Dunne on Wine: Cosentino Winery’s founder has moved on to pureCru

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 8:42 AM

To allow Napa Valley visitors with either their first or latest taste, few wineries are better placed, and on any given day scores of wine enthusiasts stop and stroll into Cosentino Winery.

Dunne on Wine: Cosentino Winery’s founder has moved on to pureCru

Cosentino Winery stands along the W side of Highway twenty-nine in Napa Valley, just N of Yountville, following to the restaurant Mustards Grill. To allow Napa Valley visitors with either their first or latest taste, few wineries are better placed, and on any given day scores of wine enthusiasts stop and stroll into Cosentino Winery.

One who doesn’t is the man who built the space and established the winery’s reputation for forthright varietal wines and harmonious blends, Mitch Cosentino.

He drives right past, reminding himself that he’s a member of a tiny and choose community of other winemakers whose eponymous family wineries have been acquired by corporations: Mondavi, Martini, Mirassou, Parducci and so on.

“I am only one of many,” Cosentino says. “The key is I'm still making wine, and I've my own winery elsewhere. That's necessary to me as I obtain to do what I wish to do and not conform to any corporate direction.”

For four decades, Cosentino has been a wiry and intense presence in the N state wine trade. He’d earned a degree in broadcast communications at CA State University, Sacramento, in one thousand nine hundred seventy-fourth, but shelved his hopes to be a sports announcer when he realized he’d have to start his career in South Dakota.

In one thousand nine hundred seventy-seventh, he went into wine sales with Stanislaus Distributing Co. of Modesto, quickly learned the trade, caught the winemaking bug and in one thousand nine hundred-eightieth founded Cosentino Wine Co. and his initial brand Crystal Valley Cellars in a corner of Turner Family Winery of Woodbridge exterior Lodi. From the start, he was recognized for his daring, finesse and astute marketing, making, among other wines, a sparkling blanc de noir called Robin’s Glow and a well-received chardonnay with grapes grown in Sacramento County.

In one thousand nine hundred eighty-sixth, he broadened his goals, bought the forty-one/two acres following to Mustards Grill and commenced to design and construct Cosentino Winery, which he opened in one thousand nine hundred-ninetieth. His wines won compliment and popularity for their authority and balance, and growth accelerated, prompting him to bring in partners and relinquish managerial responsibility, though he continued as winemaker.

More winemaking facilities, vineyards and tasting rooms were established, production rose to 70.000 cases annually, and the winery went public, but debts mounted and sales staggered, particularly during the most recent recession. Operations were dialed back; then bankruptcy was declared. “Too much money was spent too fast,” Cosentino says.

In November two thousand ten, the winery closed. Vintage Wine Estates subsequently bought Cosentino Winery, adding it to a growing portfolio whose other high-profile players comprise Swanson Vineyards, Clos Pegase and B. R. Cohn. Cosentino initially stayed as consulting winemaker, but three years ago he left the winery that bears his title and hasn’t returned.

In the meantime, however, he got the backing of three individual fellow wine enthusiasts from the Central Valley and established a new brand, . He makes the wines at Spelletich Family Wine Co., at the southern reaches of Napa, and maintains a tasting room in downtown Napa.

With pureCru, Cosentino continues to create the kinds of wines responsible for his standing in the trade – bold, taut, well-proportioned. Whether varietal or blend, they customarily carry proprietary names, a practice that Cosentino adopted early on. He’d called a blend from the one thousand nine hundred eighty vintage The Poet, which, with the one thousand nine hundred eighty-six version, became the nation’s first formally designated Meritage wine, meaning it was a wine based on the traditional grape varieties of Bordeaux. The Poet, with several other proprietary wines he introduced, such as The Novelist, continue to be made by Cosentino Winery, and he presently can’t utilize their names.

But Cosentino the winemaker never has lacked for imagination in blending or in naming his wines. Today’s pureCru lineup, for example, includes Purety, a blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc, the recently released two thousand fourteen of which is broadly and deeply floral, tropical and spicy ($25). Purety is Cosentino’s attempt to emulate the stature and complexity of Bordeaux’s Haut Brion Blanc, and if a vintage doesn’t give him the grapes to measure up to that standard, he doesn’t create it. He skipped entirely releases of Purety from the two thousand eleven and two thousand thirteen harvests.

Similarly, he makes his signature M. Coz Napa Valley, a Bordeaux-inspired blend based on cabernet sauvignon, only with vintages that yield the power and seamlessness that he wants in the wine. “I only do it in years when we know it'll be one of the best wines in the world,” Cosentino says. He’s made the wine since one thousand nine hundred eighty-eight, and says it’s won more awards than any other Meritage. The newly released two thousand ten M. Coz is tightly wound in its youth, but has the strength, structure and complexity to untwist with uncommon elegance and endurance through the coming decade ($125).

When Cosentino talks of his winemaking style, he frequently mentions his benchmark goals – prominent and distinctive aromas, notes of spice, consistency, authority, balance and mouthfeel, the latter of which amounts in large portion to soft, well-integrated tannins from the three years during which he customarily ages his ruddy wines in oak barrels.

While he continues to create vivid varietal wines, such as the pureCru two thousand fifteen CA Rosato di Sangio ($20), a brilliant, fruity and tangy dry rose made with sangiovese, he's foremost a believer that the most eloquent and composed wines arrive from blending. “Blending allows you to expand a more complete wine, and over time you memorise how to blend to consistency,” Cosentino says.

He comes up with his blends in a manner more intuitive than scientific. At minimum three times a year he tastes developing wines in scores of barrels, recording their characteristics to memory rather than tablet. “No two barrels are the same. Each barrel has its own existence. I recollect most of them. I've a beautiful excellent barrel memory,” Cosentino says.

The resulting blends nearly invariably are notable for their individuality, versatility and coherence. The pureCru two thousand eleven Napa Valley CFM is a sumptuous, spicy and sharp blend of cabernet franc and merlot ($50); the pureCru two thousand ten Napa Valley Sangio Vetta is a frank yet friendly blend of mostly sangiovese shot through with cabernet franc and merlot ($28); and the pureCru two thousand ten Napa Valley pureCoz Ruddy is both earthy and juicy, its ample fruit, wide construct and refreshing acidity making it an exceptionally accommodating and versatile dining companion ($65). “This is the wine that started the whole company,” Consentino says of the blend, which is cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and sangiovese.

While Consentino wishes he still could utilize his own title on his wines, he doesn’t dwell on the past. He’s pleased with his current arrangement and pleased to look that Cosentino Winery again is back in business. “I am pleased of what I built there, and I'd rather look the title there than as a hollow brand with number home,” Consentino says.

Wine critic and contest judge Mike Dunne’s selections are based solely on open and blind tastings, judging at competitions, and visits to wine regions. He can be reached at .

PureCru’s tasting room, one thousand four hundred sixty-three First St., Napa, in a courtyard with Oenotri, is open eleven a. m. to nine p. m. Mondays-Thursdays, eleven a. m. to eleven p. m. Fridays and Saturdays, and eleven a. m. to seven p. m. Sundays.

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