Recap of the 2014 Seven % Solution Tasting

Last week, I attended the second “Seven % Solution tasting in San Francisco.  The event was organized by Bergamot Alley.   It’s a unique event premised on the following:

Recap of 2014 Seven % Solution Tasting

Image courtesy of Bergamot Alley

Roughly 93% of Northern California Vineyard acreage is planted to eight grape varieties. The remaining 7% of acreage is home to an impressive aggregation of lesser known varieties. A small but growing force of winemakers champion these grapes, tending terroir and making juice that is swiftly shifting the global perception of California winemaking. This tasting is a showcase of twenty-one outstanding Northern California wineries and their “Seven% Solutions.

It’s an event I’d been looking forward to for a year because tickets for last year’s inaugural event, which was held at Bergamot Alley in Healdsburg, were sold out in a heartbeat.  I lagged, I lost.  Not this year!

The participating vintners (new in 2014) included:*Arnot Roberts *Bedrock Wine Co. *Broc Cellars *Copain Wines *Dirty and Rowdy *Donkey and Goat *Edmunds Saint John *Forlorn Hope *Idlewild Wines *Jolie-Laide *Leo Steen *Lioco *Matthiasson *Nico Wines *RPM *Ryme Cellars *Stark Wine*The Scholium Project *Two Shepherds *Unti Vineyards *Wind Gap

When I saw the lineup it looked like a “To Do” list for me.  It includes many of the hottest small wineries in Northern California.  For a wine geek, such as myself, these are the wineries that are working with lesser known grapes, from interesting vineyards,  vinified in interesting ways, by passionate artisan producers.  Most it seems, are sold through mailing lists, so I you didn’t get the memo early, it can be a challenge to actually buy most.

So while I was looking forward to trying wines made from grapes I’d not tried before, since I’d only tasted wines from a handful of the wineries previously, I was really looking forward to actually tasting wines from wineries for which I didn’t get the memo!

The Event

The San Francisco event was held at the Folsom Street Foundry, a hip space, with an industrial chic vibe located in the SoMa neighborhood.  Upon arrival I stepped into the cozy bar/lounge entry area.  I was greeted warmly, and given one the best tasting booklet I’ve ever received.  It included all the key information that a taster would want to know, including winery names, and websites, plus an up to date accurate list of wines each producer was pouring.  I especially appreciated the compact size of the booklet.  It small enough to easily carry around to jot down notes. My only quibble is that would have been nice to see the retail price of each wine.

I picked up my glass and headed back to the spacious main room, which featured a larger bar, and plenty of cozy seating options.   As I stepped in the main room, I was put at ease by the dulcet sounds of a quartet that was playing…

Seven Solution Band

And much to my delight, the Merigan Sub Shop was in the house dishing some seriously delicious and wine-friendly subs.

Recap of the 2014 Seven % Solution Tasting

I picked a “Terrina” sub about halfway through the tasting. It was porktastic with nice spicy kick. I paired it with the Bedrock Wine Co. Ode to Lulu Rosé…Just what the doctor ordered!

The Wines

By my count, there were about 75 wines available to taste, including 47 different grape varieties.  More whites, and rosé, than reds I’d say.  As advertised,  there were what I would characterize as “lesser” known grape varieties like Aglianico, Arneis, Carignane, Cinsault, Colombard, Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Petite Sirah, Picpoul, Sylvaner, and Vermentino, that I’ve experienced in my wine travels, to be had.  But there were also many what I’d deem, “obscure” grape varieties like Greco, Ribolla Gialla, Trincadeira, Trousseau, and Trousseau Gris that were new to me.

I tasted through the whites and rosés first, then circled back for the red wines.  I mostly skipped producers I’ve tried recently like such as Bedrock, Stark, Two Shepherds and Unti. Ultimately, I was able to taste all the wines I targeted.

My favorites were:

Favorite Reds

  • 2012 Arnot Roberts Trousseau
  • 2012 Bedrock Wine Co. Evangelho HeritageCarignan, Mourvèdre, Zinfandel, Mission, Palomino
  • 2013 Broc Cellar CassiaGrenache Gris
  • 2012 Donkey & Goat Prospector/ Mourvèdre, Grenache
  • 2012 Donkey & Goat Five ThirteenGrenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise, Cinsault
  • 2011 Edmunds St. John Fenaughty Syrah
  • 2012 Forlorn Hope Mil AmoresTouriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cao
  • 2012 Nico Wines Dolcetto
Recap of 2014 Seven % Solution Tasting

