Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Coro Mendocino Wines & Elk Creamery Cheese Workshop

In sleepy Mendocino County lies a well kept secret that's starting to burst at it's seams - Coro Mendocino Wines. The Coro Mendocino line is an amazing and unique collaboration between 10 vintners to create a truly remarkable style of wine. Brutocao Cellars, Dunnewood Cellars, Eaglepoint Ranch Winery, Fetzer Vineyards, Golden Vineyards, Graziano, McDowell Valley Vineyard, McNab Ridge Winery, Pacific Star Winery, and Parducci Wines have all joined together to breathe life back into an ages old method of blending wine.

In a Workshop at Slow Food Nation 2008 Joe Golden, of Golden Vineyards, and Julia Kendrick Conway, of Slow Food Mendocino County, articulately presented three vintages of Coro Mendocino wines paired with Elk Creamery Organic Black Gold. Working through from '03 to '05 Joe and Sally articulately described the truly unique process of Coro Mendocino Wines and how this collaborative came to be.

Northern California in the late 19th century was not a kind place to miners who sought their fortune in the gold rush but found little in the form of riches. It was these settlers who planted the first grapes in Mendocino County, seeking to replicate the wines they enjoyed in Europe before immigrating to the United States. In the United States it most common to enjoy a bottle of wine produced from a single varietal, thought by most to be the purest way to enjoy a wine. Europeans however, have long enjoyed blends of grapes - artfully pairing each grape to bring out the subtle nuances lost when a grape stands alone. The vintners of Coro Mendocino wines strove to imitate the methods of European wine makers and blended the grapes grown in Mendocino county. The Coro Mendocino partnership came into being in 1998 with their first production of wine in 2001.

Each vintner grows and produces their own wine, but each is subject to a strict protocol developed by the collaborative.

The base of the Coro Mendocino wine is the grape that put California on the global viticulture map, Zinfandel. A Coro wine must be no less than 40% Zinfandel, but no more than 70%. The remainder of the blend is at the discretion of the specific vintner, but must be composed of either Syrah, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Sangiovese, Grenache, Dolcetto, Charbono, Barbera, or Primitivo. These grapes must not outweigh the Zinfandel, though and all must be grown in Mendocino County. Each wine must be bottled and labeled in accordance with the Coro Mendocino Production Protocol and must then survive 5 blind tastings to finally achieve the coveted Coro seal (pictured above).

The specific guidelines and rigorous testing of each wine results in a distinct blend for each of the 10 wines, but the standard is unparalleled. Each wine tasted at the Slow Food Nation Workshop was individually excellent, but having the advantage of tasting nine wines of three wineries of three vintages allowed a unique glimpse into the consistent quality of the Coro Mendocino style.

The nine wines, of Graziano, Golden Vineyards, and Pacific Star Winery, paired with The Elk Creamery's Black Gold cheese revealed pleasant notes in each component. The wine accented the creaminess of the Camembert style goat cheese. Unique with it's organic vegetable ash coating, the Black Gold is a truly remarkable cheese. Lush and smooth with a subtle tang the small wedge proffered for the wine pairing was hardly enough to sate my appetite. After aging for 9 weeks the cheese is runny enough to spread on a crusty baguette, but with enough elasticity to provide an amazing texture. The Black Gold is an outstanding cheese alone or accompanied by a glass of wine.

The Elk Creamery was the first, and is still the only, organic goat dairy in the state of California. Certified by the USDA, they specialize in artisanal farmstead style cheeses (meaning made by hand and with only milk from their own farm). Located on the Pacific coast in Mendocino County, Elk Creamery has been supplying local stores and restaurants with their delectable cheeses for three years. Their products are also available in a small selection of other stores scattered throughout the country.

Edited 9/4/2008: Correction of name of co-host to Julia Kendrick Conway of Slow Food Mendocino County.


Katie said...

I love wines from Mendocino County! My favorite is Ed Meades Zinfandel.

NorCal Foodie said...

Sweet Bird,
Could you correct your post please? I was Joe Golden's co-host, and my name is Julia Kendrick Conway, not Sally Ottoson. Sally is one of our Coro winemakers, and though we are both blond and tall, I am (unfortunately) not her. I am a caterer and culinary educator, and the leader of Slow Food Mendocino County. You can view my website and my blog at Thanks, and otherwise, a wonderful rendering of the workshop! Ciao

Sweet Bird said...

Julia - I'm so sorry! I can't believe I made such an huge mistake. I couldn't hear Joe when he was beginning the workshop and after a very long day completely spaced on speaking to you after the workshop. Thank you so much for letting me know!

NorCal Foodie said...

No worries, thanks for correcting. We are so glad you enjoyed the workshop. My brain was also fried after 4 hours of meetings in the morning and 1.5 shift at the Mendocino Wine table in the Taste Pavilion. I topped it off Sunday with guiding a Slow Journey to Mendocino County. Let me know if you are even up and I'll give you some tips on where to visit. Ciao-Julia

Cheryl said...

Oh, thank you for sharing the Elk Cremery black gold goat cheese! Next time we are in Northern CA, I'll look for it! I just found your blog today and I LOVE IT! Check out my feeble attempt: winefoodandphotos. Have you visited the wineries near Paso Robles? Some good ones there.

The Housewife said...

I enjoyed your lovely post and am happy to hear about Elk, CA. I've lived in Northern California for 10 years and have traveled up and down the cost but have missed Elk! I hope to make it a destination in the very near future. It looks like a lovely place! Black Gold looks like a very good reason to make the drive there :)