Coturri Vineyards

One of the problems with wine tasting in a large corporate wine region like Sonoma is just that, you’re going to be tasting wine in a large corporate setting that is completely divorced from the act of making wine, instead focusing on the act of selling wine. While this is somewhat of a necessity for some producers, and an ego boost for others (if you are familiar with some of the elaborate tasting facilities in napa, for instance, you are well aware of what i am talking about), i think it is partly to blame for the status of wine as luxury item in this country.

My lovely wife

The “tasting room” at Coturri

With that said my wife and i made a special trip to Coturri vineyards which is hidden way off the beaten path in the Sonoma mountains and is easy enough to miss given the complete lack of signage. this vineyard is available to visit by appointment only, but this didn’t seem to be a problem since it appeared that they only needed to make sure everyone wasn’t busy with the real work of a winery.

The barrels are kept outdoors for primary fermentation during the cold season, and then moved to an indoor cellar.

Immediately upon entry we were greeted by some 4 happy dogs, along with Nick Coturri, the 4th generation winemaker at at the winery. His grandfather came to San Francisco from Italy and worked as a barrel cooper and taught his son Harry the art of winemaking, and so on and so forth (the winery still employs a master cooper). If most of the wine from Sonoma is trying for one thing, these guys are coming from deep left field. it’s not that they are doing varietals that no one else is doing, in fact you could put their line up at any room in Sonoma. Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Chard, Zin, Carignane, and Pinot were opened for us. The difference comes in the preaparation and philosophy behind the wines. No sulfites, minimal intervention, low alcohol, biodynamic, natural yeast, unfined and unfiltered (for the most part, they make two chards with one being lightly filtered to control the cloudiness) all hand crafted from start to finish; these guys are what the term “natural wines” was invented for.

Barrels 2!

All these, while not necessary to make a good wine, really show in what these guys are doing. All of their wines are lighter and more structured than the typical Sonoma wines, and they are definitely more acidic making them a better food wine than most.

The real function of the tasting room

5000 cases a year hand bottled

The standouts were two outstanding white Burgundy style chardonnays, one being a more crisp, lean Chablis style (this is the lightly filtered wine) and an intense mineral rich floral unfiltered variety. really smart stuff. the other was the Zin, which is so far off from expected that every dedicated Zin hater owes themselves a taste of this wine. First off this wine has a complex nutty port (i would say almost port if not for the fact that it is unmistakenly port) flavor which is due to a small amount of botrytis that is allowed to set in on the grapes. If you don’t know botrytis, it is a fungus that is known primarily as “noble rot” in winemaking and gets the term noble from the fact that it contributes to both Sauternes and Royal Tokaji. Secondly the wine, despite the fact that it is sweeter, is also medium bodied unlike the palate wreckers that Zin is known for producing, and it has enough tannins to clean up after itself. The other wines tend along the same paths, offbeat, structeured and above all fine when you are expecting big, and thoughtful when you are expecting flash

Apparently these wines are not the easiest thing to get a hold of, but if you are in Sonoma and have tired of too much oak and malolactic, or if you have for thirst for natural wines, or if you are allergic to sulfites, give these guys a call.

~ by Cory Cartwright on November 29, 2008.

16 Responses to “Coturri Vineyards”

  1. hey cool blog! Sorry I bumped you out of the reading cycle. Happy late Thanksgiving too. ;)

  2. thanks for the natural wine tip

  3. Very interesting post. I actually learned something!

  4. Hello! This isn’t relevant at all, but I’m thinking about getting my parents a wine club membership for Christmas and I was wondering if you guys have any good recommendations.

    • What kind of wine club are you looking for? Single vineyard, California focused, weird wines, euro wines?

  5. I’m not really sure. A single vineyard or California focused might be nice. They aren’t very knowledgeable about wines, so it doesn’t have to be some amazing weird wine. It just has to be good, and maybe a mix of red and white wines. And also within my price range, which would ideally be around 8 bucks a bottle/2 bottles a month for 6 months.

    • Coturri has been nominated as one of the top ten “Artisan” winemakers of the world, the only one in the United States…& I live in Sonoma, as a wine buyer, and back this up completely, well…at least in Sonoma. Coturri wines are nothing I’ve ever tasted before. Yet, we must be patient when opening these wines, they deserve to be decanted ahead and the longer the wine sits the better they taste. The difference is amazing.

  6. Probably go with one of the wine clubs at K&L (they have a store in the city and one in Redwood). They offer a bunch of wine clubs with all kinds of focuses and price ranges.

  7. Hello! Somehow stumbled on this blog/post – great read. Heading to Sonoma in January… will definitely try to arrange a visit to Coturri.

    • Excellent. Just make sure you call ahead and have a cell-phone when you drive up. It is not easy to find, even with directions.

  8. Cory,
    Just found your blog a couple of days ago via Joe M. at Old World Old School. Digging it, too. I’ve added Saignée to my blogroll.

    On to the topic at hand…. What’s up with Coturri’s outdoor barrel storage? Are they looking for intentional heat exposure?

  9. That is an excellent question, and one i can’t answer with any certainty. I do know that they had just finished putting some of their wines down in barrels, so it may have been temporary. i have Nick’s card sitting around here so I will e-mail and see if i can’t get a better answer than guesswork.

    By the way my wife and i love your blog, so thanks for adding us to your roll.

  10. David,

    Tony Coturri wrote back to me and says:

    The new vintage is kept outside to finish primary fermentation before going into the cellar. All the barrels will off the outside pad by April or May, before the heat realy starts.

    I hope that answers the question.

  11. I’ve been a big fan of Coturri wines for 10+ years…their big Zin’s have a delicious Amarone style about them and the Carignane and Syrah is lucious. I recently heard that Tony Coturri consults with a winemaker near me in Texas, La Cruz de Comal, so I tried those wines, too. Giant, bold wines in a relatively new winemaking state. Don’t leave without a taste of their new Port. Small production & hard to find but I think they have a website?

    So glad I found this blog! Cindy, Texas


    They sound right up my alley, natural yeast, terroir focused, little intervention. I will get a hold of a few bottles, thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

  13. Cool post. I am always hunting Coturri wine on WineBid. None of it ever makes its way out to the east coast, as far as I’ve seen. I had a very similar experience at Tres Sabores in Napa (old Rutherford Frog’s Leap vineyards)—very cool little place, great Zin.

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