John is a retired Army officer, lives 15 miles from Hopland, tastes and writes about wine. Expect a very different piece, as anything I wrote would have been informed by my experience as an Army non commissioned officer, living 15 miles from Hopland, tasting and writing about wines. Okay, this might be very similar to something I would write, and I have written about Coro Mendocino, Mendocino County’s flagship wine, about a hundred times, but as with all wine, the story of Coro continues to unfold with each new vintage.
John Compisi is the first wine writer invited to join the Coro winemakers for the unique collaborative blind tastings and this, as well as future pieces, by John will chronicle that process.
Coincidentally, I was at this tasting, representing Guinness McFadden, for the day. The experience was wonderful, I knew how it works but being part of it, even once, was illuminating.
Without further rambling, enjoy this guest post by John Compisi, originally published Sunday, January 25, 2015 at Examiner.com:
Last week, nine Mendocino winemakers rendezvoused at Parducci Cellars in Ukiah for their second consultation in a collaborative process to create the 2013 vintage of Coro Mendocino. This is the first in a series of reports meant to examine the winemakers, the wines as well as the highly defined parameters and meticulous processes they follow to achieve their collaborative and individual objectives. Concurrently, these reports are intended to help you appreciate the unique nature and heritage value that Coro Mendocino represents. Hopefully they will pique your interest and enlighten your understanding of Coro and how it is achieving its goal of producing a variety of small lot signature wines.
The Coro Consortium was created in 2000 to create a strict regional winemaking protocol similar in style and purpose of respected historical European wine regions like Chianti Classico and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The original group of winemakers chose the name Coro, Latin for Chorus, as they intended these wines to sing in harmony, with each unique voice resulting from a blend of heritage Mendocino varieties with Zinfandel as its underlying melody.
In 2001, when the founding Coro Mendocino winemakers produced their first vintage they understood they had embarked on an important and challenging journey. They wanted to showcase Mendocino’s heritage Zinfandel grapes while producing a collection of very high quality, individually unique blends that are priced and labeled to represent the collaborative nature of this endeavor. Thirteen vintages later that journey continues.
Key to establishing an identifiable wine, vintage after vintage, was to create the specific protocol involved in making, blending, aging, bottling, labeling and pricing their historic joint effort. Over the course of this series the various allowable varieties of grapes and other requirements will be discussed. For now, keep in mind that the baseline is that all grapes in the blend must be 100% Mendocino County grown with a minimum of 40% but no more than 70% Zinfandel to assure that the wine would remain a blend. The remaining percentage can be can include lesser percentages of nine other approved varieties with Mediterranean origins.
Keep in mind that this is a two-and-a-half year cycle from harvest to release. The current release is the 2011 Coro Mendocino. The 2012 Coro will be released in June. The 2013 Coro were harvested in the fall of 2013, fermented as individual varieties, individually aged in barrel for 1 year (minimum) and are now being blended in anticipation of bottling later this summer. The final blend will age in bottle for another year before their release in June 2016.
Prior to the December blending meeting, each winemaker had established their individual first best effort. They followed the prescribed protocol to create their Coro candidate using their knowledge and experience and blending their best Zinfandel with the other accepted varieties. As Mark Beaman, associate Parducci winemaker commented last week, “each vintage is like a Stan Lee comic book with at least one varietal possessing super powers!” Because the grapes in each blend come from different Mendocino vineyards expressing the unique terroir of each, the winemakers challenge is to identify and exploit the grapes with the superpowers and then creating the perfect balance for these special wines.
Last week’s meeting at Parducci Cellars repeated the sequence that had been followed at the first meeting, only this time, the percentages and varieties may have been tweaked in response to the comments from the previous collaboration. The eight (8) candidate blends were brown-bagged into 2 flights of four (4). The blind tasting is an effort to keep the collaboration unbiased as each winemaker does not know which wine is theirs. After tasting each wine, comments were made and recorded by each winemaker. Acidity, fruit, tannin, color and other characteristics were noted with a professional and collegial air for each wine. After all the wines had been evaluated there was an atmosphere of anticipation as each winemaker was anxious to see how their wine had fared. As the wines were ‘revealed’, self deprecating comments were heard, like “I knew that fruit bomb was mine”. The air of camaraderie and fun continued as another round of comments ensued once the wines and winemakers were matched. Serious, passionate, professional and fun perfectly describe last week’s blending event.
The third blending event will take place in February. Curious to see how the winemakers adjust the varieties and percentage to make the 2013 Coro Mendocino the best reflection of the 2013 harvest possible. All with the help of their winemaking collaborators. Stay tuned for the next in the report series.