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Cosentino Wines - Napa Valley


92 Points - Wine Spectator magazine

Mitch Cosentino made America's first designated and licensed "Meritage" wine. His 1988 red Meritage wine, "The Poet", debuted at the Monterey Wine Festival in February 1989. His "new" wine won a string of Gold Medals that year, and the few hundred cases that were produced were instantly sold, ". . . mostly to other winemakers!" remarks a tongue-in-cheek Mitch Cosentino.
For those of you who have been down in the cellar too long, Meritage (rhymes with heritage) is a term used by wineries to designate their best wines blended from two or more classic Bordeaux variety grapes. To be designated a red Mertage wine, it must consist of two or more of the following varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. White Meritage wines must be a blend of at least two varietals including either Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, or Muscadelle.
The concept of blending of course, is as old as wine itself. It was sometime shortly after Prohibition that California winemakers began producing and labeling bottles as single-variety wines. The idea was to create their own winemaking identity which would set them apart from their European counterparts. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, California winemakers began to discover new dimensions of complexity in their wines by blending them, using techniques long associated with the great wines of Bordeaux. Federal regulations stipulate that a wine must have at least 75% of one particular varietal to be labeled that varietal, so they couldn't hang a consumer-familiar moniker on their wines. So rather than calling them by a meaningless generic name like, "Red Table Wine", a group of 20 or so vintners in 1988 formed the Meritage Association, to set standards and promote their "new-found" style of winemaking.
In just a few years, Meritage wines have sipped their way solidly into the American palate. Mitch Cosentino was at the forefront of this movement as he has been with other endeavors during his winemaking career. In 1981, under his original winery's name, Crystal Valley, he was one of the first in California to release a Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine. And he was the first to do so using a clear bottle. The following year he produced the first commercial premium Chardonnay made from 100% Sacramento County grapes. Following that development, over the next four years Mitch sold as much as 90% of the grapes from that vineyard to bulk producers. Some contend, that marked the beginning of the "Fighting Varietal" era–producing premium wines which are priced low to lure consumers away from mass market jug wines.
Mitch released his first wines in 1981, working from a rented 2,000 square foot warehouse at Stanislaus Distributing in Modesto, California. Those early winemaking days in Modesto were largely experimental. In a few short years though, his practical experience and guidance from colleagues had steered him directly into the super-premium end of the wine market. By the mid nineteen-eighties Mitch had developed a stellar reputation for making Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, all made from grapes grown in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. In 1990 Mitch moved his operation lock, stock and barrel, to Yountville, in the Napa Valley. The new winery cost over $1.5 million to build and sits right next to the famous Mustard's Grill in the thick of Napa Valley activity. His new facility allows expansion to 25,000 cases per year, about twice his present size.
A native Californian, Mitch has spent his wine industry career wearing many hats. Over the last fourteen years, he has earned not only a solid place in California winemaking lore, but has also been an educator, consultant, professional wine judge, and guest speaker at many major wine events.
Mitch was an enolgy instructor for 5 years at the Modesto Junior College, and also lectured at Sonoma State College. As an extension to his wine judging at wine industry competitions, he participates in wine evaluation panels for the Bon Appetit, Wine & Spirits, and Connoisseurs Guide, publications. In 1984, Mitch was awarded the honor as 8th Annual Wine Ambassador of the Riverbank Wine and Cheese Festival, preceding lengendary wine moguls Robert Mondavi and John Parducci who were chosen in the following years. Mitch also remains a consultant for retailers, restauratuers and other wineries.
As a winemaker Mitch's wines have received well over 400 awards over the past decade. Even though his Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Chardonnays and Meritage wines consistently hauled away the medals, he may be best known for his Cabernet Franc. In the mid 1980's, Mitch began to focus on this varietal primarily for blending, but also bottled it as a varietal on it's own. His Cabernet Francs have become America's most awarded wine of that varietal and in 1990 was the first ever served at the White House. Gold Medal Wine Club members may well remember the Cosentino Cabernet Franc featured in September of 1992. It was touted by Wine & Spirits magazine as the "Best American Cabernet Franc," and stands today as one of the all-time GMWC favorites.
This month, Gold Medal Wine Club's, Platinum Series, focuses on perhaps Mitch Cosentino's finest, most exquisite wine to date—his 1990, M. Coz–Napa Valley, Meritage wine. This is the third vintage of M. Coz–Napa Valley, following two other highly acclaimed predecesors. Some of you may remember reading about the controversy surrounding the wine's original name "Cos–Napa Valley." It seems that Bordeaux wine producer Cos d'Estournel felt threatened by what they regarded as a confusingly similar name—even though the name "Cos," is a nick name for Cosentino and the words "Napa Valley" were part of the name on the bottle. But instead of spending time fighting it, he changed the name to "M. Coz–Napa Valley" beginning with the 1990 vintage.
Whatever the name, it's what's in the bottle that counts! We're confident that you will find Mitch Cosentino's wine very memorable.



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