By Sarah Amador
This Thanksgiving, my family and I talked about all the things we are grateful for. Like many families, we named blessings like family, friends, health, jobs, beautiful spots we either lived in or visited. We poured a rosé wine from Sunce winery that perfectly matched the flavors of the turkey, and I realized here was yet another reason to be thankful. The wines of Sonoma and Napa valley are renown throughout the world, and Sunce winery is one winery that helps make this claim to fame come true.
With the grand opening of a tasting room in Kenwood, now you can enjoy the gold medal artisanal wines of Sunce winery in more than one location. Their new tasting room is perfectly situated in Kenwood at 9580 Sonoma Highway, on the corner of Highway 12 and Warm Springs Road. In Santa Rosa, you can taste wines and play bocce ball at the estate Pinot Noir vineyard at 1839 Olivet Road.
At the San Francisco Wine Competition this year, Sunce won gold medals for their 2012 Montepulciano and 2012 Alicante Bouschet. Last year, at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, Sunce won gold medals for their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Merlot. The list of medals goes on and on, too numerous for a single page. Only 4 to16 barrels of each wine is made, equal to 100 to 400 cases per release. The list of varietals and classic wines goes on and on as well, with more than 30 different kinds produced by the family-operated winery.
There’s something for everyone,” Sunce wine club member Mark LaFranchi said.
I had pleasure of attending their grand opening last weekend with my husband and friends. The drive to Kenwood along Highway 12 boasted scenic views of vineyards in their perfect fall state, full of liquid amber, golden yellow and fiery red hues. The new site provided views of vineyards, framed by the hills of Sonoma Valley.
Along with the sampling of small lot award-winning wines and new releases, the grand opening also offered barrel tastings of 2014 Zemija Blend (named after the owners’ youngest daughter), Pinot Noir, Tannat and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Agave Restaurant catered the event, offering delicious tacos and ceviche tostadas. If the wine and the award-winning Oaxaca-inspired food didn’t relax you enough, massage tables and chairs were scattered through the tasting room and deck, with expert masseuses ready to smooth away any lingering stress.
Fall colors, community and celebration. Friendship and food. And of course, we were all gathered there to sample Sunce’s delicious award-winning wines. I was delighted to discover that even though I had traveled over an hour from my Duncans Mills’ home, I was still surrounded by community. At the barrel tasting, I met one neighbor of three years that I had never met before. When a friend brought along a date, I met the younger brother of someone I’ve known for 12 years.
The 2012 Montepulciano offered a hearty, rich bouquet. The 2013 Nebbiolo glowed like an orange sunset in the glass, matching the colors of the vineyards across the road. It was full-bodied, and also slightly tart. The 2013 Bruenllo (a Sangiovese Grosso) was fruity and sweet, but not cloying. The Dolcetto (which means little sweet one) was tasty but not too sweet. There was quite a variety, and all the wines were smooth and full-bodied. After sampling classic wines and several varietals that were new to me, all with a rich velvety bouquet (just like I like my wines), I knew I had to talk to the winemaker.
It was a luminous experience. Winemaker and owner Frané Franicevic is a descendent of Croatian winemakers specializing in Zinfandel. In fact, winemaking has been a part of Franicevic’s family tradition for hundreds of years. The result is a winemaker that truly knows his craft. Talking with him, it is almost as if he knows the nature of the grapes themselves, and knows what they need to transform into great wine.
“You have to be patient with each step,” Franicevic ruminated. “You need good fruit, patience, and to be present in the moment, to the task at hand.” Franicevic continued to explain that it is impossible to remove the human element of winemaking, and to infer that this is what makes good wine, bringing awareness to the winemaking process.
And isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? Being aware of our blessings, doing our best to be present in every moment with a thankful, grateful heart? This is what I tried to do, as I played piano later in the week, sipping the excellent Sunce winery Merlot Port. The present moment was perfect.
To taste Sunce wines, visit their new tasting room at 9580 Sonoma Highway. Tasting hours are daily from 10:30 to 5:30. In Santa Rosa, you can visit the estate Pinot Noir vineyard and play bocce ball at 1839 Olivet Road. Tasting hours are daily from 10:30 to 5:00. For more information, visit their website at http://www.suncewinery.com or call 707-526-WINE (9463).