Côte des Cailloux
Glen Ellen, Sonoma Valley, California
The first time Jacques Mathieu tasted a Coturri wine, he hailed it as “a revelation,” deciding then and there that he wanted the Coturri team to assist with his own project. A French ex-pat, Jacques has had a long and successful career as an architect, and while he still dabbles in the field, he has largely retired to his home in Sonoma, on the outskirts of Glen Ellen. It is there that he planted the Côte des Cailloux vineyard in 1996 as a field blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Cinsault, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, and Chasselas.
The vines are planted on volcanic bedrock with almost no topsoil. In fact, the soils are so hard that they had to use a jackhammer to plant the vineyard. The careful positioning of the vines around the hill takes advantage of the varied exposures and allows the disparate grape varieties to ripen at roughly the same time. Jacques’ home sits atop the vineyard hill.
Vinification is done at Coturri Winery, where Tony Coturri pioneered low intervention wines in California and has continued to make distinctive wines for almost four decades. Phil Coturri originally assisted in the planting and maintaining of the vineyard, while Tony helped with winemaking until 2011. The project is now managed as a collaboration between Jacques and Nic Coturri, Tony’s son. Nic has brought his own perspective to the project, re-training the Grenache vines from Cordon to Goblet and picking at a lower brix. The results can be seen in the 2014 red, which balances power and finesse.
In addition to the Rhône-style red on offer, they also make miniscule amounts of a white blend from Rhône grapes sourced in Hopland in Mendocino, as well as a fortified Zinfandel from Côte des Cailloux and the Sky vineyard.
Côte des Cailloux Rhône Blend Red Sonoma Valley 2014
A field blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Syrah, Viognier, Counoise, Chassellas. This remarkable wine is spontaneously co-fermented in a handful of old oak casks, then aged for a year before bottling. There’s a freshness and liveliness to this wine that belies it’s 15% alcohol. The wine reminds one of nimble Chateauneuf du Pape, like great Beaucastel or Henri Bonneau.