Coro Mendocino, a look back

Coro Mendocino, a look back

The 2015 Graziano Coro Mendocino represents our 9th vintage of Coro we have released since its inception in 2001. As most of you know we decided to skip the 2008 through 2012 vintages because we believed those were years not good enough to produce a Coro. This caused some discourse in the Coro Mendocino group but ultimately proved to be a valuable lesson for the future if the Coro concept was to survive. As one of the founding members in 2000, I believed correctly that it was going to be a difficult road to build a wine on the European model because no one in America had done it before. I knew from experience that it had many positive, but also a few negative, connotations and results. In my heart I knew that the story was important but ultimately the quality of the wine was going to decide its success or failure.

The Appellation Controlee concept was started in France and Italy and was implemented by the governments and trade organizations to control and improve the quality and integrity of wine that was produced by the wineries and vineyards. This was gravely needed because there were many bad and fraudulent wines produced in Europe for centuries. In the European model the Appellation Controlee was established to regulate all aspects of grape growing (the type of soil the grapes were grown in, the varieties used in the production of the wines, the amount of tonnage that was produced and the area in which certain grapes were grown, etc.). This system proved to be extremely valuable and the quality of European wines has improved greatly since 1935. We in California had the very same problems. As grapes were planted throughout California in the mid to late 1800’s the growers had no idea which varieties, regions, or which methods and combinations were going to make the best wines. Like Europe, it took centuries for us to learn which of these combinations produce the best wines. In fact, we are still learning. Look at what we have done and are still doing to improve the quality and diversity of wines by planting new and unfamiliar varieties in California. Coro is and was a gallant attempt to improve the quality and reputation of Mendocino wines.

Many have asked me how Mendocino winemakers and I came up with the laws and regulations that control Coro Mendocino. It took many years, many hours of discussions, many tastings, and much trial and error to come up with the rules that regulate its production. We discussed which varieties produced the best wines in inland Mendocino, which wines had the most history, and which wines cultivated adequate acreages to build a base wine for Coro. It was pretty unanimous that Zinfandel fit the bill. Like the European model, we also asked each other which varieties blended best with Zinfandel to improve the wine and might also improve the quality in case it was having a difficult time in a certain vintage. That answer was a bit more difficult but luckily we had many other varieties to work with in the county. Many of us knew from experience that the old-world varieties grown here like Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, Carignane and Charbono can give Zinfandel added color, tannins, acidity and general complexity to improve the wine. This is much like Merlot and Cabernet Franc help Cabernet Sauvignon produce better more consistent wines, especially in certain vintages. The one wild card in this whole Coro puzzle was the Italian connection. Knowing Italian wines and Italian varieties as I do, the Italians do a lot of blending to create better, more complex wines. I also knew with my experience with Zinfandel that many of the Italian varieties such as Sangiovese, Barbera, Montepulciano, and Dolcetto make great blending partners with Zinfandel.

The last remaining issues with Coro, which were many, had to do with the aging of the wine, the analytical make-up of the wine, the name, the branding (packaging), and the judgement and enforcement of quality. As far as the aging of Coro, we decided that the wine needed to be aged in barrels for a minimum of a year with 18-20 months being the maximum along with a certain amount of new oak. Personally, I would like to see 2 years in barrels, but it is an all-for-one, one-for-all concept. We also knew that one year in the bottle would be very advantageous for the wine, which is mandatory. The analytical aspects of Coro are also very important. The total acidity, alcohol, volatile acidity, pH, and the residual sugar all must fit into a specified range so that the wines will all age well and the quality can be controlled. When looking for a name for the wine and the packaging you might imagine there were many hours of heated discussions, and you would be right. Finally the name Coro was chosen for it means chorus in Spanish and Italian – many voices singing one song. We also decided that a single label was best to promote the image and recognition of the wine. Finally, we knew that the control of the quality and integrity of Coro was foremost. That is why the wine is tasted blind by Coro winemakers and others many times during the years to make sure that the wines are solid and lack any defect that could hurt its quality and reputation. Also, the wines have consistently scored well with the wine writers of the world.

So after some 18 years in the making what can we finally conclude about Coro? Personally, I believe the Coro wines are some of the best and most consistent wines produced in America and all of us who have worked in producing Coro Mendocino have very much to be proud of! There are now several other wines produced in America, such as Lodi Native, that are based on many of the principles of the Consortium Coro Mendocino. Please enjoy the 2015 Graziano Coro Mendocino and please purchase additional bottles for your cellar while they last. You won’t be disappointed!

Originally published in Graziano Fall 2018 Newsletter 

2015 Graziano Coro Mendocino

Coro Mendocino is a collaborative effort started by eight Mendocino winemakers in 2001 to create a class of distinctive wines that showcase the rich heritage and unique characteristics of Mendocino County. This is the first time in U.S. history that vintners have set blending and aging parameters for wines distinctive to a region (i.e. like the appellation controllee wines of Europe). Each winery created its own individual blend based on the protocols and each blend is reviewed by a panel of winemakers in four blind tastings before the wine is accepted as Coro Mendocino. All of the fruit must be exclusively from Mendocino County with a requirement that Zinfandel be at least 40% of the blend. Each winery personalizes the common label, which will be recognizable as Coro Mendocino, and bottles the wine in a uniform bottle. Coro comes from the Latin meaning “from many into one”.

Our 2015 Coro Mendocino is produced from some of our best Zinfandel vineyards, Foster, Zeller and Tournour, all located in Redwood Valley. They were harvested from September 15th to October 10th 2015 and crushed into open top fermenters with 4 days of cold soak, pumped over and punched down twice a day for an average of 14 days. The wine was then barrel aged a total of 20 months in French Burgundy Vosges Forest oak (40% new), heavy toast with toasted heads. The wine was bottled on 8-22-2017 and has now received over 1 year of bottle age before release.

This is a unique blend of old-vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and three classic Italian grape varieties: Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto which have come together to create a wine that has great structure and elegance. Aromas of intense plum, black cherry, coffee and spice that weave through the full-bodied, complex mouth-feel, culminating in a rich harmonious finish laced with great acidity, vanilla, earth and toasty oak. The wines complexity and depth of flavor will continue to evolve with further bottle age.

Blend: 56% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 11% Barbera, 11% Sangiovese and 11% Dolcetto Cases Produced: 217 Alcohol: 15.5% Total Acidity: .78 gms/100 ml PH: 3.28 Residual Sugar: 0.3% (Dry)

Greg Graziano

Greg Graziano is the winemaker and founder of Graziano Family of Wines in Mendocino County. As a 3rd generation wine grower in the region, Greg upholds his family tradition and love for Italian wines. Greg and his wife, Trudi, live in Ukiah with their two daughters, Alexandra and Isabella.