Sunce Winery and Vineyard Estate

By: The Wine Spies

Mission Codename: The Eldest Daughter

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Infiltrate Suncé Winery, in the heart of the Russian River Valley. Secure their stellar 2006 Zora’s Estate Pinot Noir for our exacting Operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Suncé Winery & Vineyard

Wine Subject: 2006 Zora’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Frane Franicevic

Backgrounder: The Suncé Winery, located in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, produces remarkable wines. Remarkable in the sense that they are excellent, but also in the sense that they are standout-unique! Winemaker Frane Franicevic crafts amazing wines, like today’s 2006 Zora’s Pinot Noir, and each year he creates something that out out of the ordinary, like a late harvest Cabernet Franc, or the [REDACTED] blend that we discussed with him on our recent visit to Suncé.

The Russia River Valley in Sonoma County is particularly well suited to producing exceptional Pinot Noir. This AVA was officially designated in 1983, but many of the wines in the region used the designation as early as the 1970s (early in California’s wine history) with the many of the vines having been first planted in the early 1900s. In today’s wine, Suncé presents their own delicious take on Russian River Valley Pinot Noir by delivering a wine of bold and delicious character. Read Agent Red’s mission report and tasting noted below for the full intel on this very exciting wine.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – A beautiful old world garnet, with a deep core and slightly brickish hues at its edges. The wine appears soft and lofty in the glass when swirled. When the wine settles, a first round of skinny legs streaks down the glass. If you allow the glass to sit, you will witness countless additional rounds of chubby legs making their way slowly down the glass.

Smell – Dark cherry cola and plum take the lead. These are followed closely by brown spice, sweetwoods and hints of anise, strawberry and subtle caraway.

Feel – Fine and light across the entire palate. Then, as flavors perform a great arc, a soft dryness sets in, adding a slightly grippy feel to the tongue and lips.

Taste – Flavors start slowly, ramp up and then tail off slowly, led by cherry, cranberry and tart under-ripe strawberry. After the crescendo, dusky and darker flavors of smokey cassis, dusky cherry and toasted oak appear – and then tail off.

Finish – The finish is long, accentuated by the dynamic feel and flavor profile of the wine. Flavors increase and then hit a peak before new, more subtle flavors appear – and then tail off slowly.

Conclusion – This is a delicious and very interesting wine that delivers a good deal of pizazz. Think Classic Russian River character with a little thrill ride added. Youthful and vibrant, but tempered by earthen qualities, this is a great enjoy now wine that should only improve over the next few years. Bright acidity means easy food pairing and we’d recommend it with anything from fish and fowl to spicy Tandoori chicken.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Frane Franicevic

WINE EDUCATION: Phd in Psychology. Plus, addt’l Enology classes at UC Davis.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: 18 consecutive harvests under my own bond and permit. I’ve made over 30 different varietal types in lots ranging from 2 to 20 barrels each.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: If all one makes is a Cab, it’s like a grill guy calling himself a chef when he only makes steak—a winemaker who tries his hand at many different varietals expands his knowledge base and learns the potentiality of each grape, thus earning his name as “winemaker”.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: I like to make wine. Man the Maker, Man the Winemaker.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1991 Russian River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon released in 1993, June.


AGENT RED: Greetings, Frane. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Estate Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

WINEMAKER: Well, back in the old country wine was give to us children at dinner (watered down, of course) – I believed this to be an inclusive sort of cultural rite of passage thing. But then I figured out that it was used more as a sedative to get us to calm down in the evenings and I soon felt cheated and would tolerate no more water in my wine – this ultimately inspired my style of celebrating varietals, all of them in their glory, without additives.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

WINEMAKER: I drink of other peoples’ wines. There are a lot of good wines and good winemakers—some of them are not celebrated.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

WINEMAKER: I make it to make it.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

WINEMAKER: It’s our third offspring from our estate vineyard. I like that it’s a Pinot and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. My wife says: a lot of people pretend to like Pinots but that with this one they probably won’t have to. It’s very Pinoesque with all its fennel and cola and grapefruit nuances but with a full body and a long, pleasant aftertaste.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

WINEMAKER: Salmon steaks with white wine and capers. Also; Coq au Van. I like it with any savory type of dish from Pasta Putanesca, Ciopinno to lamb to savory appetizers. I also like it as just a sipper.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?

WINEMAKER: Its diversity, its micro-climates and its cool evenings and mornings – great for Pinot. But I also like Cabs from this region – they’re more Bordeaux-style.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

WINEMAKER: Tasting, blending and bottling and… pacing.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

WINEMAKER: Buy futures because the lots are small and sell out. At a wines infancy (in the barrel) its true essence is revealed without the cloak of the oak or other nuances – assess your likability for it at this juncture, if its high, then chances are that you’ll continue to like the wine as it ages. Stage your enjoyment of the wine: one right after release (or bottling) then 2 more after 6 months, another 2 after 3 years, then the rest between 4 and 12 years. It would be like enjoying 4 or more different wines in just one wine – as it opens and develops over time. The same can be said of a glass of wine: don’t chug it. Swirl, sniff, sip and repeat that at least 4 times in at least 10 minute intervals – it’ll be like getting four wines in one.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

WINEMAKER: If you like it, it’s good.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Sunce Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

*Local Food And Wine *


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