Tasting Notes: Unti Vineyards and Papapietro Perry Winery, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma

It almost feels as though I’m repeating myself, but time truly flies, and looking back among my past blog entries, I hadn’t been wine tasting at Unti Vineyards or Papapietro Perry since last summer, and I did need to catch up with their most recent vintages. So here we go again. Another dissertation on the wonders of Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, although I plan to keep this one short, in order to complement my ever-decreasing attention span. Typically, I would also fit Ridge Vineyards into this same discussion, but I got a late start over to Sonoma last week, so Ridge is on my short-term agenda for the moment. I may drive over to Sonoma in a few hours, in fact. I’ve got the itch to wander at the moment, as I sit here and type in the dead of night; if New Orleans was only four hours away — and not four days — I would already be on the road, headed to my spiritual second home. Wine country will have to do for now.

• • •

One thing that’s interesting about making annual visits to my favorite wineries is that I can gauge the consistency of my own personal taste. Consistency is important for wine drinkers, since the wines you purchase in the tasting rooms are the very wines you’ll ultimately be drinking at home. This notion seems obvious, of course. But there have been times when I’ve purchased wines, only to pop them open months or years later, and wonder what the hell I was thinking when I bought them. Was it perhaps the last tasting of the day? Was my palate just shot by then? Could I have been drunk? Drinking fine wine can be a somewhat costly proposition, so it’s key to be able to reach into the collection with confidence, knowing that anything you select will taste as delicious as you might remember. It’s important, therefore, to put yourself in tune with your own taste, which is the true benefit of going wine tasting.

I never review my old tasting notes before I revisit my favorite wineries, since I don’t want to be unduly influenced while I’m out tasting wine. Even more importantly, I don’t want to see anyone else’s notes either, and I hate when wineries publish scores alongside their tasting notes. I do admit, however, that wine ratings do interest me from a curiosity standpoint, but I have long since pushed them out of my mind when it comes to buying the wine that I plan to collect and drink. If I’m at a tasting room, and I can taste the wine for myself, does it even matter what the Old Guard thinks? Unless Jim Laube and Robert Parker are coming over to my place for drinks (fat chance of that, since I don’t host a seniors night), then who really cares what they think of the wine I serve? Instead of offering wines that reflect someone else’s tastes, I feel that my selections should really reflect my own tastes.

• • •

Forgive me, I said this entry would be short, and I can ramble in the wee hours. But the reason why I mentioned consistency of taste was that I discovered that I tend to gravitate towards the same two wines at Papapietro Perry: The Pauline’s Vineyard Zinfandel and the Leras Family Vineyard Pinot Noir. In the latter instance, I’ve twice tasted the 2007 Papapietro Perry Leras Family Vineyard Pinot Noir ($49), although these tastings were almost one year apart. Both times, I’ve been absolutely floored by this wine. I would argue that the 2007 Leras may represent the pinnacle of Russian River Pinot Noir. I took a bottle home, and I when I looked at my notes from 2009, I learned that I also took home a bottle last summer (I originally caught this wine just as it was released, and now it’s finally ending its run). In the meantime, the 2007 Leras did compile some nice scores from Jim Laube, as well. Although I don’t agree with his influence, sometimes we do agree on wine.

As for the Pauline’s Vineyard Zinfandel ($37), it was my favorite Zin of the day, although I do remember enjoying the 2006 Pauline’s Vineyard more than the 2007 vintage. In general, I tend to prefer the 2006 Dry Creek Zins to their 2007 counterparts, which seem to have higher alcohol levels in general (though not in the specific case of the Pauloine’s Zin, which was 14.7% for both vintages). The 2007 campaign was a warmer vintage for Dry Creek Valley than the 2006 campaign. Having done some research on the Pauline’s Vineyard Zinfandel, I noticed that 2006 featured an early October harvest, while 2007 noted an early September harvest. More time on the vine allows for more complexity, which is probably why I remember doing back-flips for the 2006 Pauline’s, while the 2007 was delicious, but not as devastating.

Rather than purchase a Zinfandel from the 2007 vintage, I decided to instead stockpile a little more 2007 Pinot, since that vintage represents one of California’s all-time best for the varietal. The 2007 Pinots are beginning to disappear from the market at this point, as wineries are now beginning to offer their 2008s. With this in mind, I purchased the 2007 Papapeitro Perry Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir ($49), which I had briefly considered to be the best California Pinot Noir that I had tasted in a long time — until I tasted the 2007 Leras Family Pinot shortly thereafter. Both wines are formidable, to say the least. The 2007 Leras displays a touch more finesse than the 2007 Peters, but both wines feature a terrific aroma and an incredibly lengthy finish.

• • •

Unti Vineyards is going to get short shrift in this post, since I’m almost at 1,000 words here. But I have exalted Unti plenty in the past, most recently with an entry regarding their 2008 Rosé, which is now sold out. Regardless, I found the 2009 Unti Rosé ($19) to be just as appealing. Among the nine other wines that I tasted at Unti, the one that really caught my attention was the 2007 Unti Grenache ($30), which is 80% Grenache Noir, 10% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. In my notes, I’ve summed it up simply as “impressive.” On the lighter side, I also purchased the 2008 Unti Segromigno ($24), which is 92% Sangiovese and 8% Montepulciano. It had aromas of mocha on the nose, alongside red fruit on the palate. Quite nice.

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