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Senior Tim Fish joined the Wine Spectator staff in 2001. His tasting beat includes Oregon, Washington, California Zinfandel and Rhône-style reds, and U.S. sparkling wines.
Tim Fish

A Lively California Grenache that Recalls Southern Rhône

Unti Dry Creek Valley Grenache 2007

Tim Fish
Posted: March 14, 2011

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.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for recently rated Grenaches from California.

Michael J Moses
Hackettstown, NJ —  March 15, 2011 5:18pm ET
Tim, I stop there every year when I visit Sonoma/ Napa. It was one of the first wineries I ever visited and still one of my favorites. I find his wine making style refreshing in that he uses old world techniques to make wine in California. Mick's 2005 Cuvee Foudre was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape knockoff that I love (still have a couple bottles). I bought some of the last of it in October 2009. I actually called ahead in August before my visit and purchased some to pick up to ensure it would be available. I remember he said he had always wanted to try making one and in '05 the harvest was near perfect so he gave it a shot. I only wish I had bought more... sigh.
Michael Myette
Sacramento, CA USA —  March 16, 2011 3:40pm ET

Had this at a restaurant in Healdsburg not too long ago. It was fantastic, and really reasonable. Couldn't agree more.

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