Broc Cellars Lineup

Favorite Whites and Rosé

  • 2013 Bedrock Ode to Lulu Ancient Vine RoséCarignan, Mourvèdre
  • 2013 Dirty and Rowdy Sémillon
  • 2013 Idlewild Arneis
  • 2013 Idlewild Vin GrisGrenache
  • 2013 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris, Fannuchi-Wood Road Vineyard
  • 2013 Lioco Indica RoséCarignan
  • 2012 Matthiasson Ribolla Gialla
  • 2013 Matthiasson Tendu/Vermentino
  • 2010 The Scholium Project RhododactylosCinsault
  • 2013 The Scholium Project VLV Reserve/ Verdelho
  • 2013 The Scholium Project Gewürztraminer
  • 2012 Two Shepherds Pastoral BlancRoussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc
  • 2013 Wind Gap Trousseau Gris, Fannuchi-Wood Road Vineyard
Recap of 2014 Seven % Solution Tasting

Idlewild Wines lineup

I’m a bit surprised that my favorites were so heavily weighted toward the white and rosé (despite the fact that there were more white and rosé than red wines) because typically like most wine lovers, I drink far more red than white wine.  Come to think of it, I probably drink more rosé than white too.  Generally speaking, I found the whites were more distinctive, had more personality, than the reds at this tasting.

I especially enjoyed the Trousseau, and Trousseau Gris wines I tasted.  It was interesting to note that the Trousseau Gris variety is so obscure that a single vineyard was the source for most, if not all the wines made from that variety at the tasting – for example, Trousseau Gris from Fanucchi Wood Road Vineyard.

The tasting was a splendid showcase not only for the lesser known grape varieties, but also for the innovative, passionate producers working with these grapes.  These producers deserve credit for taking the vinous road less traveled, and the concomitant commercial risks associated with working these intriguing and refreshingly different grapes.  And perhaps just as importantly, their use of innovative winemaking techniques, such as skin-fermenting whites, whole cluster fermentation, not filtering or fining their winesand carbonic maceration.

Oh, and let’s not forget THE most important thing – the wines were delicious! I found something to like from every producer.

Simply a phenomenal tasting! Bravo!

__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2008 Unti Vineyards Grenache

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2008 Unti Vineyards Grenache.

The Winery

Unti Vineyards is a small family-owned and operated winery that specializes in Zinfandel, Rhône, and Italian varietals.  The winery was co-founded in 1997 by George and Linda Unti, and their son Mick Unti.  Mick manages all winemaking, sales and marketing for the winery. Sébastien Pochan is the winemaker.

The Unti’s farm 60 acres of vineyards in Dry Creek Valley.  When one thinks of Dry Creek valley wines, Zinfandel is top of mind. Italian varietals like Barbera, Sangiovese, Montepulciano are not.  However, the Unti’s are producing four bottlings of Italian varietals that have found success.

All of the Unti’s grapes have been biodynamically farmed since 2004.

My wife and I discovered Unti Vineyards in 2010 when we attended Passport to Dry Creek Valley. We returned a few times since then and have alway enjoyed their wines.

The Wine

This “Southern Rhône style” wine is primarily based on Grenache Noir.  The fruit come from their creekside vineyard, planted in 1998.  The budwood for the Grenache was obtained from Tablas Creek and Alban Vineyards.  According to Unti..

These clonal selections, all from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, give darker color and better structure than the majority of the Grenache clones planted in California

In addition to Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre are added for color, body, and complexity. 40% of the fruit for this blend is whole cluster fermented.

Wine of the Week: Unti Vineyards 2008 Grenache

Wine of the Week: Unti Vineyards 2008 Grenache

My tasting notes follow

Nearly opaque violet color with red fruit, white pepper, and anise aromas. Initially the nose was closed in. It opened up with a little air time. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied, fresh and balanced with raspberry, and cherry  and spice flavors. Medium finish – 89pts

Rating: Recommended; This is my kind a Grenache!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 14.5% alcohol.

Closure: Cork

AVA: > CaliforniaSonoma CountyDry Creek Valley

Varietal(s): 75% Grenache, 13% Mourvedre, 12% Syrah

Cooperage: 13 months 620 gal French oak foudres, 2 yr-old French oak barrels

Retail: $26

Cases produced: 715

Purchased for review

Highlights from my first Passport to Dry Creek Valley

It was a beautiful wine, food, and fun-filled weekend for the 22nd Annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley (“Passport”) with fabulous weather (in fact we were told by Jack Florence of Florence Ranch, who has been growing Dry Creek Valley for 35 years, that it has never rained Passport weekend)! 

