Napa Valley AVA
Innovation: Consentino Style
Mitch Cosentino -
You won’t find many ‘original’ winemakers like Mitch Cosentino who admits his expertise is all self- acquired, mostly from asking numerous questions from quality winemakers. Beginning in the late 1970’s Mitch began making small batches of wine that were sold as a premium controlled label from his Modesto-based wine distributorship. He has learned from a great number of significant winemakers and considers the legendary John Parducci of Mendocino as his early mentor. He utilizes winemaking techniques from throughout Northern California, a fact he feels gives him something of an edge on regional winemakers. When the subject of wine academics comes up, Mitch states proudly that he had lectured at five different universities and colleges — and has been paid for all his speaking appearances. Cosentino has also lectured (twice) at the prestigious University of California Davis, America’s premier wine institution.
By using fruit from several regional sources, Cosentino Winery believes it has a distinct advantage over other wineries that must rely on fruit grown on its premises or fruit limited to a specific region. While Napa Valley grapes make up the greater part of Cosentino Winery’s production, fruit from other areas (Solano County, for instance) are used to produce the winery’s unique portfolio of high quality wines.
And, within the confines of Napa Valley itself, Cosentino Winery selects its fruit from an extremely large number of sub areas including Oak Knoll, Carneros, Pope Valley, Saint Helena, Oakville and Yountville. These areas consist of diverse soils and climates and tend to produce grapes that have different varietal qualities. The results of all this variation are extremely complex wines that are all brought together by the blending talents of the Cosentino Winery winemaking team.
Mitch Cosentino - a True W.I.N.O.
Like many youths of Italian descent, Mitch Cosentino first shared the joys of watered wine at his grandfather’s Sunday dinner table. The wines were homemade, but suited the family’s needs and provided the family’s youth with a pleasant introduction into the world of wine.
It wasn’t until Mitch’s senior year at Sacramento State that he seriously began taking an interest in wine. Some of his friends were into drinking better wines and Mitch found himself suddenly attracted to the wine industry. His major was broadcasting and communications, but he soon found the job market to be a major hurdle. ‘It was the mid-1970’s,” he recalled. ‘And I wasn’t particularly interested in heading to North Dakota or someplace like that to find a job. There simply weren’t that many options open to me.” Cosentino finally settled on a bottom-line salesman’s job with a wine distributorship in his hometown of Modesto. He made his first month’s numbers and was named the company’s general manager only 18 months later.
‘The business was tough competing with Gallo in its hometown,” he continued. ‘But we made it happen. Then our owner decided to begin making some wines as a control brand and the Cosentino label was born.” Since he had no real schooling in wines, Cosentino points to the fact that he asked ‘literally thousands of questions” of the assorted vintners and winemakers his company either represented or came across during his work. He hung around those he considered the best at their craft, and gleaned enough from their answers to begin making his own wines. He also was part of an extremely active Jerry Meade W.I.N.O. (Wine Investigation for Novices and Oenophiles) chapter who broadened his appreciation of fine wines and better wineries. His sales force visited numerous Napa and Sonoma wineries where Mitch was afforded the opportunity to ask more questions.
‘Someone would tell me something about winemaking and I’d go back and try out what I had been told. I also started to realize that winemaking was somewhat regionalized, and that certain areas did things one way and others did it differently. I figured out what worked best for me and that became my wine making ethic.”
As the decade of the 1990’s dawned, Mitch Cosentino became the prime mover in what was to become known as the Meritage (rhymes with heritage) Alliance, a grouping of California wineries attempting to promote the use of Bordeaux varietals under a common marketing concept with certain rules and limitations. From an original small group of only 10-12 wineries, the Meritage concept has proven very successful and today enjoys membership of more than 200 wineries that has expanded to a worldwide basis. Along the way, Mitch Cosentino has also had some fun wine projects to enjoy. He teamed with NBA superstar Larry Bird to produce a ‘Legends’ wine and also with noted professional golfer Fred Couples to produce wines under Couples’ much recognized name. Would the revered winemaker who is turning 59 this year ever consider retiring’
‘It’s a lot like playing golf,” he explained. ‘I’ve never heard of anyone playing a perfect round. It’s the same way with me. I’m going to continue to try and find the pinnacle of wine, and make the perfect wine for my customers. Besides, most people retire to the wine business, don’t they’” Mitch Cosentino is a rarity in the wine business and is decidedly individualistic in his approach and his specific beliefs. His legions of fans are loyal and dedicated and even his detractors give him the nod for his amazing resilience in the face of adversity.
Simply put, the California Wine Industry is a much better place with the inclusion of Mitch Cosentino.