Unti - Going Their own Way
A Mediterranean vineyard blossoms in the Dry Creek Valley
Be that as it may they are still rather compelling on their own, if easy to dismiss in a tasting. I loved the wines with their rather pure and slightly earthy expressions of fruit and soil. Farmed organically, and with Unti having implemented biodynamic practices three vintages ago that’s not surprising. I’m not fully convinced that the two go hand in hand. That farming practices necessarily produce wines like this but rather I am inclined to believe that those who implement these sorts of practices have sensibilities that result in these sorts of wines. There’s also a willingness to experiment here, not just with the planting of varieties as diverse as Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, and Fiano. And let me just say as a lover of Fiano, is it Italy's greatest white variety? anyone who is hoping to produce some gets a plus mark in my book. And by the way it’s pretty damn good.
Experimentation comes in many faces at Unti, from the concrete eggs used to ferment some of the wines, to the foudres holding Grenache based wines. A smart move in my opinion seeing as Grenache, like PInot Noir, can become overwhelmed with oak, particularly in warm climates. Winemaker Sebastien Pochan, French born and trained as a winemaker, has been the man in charge of the cellars here since 2001. While I don’t have enough experience with past vintages to comment on his work through that time frame here at Until, his work today is impressive. It’s impressive both for it’s understatement, and it’s breadth.
Unti produces a full roster of wines. Many based on Italian varieties like the aforementioned Fiano, or more familiar Barbera, Sangiovese and it’s family of blending grapes, Dolcettto and Montepulciano. There are also compelling Grenache based blends, aged in foudre, blended with Mourvedre and Syrah, and taking advantage of some whole cluster fermentation to add complexity and some edginess to the finished wines. Fascinating to taste, but I’d really need a bottle to drink to take full stock of it. And finally the portfolio is rounded out with Dry Creek classics like Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.
I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by the wines tasted at Unti. It’s all to common to find producers planting ‘other’ grapes in wine regions only to allow the region itself to determine the style of wines, as opposed to attempting to preserve varietal typicity. Unti is doing a fabulous job of this but their wines ultimately are noticeably different from their neighbors. That leaves them again at somewhat of a disadvantage, particularly in light of the fact that much of their sales occurs in the tasting room. People driving up Dry Creek Valley road are probably expecting something other than what they’re getting here. Ultimately the consumers who like these wines will find them, seek them out in fact. I’m here to tell you they are worth seeking out if you’re looking for something different. If you’re really curious about the potential of the Dry Creek Valley you have to taste these wines.
The wines are fairly priced, and looking at their website this evening I see that their current releases are eligible for a discount of between 10% and 20%, depending on the wine, when you purchase a mixed case. They still have Fiano available too. Only 70 cases produced this year, but don’t worry if you miss out. Next year’s production promises to be higher!
Gorgeous nose, all minerally and dusty, spicy with hints of mint draped over bright white floral tones and a little melony fruit. a little melon. Entering the mouth with just a little richness, this is very expressive with gorgeous lemon oil, subtle peach, and almond milk flavors. Theres an engaging touch of astringency lending this some tactile grab in the mouth and it finishes with vibrant acidity and lovely purity to the mineral driven fruit flavors. Really zesty and very well balanced. 91pts
46% Vermentino, 43% Grenache Blanc 11% Picpoul
no oak, no malo
Clean and fresh on the nose with notes of pear skins, a little orange and some hints of heather and honeycomb. Pretty fruity in the mouth again with lots of pear fruit accented by lightly lemony and tart apple flavors supported by nice cutting acids. This has just a hint of fleshiness in the mouth but is pretty focused and taut with a nice light mineral aspect to the moderately long finish. Bring on the trout. 89pts
83% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre
Earthy, and lightly spicy on the nose with a fine lemon verbena note, a little gassy even though fresh and a bit dusty mineral as well. Entering the mouth with gentle peach and tarry berry fruit. This is rather dry with a very cool climate feel to it, laced with dusty mineral and lightly peppery spice tones framing fresh and zesty raspberry fruit. It’s rather edgy in the mouth but shows a fine balance of leanness, structure and fresh fruit flavors. 90pts
This is very perfumed in a savory way, rich with inky, black fruits with green ivy, african violet accents. Bright, broad, and full or transparent black raspberry fruit on the palate. There’s a lovely bit of black cherry skin here, showing off attractive fruit tannins that add a bit of texture in the mouth, making this just a little chewy. Lovely precision and brightness to the flavors here with a fine, lingering black fruited finish. 89pts
Tight, earthy and a little yeasty on the nose. Packed with bright acids, black fruit and bright floral aromas this coats the palate with gorgeous black raspberry fruit.Rich but clear, long and zesty, with fine grained soft tannins this has such nice cut to the fruit with a mineral spect on the long, palate staining finish. Very perfumed in the mouth. Can’t wait to try this again. 91pts
77% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah 4% Mourvedre, 2% Barbera
Smoky and autumnal on the nose featuring lovely nuanced savory depth over a bed of with fresh strawberry and red cherry fruit. This is rather bright and fresh and fairly fruity in the mouth with hints of tar, balsam and a little clover to it. The tannins are very supple here, and the fruit comes off as a bit simple if bright and juicy. An easy drinking smaller scaled Zinfandel with a fine savory, briary finish. 87pts
70% Sangiovese, 30% Montepulciano
Earthy on the nose showing quite stemmy qualities along with fine asphalty Montepulciano driven aromas that are a bit white peppery and a little savory and meat juicy. With just super balance on the palate this shows of finely ripened fruit tannins and firm underlying acidity. There’s almost some bitterness on the palate, earthy and deep which helps to set off the very fine fruit, rich in fruit skin flavors. Layered and complex this really blends the fruity and earthy flavor elements very well and finishes with excellent length and persistence to the fruit. 91pts
Nice blue fruit with subtle herbal accents greets the nose. There’s a brushy here, a bit of eucalyptus spice. Smooth and polished in the mouth this shows off nice mid palate weight, a little bit chewy with fine fruit tannins supporting nice dry blueberry and raspberry fruit flavors accented with some attractive spice notes that extends over the long finish. There’s a lovely little floral spice inner mouth perfume here that really sets off the fruit, all bright and clean on the palate. Nice purity and snap. 90pts
Big fruit greets the nose, a little jammy and black and framed with notes of cracked pepper and spicy, toasty oak spice. Broad and a bit flat in the mouth though this has plenty of acidity, it’s just dense and compact . The fruit feels a bit compressed and chunky with sweeter, softer edges that the Syrah ‘normale’. It seems more Californian, smoky and briary, and more polished. There’s fine structure here, keeping the wine lively in the mouth, its just that everything is a bit matte today. 88pts