Throughout California and the U.S., wines are labeled by their varietal names, providing the wine contains more than 75 percent of the stated grape variety. When the wine is a blend of various grapes, none of which constitutes a 75 percent majority, winemakers may call it by a proprietary name of their choice— even “Red Wine”—without having to list the varietals on the label. In addition, to have the region or appellation on the label, 85 percent of the wine in the bottle must come from that appellation.
However, in France, Spain, and Italy, all wine labels bear the names of the districts and villages from which they come, such as Chablis (France), or Barolo (Italy), which are named after their respective districts or communes. These European appellations are also required to abide by regulations and limitations in order to do this, including being judged as representative of the region, and undergoing a “taste test” to confirm a similarity to other wines of the region. To date, there has been no U.S. equivalent to this process—until recently.
Following the lead of these European appellations, several Mendocino County California winemakers formed a consortium a decade ago to create and bottle a blended wine to showcase zinfandel, considered to be the heritage varietal of Mendocino County. They decided to call the new blend “Coro,” from the Latin for “chorus.” This would be the first wine of its kind in the U.S. to set blending and aging criteria for a wine distinctive to its region.
As with the European wines, the Coro Mendocino wines must follow strict rules concerning wine chemistry and barrel and bottle aging before the release of this limited case production, all of which are produced at the Parducci facility in Ukiah. Every Coro wine requires only Mendocino County grapes be used, and only from their respective estate vineyards. The participating wineries must begin with 40 to 70 percent zinfandel, which may be blended with up to nine additional varietals, in homage to the many old Italian “field blends” once produced locally. Each winemaker creates a blend that doesn’t just represent Mendocino but also their own individual style.
In order to be certified, the Coro wines must pass a review by a panel of winemakers. There are four blind tastings before the wines are accepted and certified to carry the Coro Mendocino label. Once they pass, they’re bottled in a uniformly standard bottle, labeled and marked with the Coro seal.
The 2011 vintage marks the 11th release for Coro Mendocino, and includes wines from eight diverse Mendocino County vintners. To celebrate it, the consortium is holding a release party on June 28 at the Little River Inn, in Mendocino County. You can find out more about the wines at coromendocino.com