The philosophy behind Coro Mendocino tests the boundaries of the latter: get together a group of willingly collaborative winemakers from Mendocino County with a loose set of rules and see what kind of wine the group can create--together.
Now in its third year, this merry band of creative thinkers from throughout the region have bottled more than a thousand cases of wildly disparate wines under a single label, Coro Mendocino. Working as a unified team every step of the way (Coro comes from the Latin "from many to one"), the wines are peer-reviewed by the group from early in the blending process, right up until bottling. Recommendations from the amount of alcohol, to the final pH and varietal blends have to past muster democratically, with input from each of the winemakers, before getting a stamp of approval to become a Coro wine.
Setting parameters for a distinctive regional wine, though new to the US, is a practice that's been accepted for years in Italian and French winegrowing regions. The idea is to produce a new category of wines that showcase the spectrum of flavors and terroir from the county, while maintaining the individuality of the winemakers themselves.
The rules are simply that only Mendocino fruit can be used and that Zinfandel (a varietal that grows well in Mendocino county) must account for 40 to 70 percent of the final blend. After that, the individual winemakers are free to play with second and third tier varietals like Syrah, Carignane, Barbera, Pinot Noir, or Semillon. Depending on what they choose, the wines may steer more toward Italian style (using grapes like Sangiovese, Barbera or Primitivo) or toward Rhone-style wines (using Syrah), or a uniquely individual style, playing with a variety of grapes.
And though not every step of the way is smooth sailing, Fred Nickel of Brutocao Cellars says that the group has been able to agree on almost everything…with few egos getting in the way of making great wine. For the most part, he says, the winemakers see it as an opportunity to have some creative fun in a collaborative environment.
The wines, which share a common label, but also feature the logos of the individual wineries along with information about the blend, are produced annually and released during the Mendocino Wine Affair. Case production ranges from 286 (Fetzer) to 92 (Eaglepoint Ranch) though most are increasing production significantly each year.
The group hopes to increase the number of members this year, welcoming any bonded Mendocino winery. Wines are only available through the individual winery tasting rooms. All of the Coro wines retail for $35 per bottle.