As expected, our original plan to go to ten wineries over Saturday and Sunday ( Amista,  Mauritson, Mazzocco, Michel-Schlumberger, Ridge, Alderbrook Frick, Mounts, Seghesio, Unti) morphed into visiting 15 of the 46 wineries ( we also went to Dutcher Crossing, Bella Vineyard and Wine Caves, Armida, Dry Creek Vineyards, and Quivira).  I tasted 75 wines over the two days, the vast majority of which were very good to excellent, had some great food, and enjoyed the entertainment offered.  My Top 10 most memorable of the wines were:

Ginormous corkscrew at Bella

Reds:

2005 Ridge Grenache (88% Grenache, 6% Petite Sirah, 6% Zinfandel) - Aromas: Dusty cherries; Palate: cherries, spice.  Balanced with a medium finish – 88pts

2007 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel (71% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah, and 7% Carignane) – Aromas: Wonderful aromatics of dark fruit, spice, vanilla and a bit of pepper;  Palate: Blackberries and raspberries with good balance, and long finish – 91 pts

2008 Quivira MourvèdreAromas: Plums, blackberries cloves, and touch bacon Palate: Plums, blackberries, vanilla and cloves w/medium finish – 88 pts

2008 Quivira Elusive (34% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 6% Petite Sirah) – Aromas: Dark fruit and black cherries  Palate:  Dark fruit and strawberries, with good balance and finish- 89 pts

2007 Seghesio Home Ranch Petite Sirah;  Aromas: Spicy blueberries, and a bit of oak Palate: black raspberries, vanilla, and mineral. Fine-grained tannins provide that little bit of “grip” I like. Fruity, but not overly so. Young, but tasty! – 88 pts

2oo8 Seghesio San Lorenzo Zinfandel (84% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignane, 1% Alicante and 1% Grand Noir); Aromas: Dark fruit, spice Palate: blackberries, cocoa, and spice. Good balance with a lengthy finish. Paired with Seafood Gumbo – Off the Chain!  - 90 pts

2008 Mauritson Rockpile “Buck Pasture” Red Wine (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, 13% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot); Aromas: Cherries, black currant and vanilla;  Palate: Cherries, black currant, mocha;  surprisingly excellent paired with Chocolate Caramel Tartlets with dark chocolate shell, maldon sea salt caramel – 89 pts

Whites:

2009 Quivira Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc (88% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Sauvignon Musque – S/S fermented); Aromas: Melon and citrus Palate: Melon, citrus and subtle fig. Good balance and a decent finishThis one wasn’t citrus-ey and grassy as were most we tasted. Very nice effort! – 87 pts

2008 Frick Grenache Blanc, Owl Hill Vineyard; Aromas: Peach and stone fruit, Palate: Peaches with subtle vanilla flavor, great mouth feel! Superbly paired with “Green Goddess Seafood Nachos” from foodwishes.com (Click here for photos of food pairings at Frick) made with Dungeness crab, shrimp & lobster cream cheese, Green Goddess dressing on a green avocado chip! -  88 pts

2008 Dutcher Crossing Stuhlmuller Vineyard Chardonnay;  Aromas: Buttery with a touch of tropical aromas  Palate: Buttery apple and vanilla; Nice job of integrating buttery flavor and texture without oak being overwhelming – 88 pts

And that was just the wine!  As I mentioned in my previous post, Passport is about wine, food, and entertainment. Other categories of highlights for me include:

  • “Winery I could have stayed all day”;  Seghesio – hands down!  Wonderful wines, food, and best entertainment of the event for me.  It was a taste of ‘Nawlins in Cali with ample servings of Tasso Shrimp Fettuccini, Seafood Gumbo with Andouille Sausage, Cajan BBQ Ribs, and Beignets, and serving hot music laid down by Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic!  Seghesio is the reason we went to fewer wineries on Sunday, than Saturday!

Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic performing at Seghesio

  • “Put your money where you mouth is”;  We purchased wines from Quivira, Frick and Bella
  • “See you again next year”;  Seghesio, Quivira, Frick, Mauritson, and Ridge
  • “Best Wine and Food Pairings”; Frick, Mauritson, Seghesio, and Quivira
  • “Most unusual wine”; Was a good 20 year old Cab  from Michel-Schlumberger – still a bit tannic after all these years!

We had a great time and will be back next year, as they say in the South, “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”  ;-)

In Vino Veritas!