By: Kyle Kurani | K&L Staff Member
A Walk Through Sonoma: Visiting Chasseur & Unti
Last month I was lucky enough to accompany one of our Domestic Wine Buyer Bryan Brick and a pair of colleagues on a trip through the Sonoma Valley. This was my first professional trip to Wine Country and I couldn’t wait to go and learn more about the wines that we have on the shelf. I was excited for the trip for the obvious reasons...to meet winemakers, taste new wines, learn about the different regions in Sonoma, and get out of the wine shop for a little while to enjoy the country...but I was even more excited when I got back!
I returned brimming with enthusiasm from the walks through the vineyards, from feeling how warm they are in the morning to just how cold they get at night. It was interesting to hear how the different winemakers fared in each vintage depending merely upon what day they decided to pick and to learn what makes each individual winery unique in its little corner of the world. Seeing and experiencing everything that goes into a bottle of wine--the history, the effort, the land--is what truly brings the wine to life.
I hope my words can aptly paint a picture of the wines and the people, who are behind them, but I urge you to try the wines that seem interesting, talk to us about them, but then go and see where they come from - it's a trip you won't forget!
Here are a few of the places we visited with links to learn more about some of the wines we enjoyed:
Unti Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley
In the hubbub and glitz of modernized tasting rooms, complete with tasting flights and member exclusives, it is so refreshing to walk into a winery that cares more about talking about their wine than mesmerizing you with shiny objects. Unti Vineyards is a family-run winery nestled just off of Dry Creek Road. Their tasting bar consists of unvarnished wooden boards on top of wine barrels, in the temperature same controlled room where they store their wine. No frills, just the wine and a cool escape from the midday heat. The winery is run by Mother, Father, and Son, with a winemaker from France that loved California so much he just stayed.
Unti follows a hands-off winemaking philosophy, in which they seek to let the unique terroir of the vineyards shine through. This gives their wines a sense a place that cannot be duplicated. We tasted many stunning wines, but the 2009 "Petite Frere" Dry Creek Rhone Blend and the 2009 Dry Creek Grenache (both in stock now at K&L) stood out to me. In addition to growing Zinfandel, Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache, they have also planted some Mediterranean varietals. They believe that the warm climate of Dry Creek offers an environment where grapes like Segromigno, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano, can thrive. They have the potential to make some very interesting wines - keep an eye out for these wines when the vines have matured.
Chasseur Wines, Western Sonoma
Chasseur is a far cry from the traditional winery, with no vineyards, no tasting bar, not even the usual winery dog to greet you at the door - just a warehouse that used to process apples. But don’t let the humble surroundings fool you! Bill Hunter, the winemaker at Chasseur, is one of the most talented winemakers we met on the trip. His no-nonsense attitude and up front way of speaking hide neither his passion for the wines he makes nor the quality that is the end product of that passion. Chasseur is such a small winery that K&L is lucky to have any of Bil's wines to sell at all. We are indeed very grateful to have the opportunity to share these wines with you.
Pinot and Chardonnay are the focus at Chassuer (though a Syrah or two sneaks in once in a while) and attention to detail is the order of the day. Fruit is selected from vineyards with the highest pedigree, carefully maintained and farmed to his specs. Pinot is fermented in tiny one ton fermenters so that each block can show off its unique characteristics. All of the Chardonnay is barrel fermented to give the wines depth and texture. These wines are rich and lush, but never overwrought, and always beautifully pure.
For Burgundy and California drinkers alike, there is simply no arguing with good wine. We tasted wines out of barrel that showed great potential, but the 2008 Chasseur "Blank Vineyard" Russian River Pinot Noir and the 2008 Chasseur "Durrell Vineyard" Sonoma Valley Chardonnay impressed me for their immediate drinkability. Luckily, both are in stock now at K&L and available for you to take home and enjoy tonight.