of about four parts Grencache to one part Mourvedre. I will typically pass on Rosé, but I feel that Unti produces a terrific version. Much like the Rosé of Pinot Noir produced by Toulouse Vineyards in Mendocino, the Unti Rosé seems like much more than a mere afterthought, which is always the danger with California Rosé (and perhaps with French Rosé as well). Because these wines are some of the few that pair well with Cajun cuisine, I always like to keep an eye out for good Rosé, especially in the summer. At just $19, I took home two bottles.

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