When I was young and didn’t have a lot of money, Châteauneuf-du-Pape was a favorite of mine. I enjoyed its racy red fruit and smoky and earthy accents, and 20 years ago you could still find outstanding Châteauneuf-du-Pape for under $20.
I recalled those days recently when I tasted the Unti 2007 Grenache. With its lively raspberry aromas, hints of licorice and white pepper and deft balance of jam and acidity, it reiterated that California could make a high-quality Châteauneuf-du-Pape-style red.
It hasn’t always been so. California winemakers have tinkered with Grenache—the main grape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape—without much success until recently. The clones of Grenache traditionally used here were the key issue; they produced simple and undistinguished wines. That is changing quickly as superior sources of Grenache are planted here.
Unti uses Grenache Noir bud-wood from Tablas Creek and Alban Vineyards, imported from some of the best vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the quality shows. The 2007 is a blend of 80 percent Grenache, 10 percent each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, all from the winery’s estate vineyards. It retails for $30, and I rated it 91 points, non-blind.
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