Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumn Colors at Suncé Winery - Santa Rosa, Sonoma County

It was a rainy week followed by a beautiful weekend of sunshine… followed by more rain as harvesters are continuing the mad dash to bring in this year’s crop. So, I ventured out again on another day of heavy clouds that didn’t dissipate until I was on the road home. Having recently visited their neighbors, Inmann Family Wines and Deloach Vineyards, I decided to visit Suncé Winery. 
Suncé (pronounced “Soon-say”), meaning “sun” in Croatian, is named after the daughter of Frane Franicevic, the owner and winemaker. The name of the youngest daughter, Zemlja (earth) is found on the label of one of their wines, Zemlja’s blend, as well as on their “Sweet Zora” a unique Late Harvest Cabernet Franc. The Suncé Winery Estate Vineyard is named after the Franicevic’s eldest daughter, Zora (dawn). The estate vineyard has been providing Pinot Noir grapes since 2004 and they produce another Pinot Noir is sourced from Rodella Vineyard along Westside Road in the Russian River Valley.

The winery is surrounded by ancient head-pruned vines which this time of year are absolutely beautiful as the display an array of colors – various shades of green, yellow, orange and red – which look spectacular as they provide a rainbow around the grapes just begging to be harvested and turned into this year’s vintage.

After taking a number of pictures I headed into the quaint little tasting room. They have an impressive line-up of wines (15 on the list) and offer a complimentary tasting of five of them. It has been a LONG time since I’ve seen a winery offer free tasting!

Unfortunately this family-run winery uses antiquated stemware that “back in the day” of the late 1990’s, when I first began touring California wine countries. The thought of the design of these glasses was that these the narrow rimmed glasses would somehow funnel the aroma of the wine but in all actuality they mute the nose and can cause a wine to seem awkward and out of balance. Since then 99% of the wineries I have visited over the past decade have transitioned to using stemware that are more conducive to displaying the desired attributes of their wine. So, while I took a lot of tasting notes of the wines I sampled, I would prefer to return to the winery and bring my own set of Reidel stemware before offering any evaluations or opinions.

There were two additional factors that diminished the accuracy of my evaluation of their wines. First, the white wines were served extremely cold (frosting the glass). Second, one of the wines bottles was nearly empty even though it was only 11 a.m., so clearly the bottle had been open for a couple days, and yet it was not closed with vacuum pump but only had the cork stuck in it and after tasting the wine it was clearly oxidized. 

Of the 15 wines offered, I tasted the 2010 Malvasia Bianca Dry $17 (served ice cold), the remnants of the bottom of a bottle of the 2004 Estate Pinot Noir $28 (which seemed oxidized), the 2007 Meritage $48 (27% Cab Sauv., 23% Merlot, 22% Cab Franc, 18% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot), the 2008 Late Havrest Cabernet Franc $25 (a really awkward wine) and a 2009 Malvasia Bianca Port $30 which was also served ice cold but was palatable with notes of honey, golden raisin, orange blossoms with an oily viscosity but not quite goopy.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy any wine. If you ever visit this winery, bring your own stemware and send me your evaluation. I’d be more than happy to retaste their wines under different conditions.
I would highly recommend that this winery upgrade their stemware, taste their previously opened wines before serving them the following day and use a Vacu Vin bottle stopper to remove excess oxygen rather than simply cramming the cork back into the bottle.

For more information or to visit:

Suncé Winery
1839 Olivet Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95401-3816
Phone: 1-707)-526-9463