Unti Vineyards: Savoring Sonoma

Mary and Luke used to live in Sonoma; in fact, Mary cooked at a fabulous little restaurant in Healdsburg called Bovolo. While she was there, she got plugged into the wine scene in a big way, and learned about many of the smaller wineries that are less well-known, and often not open to the public. As we had lunch on Bovolo’s porch, Mary and Luke decided they would take us to their favorite, secret winery, a place called Unti Vineyards.

Tasting at Unti is by appointment only, but Luke charmed them with a phone call and got us on the list. After a winding, beautiful drive, we wound up at the tucked-away tasting room nestled in the middle of the vineyard.

Unti Vineyards tasting room
This tasting room is much more like what we're used to.

Mike and I immediately felt at home in the tasting room; it was comfortable and as unpretentious as you could get. The laid-back atmosphere was really underlined when we finally introduced ourselves to the gentleman pouring for us; it was George Unti himself!

The wines were also tasty, although sadly the one we wanted most hadn’t been bottled yet. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

The Wines

All wines were from the Dry Creek Valley Estate.

Grenache, 2007: This smelled like sugared cherries and had a juicy plummy flavor. I got a hit of oak on the second taste, which spoke to the complexity of this wine.

Zinfandel, 2007: The nose on this one was full of sweet plums with a high alcohol, which left me expecting a taste of plum pudding. Instead, the flavor was one of plums drenched in chocolate syrup; not exactly what I was expecting, but tasty!

Syrah, 2007: This clone comes from the Northern Rhone. It smells of cinnamon-spiced fruit. Mr. Unti says they leave the stems on when they make this wine and you could really tell; there were also a lot of heavy tannins here.

Syrah Benchland, 2007: This wine spends 15 months in the barrel, as opposed to 18 months for the first Syrah we tasted. I recognized the difference instantly. It was less astringent and I could really taste the fruit. I liked the second sip of this more than the first, but Luke found the exact opposite. But the fact that both of us found such a difference from sip to sip really pointed up one element I liked about Unti’s wines; they evolve on the palate. Drinking these wines is like watching a complex movie.

Syrah Benchland, 2006: Mr. Unti warned us at the outset that this wine was “less approachable,” but we all agreed that we liked it more. It smelled of velvety cinnamon. I could taste the blackberries and tannins.

Zinfandel, 2008: Unti is best known for their Barbera, but they don’t make a Barbera every year. This Zinfandel is 18% Barbera, giving a nod to the Italian grape. It had a blackberry and raspberry nose and a blackberry fruity taste that I really liked.

After all those tastings, George Unti gave us the piéce de resistance: the 201o Rosé.

Unti Winery
I realized after the fact that this photo made it look like a urine sample. It's not, I swear!

2010 Rosé: The Rosé is usually bottled in March, but due to a few scheduling conflicts it is being bottled just as this post goes live. 1350 cases will be bottled. If you’re up in Sonoma or planning to go up, I strongly recommend that you stop by Unti to pick up a bottle if not a case. It smelled like I would expect a Sauvignon Blanc to smell, and tasted like a dry strawberry wine with a little tannin edge to it.

Unti Winery
Drinking all this Unti wine is a hard job, but someone has to do it.