Friday, September 15, 2023

PureCru (Napa) Lodi Rosso Sangiovese 2017

PureCru (Napa) Lodi Rosso (Sangiovese) 2017

This is from well known California Winemaker, Mitch Cosentino who has been making wines in Northern California since 1980 when at 28 years of age, he began Crystal Valley Cellars, where he produced wines at a winery in Santa Clara and two wineries in Sonoma County before setting up operations in Modesto and later moving to Lockford, producing wines under the Crystal Valley Cellars and Cosentino Select  labels. 

Mitch produced award winning wines winning medals at the Orange County and Los Angeles County fairs in 1982. In 1986 Cosentino won Best of Class and a gold medal at the Los Angeles County Fair for several of his wines bottled under Crystal Valley Cellars. In those early years he sourced most of his grapes from Central Valley vineyards, but later he began sourcing more grapes from vineyards closer to the coast. 

In 1990 Mitch opened Cosentino Winery in Napa Valley which he operated for 20 years, selling out in late 2010. He consulted for the new owners for a few years but is no longer involved, however, his former winery still carries his name, a tribute to his work in developing the property and brand.

PureCru wines released their first wine in 2007, primarily focused on Napa grown wines from local vineyards, however, some of their wines such as this one, are sourced from other parts of Northern California. PureCru wines do not own any vineyards, rather they source the grapes from relationships with premium vineyards that Mitch has developed over his long career in the valley.

“For many years, I had been reminiscing about creating a small, hands-on winery, like I had in the beginning; the result was pureCru where I released my first premium vintage in 2007, says Mitch.” The pureCru label and brand he regards as a “Winemakers Wine Project,” as he is personally involved in every aspect, from the vineyard to the bottle. 

PureCru Wines was originally established as the result of a business partnership between winemaker Cosentino, a grocer broker, a real estate developer and an oncologist, partners that shared mutual interests in winemaking and golf. So, he and the three friends formed pureCru to focus on small lot wines that are handcrafted to be enjoyed on their own or with food. Today, pureCru Wines is owed by the Scotto family, proprietors of Scotto Cellars.

This label is sourced from family owned and operated farmer growers Mohr-Fry Ranches who started back in 1855 with just row crops and over time grew to develop vineyards and farming 12 varieties of wine grapes, 2 varieties of cherries and over 25 varieties of dry heirloom beans. 

The agricultural history of the Mohrs and Frys dates back to the 1850s when Bruce Fry's great-great-grandfather on Jerry's mother's side, Cornelius Mohr left his job on a whaling ship in the port of San Francisco and began a farming operation on a Spanish land grant in Mt. Eden near what later became Hayward. Today Mohr-Fry Ranches farm 12 unique varieties of wine grapes in Lodi in the central valley of California.

With over 165 years of farming in California over 5 generations, Mohr-Fry Ranches consists of 5 properties in the Lodi area. The grow 12 varieties of wine grapes they grow are: (Alicante, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier & Zinfandel). 

I take a little bit of umbrage with the branding of this wine as the label prominently features the "PureCru Napa Valley" logo implying this is a Napa Valley wine consisting of Napa Valley fruit. While they produce several other labels of such wines, this one is sourced from Central Valley fruit from vineyard sources around Lodi.

While this wine is produced and bottled by PureCru Wines that is based in Napa, it is not a Napa Valley wine. This is misleading and takes improper liberties leading consumers to the believe this is a Napa valley product. Only when one reads the rear label is there a reference to Lodi, while both front and rear labels sport the PureCru logo with the word Napa Valley. 

Wine labels are mystifying and confusing enough for consumers without misdirection or misleading information added. I think this is wrong and should be corrected. 

I am surprised Napa Valley folks don't address this since appellation rules cite that for a wine to be labeled "Napa Valley", it must be at least 70% sourced from Napa Valley fruit to bear that designation on the label. Otherwise, this should rightfully be labeled California or some other specific designation. 

No other region in America commands a greater 'tax' or premium on its wine prices than Napa Valley, as witnessed by the escalation in land prices and associated wine prices over the years. That said, its egregious to attach a Napa Valley label to a wine sourced from Central Valley California - especially in light of the specific rules associated with such labeling. 

