Winter Wineland 2014 was the perfect venue to visit over 36 wineries in the Russian River Valley in January, plus another 100 or so wineries in Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, Geyserville and Santa Rosa. My wine trek started along Olivet Road, my favorite stretch of vineyards in the heart of the Russian River Valley, which led me to Sunce Winery.
Third generation Croatian-born winemaker, Frane Franicevic, has certainly perfected his love of winemaking over the years. Frane released his first wines in 1990, created in a barn off Piner Road, later moving his winemaking operation to the current Sunce Winery site in the late 1990s.
Sunce is a Serb-Croatian word for “sunshine”. And, plenty of sun shines in the Russian River Valley in the peak growing season. Sunce Winery is named after one of Frane’s daughters, Sunce, with another vineyard and a varietal wine blend named after his other two daughters, Zora and Zemlja.
Sunce Winery‘s tasting list is quite impressive — from Rieslings to Rhones, Italian varietals to Bordeau blends. Being a huge Pinot Noir aficionado, I started with the 2011 Pinot Noir Zora’s Estate which was delightful, somewhat bold and fruit forward with flavors of pomegranate, cherries and figs. The 2011 Syrah Suisan Valley Parenti Vineyard, a gold medal winner at the Critics Challenge in 2013 , was well-balanced with rich dark fruit and a silky finish. However, the 2011 Merlot Reserve Knight’s Valley Vena Vineyard was the true gold medal winner for me and apparently the San Francisco Chronicle in January 2014. Paired with Sunce‘s catered shrimp creole and rice, the 2011 Merlot Reserve Knight’s Valley Vena Vineyard exhibited a chile bite which was a bit surprising, but absolutely perfect.
Barrel tasting futures at Sunce Winery is literally “barrels of fun”. With 26 barrels to choose from, it was a difficult choice. I would put money on the 2013 Sangiovese Fox Hill Vineyards or the 2013 Brunello Fox Hill Vineyards as having excellent potential. In my humble opinion, however, the 2013 Pinot Noir, RRV Zora’s Estate Vineyard Clone 667 is drinkable now so that will definitely be a winner! Can’t go wrong with the Pinot Noir 667 Clone grape.
Being a small lot production boutique winery, Sunce wines do sell out quickly so belly up to the bar and grab your favorite bottle that day. Relax in the sun, play a game of bocce and toast to the grapes! www.suncewinery.com