Cosentino Crystal Valley

Napa Valley AVA

Cosentino Winery Creates New Ways to Bottle Success

From the beginning, Mitch Cosentino became known for innovation. He released the first sparkling Blanc de Noirs bottled in a traditionally shaped clear bottle. His first table wine released was a Merlot at a time when very few people knew what is was. Then in 1982 came the most far reaching development, with the successful production of premium Chardonnay from the Central Valley of California. Cosentino’s Crystal Valley “Deer Creek Vineyard” Chardonnay made entirely from Sacramento County grapes was the very first from that region. Some say the growth of Chardonnay as the leading “Fighting Varietal” had one of it’s key beginnings then and there.

Later in 1987, he produced a Red Meritage wine he called, “The Poet”. This wine was the first Meritage in America to be designated and licensed as such. Since it’s debut, every vintage of “The Poet” has been highly awarded and acclaimed. It is regularly one of the most often written about red wines.

Cosentino also pioneered efforts in the production of Cabernet Franc. What has traditionally been thought of as merely a blending varietal wine, Mitch, perhaps more than any single owner/winemaker has elevated the wine into a prominence of it’s own in America (see We’ll be Franc With You in this publication). He has worked with this grape from fifteen different vineyards in four countries over the past eight years. Cosentino’s Cabernet Franc is the “World’s Most Awarded Franc” and the first to be served at the White House. It is the standard that all others are judged by.

In the past ten vintages, Cosentino wines have won nearly 400 medals in wine competitions across the country. In fact, these awards have included over 20 “Best of Show”, “Best of Class”, Best American”, and “Best California”, in addition to the many Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals. Cosentino Winery in it’s 12 short years has earned a solid reputation for producing some of the finest super-premium wines in the business.

The winery began with the 1980 vintage. It was originally known as Crystal Valley Cellars/Cosentino Wine Company. Founder and winemaker Mitch Cosentino started in a 2000 square foot rented room, inside the wine warehouse at Stanislaus Distributing in Modesto, California. The first wines were released during the holiday season of 1981. For four vintages, Cosentino sold 75% to 90% of his production to larger wineries in Sonoma, Napa, and Monterey counties. By the mid-eighties the direction of the winery had focused entirely on the super-premium segment of the industry. And in 1986 the primary name switched to Cosentino Winery.

In 1990, after five years of planning and development, Mitch Cosentino moved his winery lock, stock, and barrel to Napa Valley. Visibility, was the key to his move. “We like to be able to meet the people who drink our wine” he says. “Even though we built a solid reputation for our wines, it was unusual for people to track us down to visit in Modesto.”

The new winery, which cost an estimated $1.5 million to build, sits north of Yountville, just south of the Robert Mondavi Winery, and next door to well known Mustard’s restaurant (see map on page 5). It is situated in the heart of Napa Valley, surrounded by some of the most famous vineyards in California. The winery produces about 12,000 cases a year, and will allow for expansion of up to 25,000 cases. “We don’t want to be big,” says Mitch. “We just want to do a better job than the rest!”

We hope you enjoy this month’s special wine discoveries, produced by a truly innovative winemaker. The Cabernet Franc is a delicious rare treat for wine enthusiasts. Those of you who are not familiar with Cabernet Franc will be genuinely impressed with it’s richness and pleasantly smooth aftertaste. With it, we feature his wonderful Chardonnay. The 1990 vintage was held to only 1200 cases-about one third less than the last several vintages. So this wine will not be available for much longer. Each vintage of Chardonnay has been recommended by the wine media since the first release seven years ago. It is a classic rich and creamy, oak flavored wine which you’re sure to enjoy!

Mitch Cosentino

Mitch Cosentino, founder, winemaker and President of Cosentino/Crystal Valley Cellars, has spent the past ten years filling many roles in the wine industry. His diversified background includes being a winemaker, wine educator, professional wine judge and guest speaker.

Only 37 years old, Cosentino gained his practical experience from many distinguished colleagues who, teamed with his own stubborn exuberance, are responsible for his progressive application to the art.

A native of California who is aware of and utilizes many of the ideal climate regions in the state. He selects the grapes for his wines on a vineyard by vineyard basis, without regard to specific appellation.

He was the instructor at the Modesto Junior College for 5 years in basic enology and later, wine appreciation. He has also been a guest lecturer at Sonoma State College.

A professional wine judge for the past five years, Cosentino is in regular demand at many National and International competitions. Mitch also finds time to offer his winemaking knowledge as a consultant to various retailers, restaurateurs and other wineries. In 1984 he was awarded the Eighth Annual Wine Ambassador by the wineries participating in the Riverbank Wine Festival-by far the youngest ever chosen. He joins the ranks of other distinguished Ambassadors such as Robert Mondavi, Edmund Rossi and John Parducci.

As winemaker of Cosentino, he has received over 70 awards in the past two years alone. These include winning more medals than any other winery at both the California Wine Awards and the International Eastern Wine Competition in 1985.

Cosentino wines have been served at many prestigious events involving dignitaries such as President Bush, Queen Elizabeth, The Prime Minister of Italy, former Governor of California, George Deukmejian and Senator John Glenn, to name just a few.

Caution! You may be hooked on Cabernet Franc after you taste this month’s featured wine

Cabernet Franc has been traditionally thought of as a wine used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux-type blends. It’s ‘roots” are from France where Cabernet Franc comes in two styles. One style primarily made in the Loire Valley, is delicate, light and fruity, used to blend with Merlot. A second style is a more powerful St. Emilion blend which has been the model of choice for U.S. producers, and where it’s popularity is on the rise. Over the past decade about two dozen wineries in California have vinified a varietal Cabernet Franc. And only a few of those wines have been widely acclaimed. Cosentino Winery is clearly America’s premier producer of Cabernet Franc.

The 1985 vintage of 200 cases was called ‘Ambitions”-it sold out within weeks. The 1986 vintage production jumped up to 500 cases-other winemakers said they’d be selling that vintage for the rest of their lives. But after being highly recommended by virtually every writer and wine publication, the vintage was gone in less than two months. Not only was it the first Cabernet Franc ever to be poured at a White House State Dinner, it was also the most awarded red wine in the U.S.

The 1987 Napa-North Coast was 1000 cases, also highly acclaimed and was sold out in a matter of a few months. The 1988 continued the string of Gold Medal winners. The Cabernet Franc of 1989 is upholding the fine reputation of it’s predecessors, pulling in critical praise from wine writers and competitions across the country. Cabernet Franc is truly a grape destined to carve out a strong niche in California. There are over 1600 acres planted in California. Napa county is highest in plantings with 600 acres. Sonoma is next with 500.