A Blended World of Zinfandel

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Published on April 25, 2022 7:54:40 AM PDT April 25, 2022 7:54:40 AM PDTth, April 25, 2022 7:54:40 AM PDT

Why does a winemaker blend grapes? Because varietals won’t typically show the same complexities and character if the grape varietal stood on its own. The signature blends of Coro Mendocino wines prove that blending is an art mastered by the winemaker who thinks outside the blend.

When it comes to winemaking, California is a highly competitive state, and to get an edge in the wine industry, you’ve got to do something different. Enter the Consortium of Mendocino. Wines certified by Consortium Mendocino carry the Coro Mendocino crest and label to prove they were, in fact, evaluated during a series of blind tastings.

Rankings of 8 wines I favored:

Greenwood Ridge Vineyards sits in the heart of Mendocino County on a 1,250-acre estate vineyard. Its 2017 blend of zinfandel, grenache and petit syrah was... oh my, so delicious! This deep garnet wine burst with a bouquet of expensive candy. On the palate, the most elegant, exquisite blend of premier berries enthralled my senses. Ooh la la. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was sipping on Chateauneuf du Pape! Kudos to winemaker Antoine Favero.

I opened my DNA Vineyards bottle the night after my dear friend headed home after spending two weeks of fun in the sun with me. Once she left, I felt the need to treat myself to something special, and this DNA Vineyards bottle proved itself as such. It was the perfect genetic blend of zinfandel, syrah, petite sirah and primativo. Dennis Patton, the winemaker behind this elegant Mendocino wine, deserves a round of applause for blending a flawless ratio of these four grapes.

BARRA of Mendocino is a sublime blend of 60% zinfandel, 32% petite sirah and 8% cabernet sauvignon. The grapes for this wine were sourced from the hillside that overlooks Lake Mendocino and Bella Collina. This is an organically-farmed vineyard, thanks to winegrower Charles Barra. A bouquet of red berries and cocoa lead to a palate of mixed red and dark berries with a tight tannin structure that doesn’t overwhelm.

Parducci is better known for its deep roots and legendary wines. This 2017 vintage blend of 53% zinfandel, 24% petite sirah, 20% syrah and 3% Carignane speaks of Paducci’s success. Smooth, velvety mouthfeel and balanced enough to make this a drink-alone option -- and a winner. Greg Winter, winemaker for Paducci, has earned his Coro Mendocino status and then some.

The 2017 GOLDEN is a Coro Mendocino blend of certified biodynamic grapes grown in Hopland, Talmage and Redwood Valley that include 45% zinfandel from 80-year-old vines, 35% petite sirah, 10% syrah and 10% cabernet sauvignon. This is truly a red blend and difficult for my palate to differentiate any one varietal.

TESTA Vineyards began circa 1912 with Italian-born Gaetano Testa. Today, his great granddaughter Maria Martinson is the fourth-generation winemaker who blended this Coro Mendocino certified wine with an Italian slant. This 2017 TESTA Vineyards blend is 60% zinfandel, 20% Carignane, 10% barbera, 8% petite sirah and 2% charbono. It’s quite different from the Greenwood Ridge Vineyards wine and no doubt, the barbera and even the tiny bit of charbono and petite sirah add a complexity and smoky note of an Italian deep red wine.

Jaxon Keys sits in the heart of Mendocino County on 1,250 acres of estate vineyard. Blending for Jaxon Key Coro is a work of artistry, and this blend of 51% zinfandel, 21% syrah, 20% petite sirah and 8% primitivo proves its master status. The secret sauce may be the primitivo, which is genetically the same as zinfandel; both are clones of the Croatian grape, Crljenak. This is a welcome blend and soft on the palate. Aged for 18 months in French oak, bottled unfiltered.

The Brutocao Family owns three Hopland ranches in Northern California: Bliss, Feliz, and Contento. They strive to produce Old World wine styles. This 2017 Coro Mendocino Brutocao blend with 57% zinfandel includes sangiovese, petite sirah, barbera, primitive and syrah. This wine didn’t wow my palate – too many cooks in the kitchen, or in this case, varietals in a bottle.

All of these wines are worthy, and I urge to you Coro as much as possible. Oh, and did I mention there's a Coro Wine Trail?

Greenwood Ridge Mendocino