In any event, I picked up this Sangiovese based wine, albeit California Sangiovese, at the recommendation of wine merchant Michel Chang at Malloy's Finest wine shop in Lisle ((IL). I try to stop in and support him and other local wine merchants as the Chicagoland market becomes more and more dominated by big box wine and beverage super store Binny's who now has 45 outlets and take a larger and larger market share. As their market presence and share increases, their margins and applicable prices and discounts have become increasingly predatory and less consumer friendly. 

Perhaps Cosentino and Purecru were held to task and they corrected their alleged mis-deeds because as I pull up this label on  Cellartracker, the on-line repository of a million labels, I only find 2017 pureCru Rosso di Sangio in which the 'offending' Napa Valley designation is missing.

Another (the only) Sangiovese label listed on the pureCru website is 2016 Purecru Sangio Vetta. The description states, “Proving that Sangiovese can triumph in Northern California, this small production, 38-month barrel-aged red shows all the charm of old-world acidity and vivid red cherry. Its juicy middle is armed with oregano and chervil, with chalky plum skin tannins and a weaving of salty minerality." - Meridith May - Publisher’s Picks"

Composition: 93% Sangiovese, 7% Merlot Winemaking: Each lot was hand-picked and destemmed where it was fermented and then aged individually, primarily French and eastern European oak barrels for over three years then blended about a month prior to bottling. It is released when it is considered ready for tasting, much like a Brunello. Historically this wine from its hillside vineyard has a potential for developing and complexing for up to two decades.

Tasting Notes: Briary with red and black fruit, rhubarb, and baking spices that tend to dominate upfront. Big structured and intense pomegranate and plum with ripe tannins, minerally mountain characteristics. Brunello style, polish, and balance with depth and long aging future. - Mitch Cosentino, Winemaker

Under the "Wine Specs" for that label, it specifically states, Appellation: Napa Valley.

The Cellartracker community records show nine vintages of this label dating back to 2007. Five vintages show labels, four of which refer to this wine being Napa Valley Sangiovese, except the fifth for the 2007 vintage, which interestingly designates "California Sangiovese".

Notably, that label logo for PureCru, does not mention Napa Valley. Should this same treatment be applied to this 2017 Rosso label as well?

Other similarly situation and branded PureCru wines and their appellation designations are:

2015Rosato di Sangio Lodi
2014Purety White MeritageNapa Valley
2013ChardonnayNapa Valley
2012Sangio VettaNapa Valley
2009Pure Coz Red BlendNapa Valley
2017pC VerdelhoLodi
2017pC RosatoLodi
2015pC RossoLodi

I don't know or can't tell the intent, or the outcomes of this branding confusion, so I leave it here. 

Never-the-less, the focus on Sangiovese by Cosentino continue where he writes:

From pureCru "Spotlight on Sangiovesse", 4 wines from 1 grape ... Rosso di Sangio,  Brut Rose, Nuovo, Rosato

From Mitch: "While pureCru Winery is a Napa Valley Winery, occasionally we will acquire grapes from an old Lodi family that has been growing prized fruit for many decades. I first discovered them in the early '90's. I found Mohr-Fry vineyards to be growing grapes to Napa Valley standards. Exceptional quality with excellent balance. I still use several grapes they grow for clients for whom I make wine. And I still use one of their youngest vineyards albeit about 25 years old. The grape is Sangiovese. This vineyard is quite amazing because over the years I have made award-winning Red and Rose wines from these grapes."

This offering is somewhat unique, based on rare American, California (not Napa Valley) Sangiovese. The specific label from this vintage calls this PureCru (Napa Valley) Rosso. The rear label denotes Lodi Sangiovese and mentions the Mohr-Fry vineyard sources. It states the blend is 89% Sangiovese and 11% Alicante Boushete.

Traditional Rosso comes from the Italian designation once called 'Vermiglio' (vermilion), Rosso di Montalcino, a dry, fruity red wine produced in the village of Montalcino in Tuscany. Rosso comes from the same area of origin as the prestigious Brunello di Montalcino, sharing the same Mediterranean climate and also based on 100% Sangiovese. 

In the modern era, Sangiovese is now blended with Bordeaux varietals in the Tuscany region in wines called Super Tuscans, a branding and wine style that has gained much notoriety and become very popular. As noted, this wine is a blend is 89% Sangiovese and 11% Alicante Boushete.

Somewhat opaque garnet colored, medium bodied, notes of black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of tobacco, black tea and hints of smoke and oak with a smooth moderate finish. 

RM 89 points.

As noted above, this Cellartracker record and label did not exist until I created it just now.