California Stars 
“They hang like grapes on vines that shine/
And warm the lovers’ glass like friendly wine”
-Woody Guthrie 
(Sometime between 1940-1967)

Every day in California is a celebration of viticulture. The Golden State on its own is the fourth leading wine producer in the world, after Italy, France, and Spain, and is responsible for 85% of all US wine production. There are 5,900 wine grape growers and 4,200 bonded wineries across 138 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in the state, from the tiny Seiad Valley just south of the Oregon border to the sprawling South Coast AVA that reaches all the way to Mexico. Altogether, California farms 635,000 acres of vines, planted to 110 different varietals, that yield almost 4 million tons of grapes annually (1 ton = 63 cases of finished wine.) But September is specifically designated as California Wine Month, and with good reason - it falls right in the middle of harvest. From August to November, local wine labor is an all-hands-on-deck emergency of ceaseless grape picking, sorting and crushing. It is the culmination of the previous year’s painstaking cultivation, and the foundation on which the entire industry - from distribution to retail and hospitality - rests. Our three selections this quarter are thus all outstanding realizations of California harvests’ past, great excuses to raise a glass to the immense collective effort of the moment, and to the promise of good times to come that it contains.   

They are all also products of the Cochon Winery, located in the town of Sonoma, and a quintessential California endeavor in many ways, starting with the fact that its origins lie elsewhere. Before his senior year of college, beer enthusiast Adam Webb took a job at a nationally renowned wine and spirits store in his native Oklahoma City and, unearthing a passion for fermented grape juice, launched a career that would cover most aspects of the business, working in wholesale representing some of California’s finest producers, as well as some of the biggest importers like Wilson Daniels and Kermit Lynch. Becoming well-versed in the intricacies and possibilities of California soil and European varietals alike, Adam eventually moved to California and devoted all his interests and skills into making local wine using the techniques he had learned from his favorite Continental vignerons. The winery was initially called Odisea, the Spanish word for odyssey as he  made his first wines from Spanish varietals like Garnacha and Tempranillo-based wines. Adam honed his skills working  a harvest with Elyse winery in Napa Valley, and a stint in the McLaren Vale in Australia, focusing on making Rhône varieties. This led to the creation of Cochon Wines, originally conceived as focusing exclusively on Rhône varietals aged in 300L French oak barrels, called hogsheads, nicknamed hogs, and prized for yielding rounder, softer textured, and more elegant wines. This is where Cochon - the French word for hog- got its name. In 2016, he expanded Cochon’s remit to encompass Burgundian varietals focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. This coincided with the winery’s move to Sonoma County and the opening of the tasting room on the Sonoma Square, which is definitely a destination to make time for when you’re in the area. We are featuring Cochon’s Pinot Noir, from Anderson Valley fruit,  the “Whole Hog” Blend, composed of Rhone favorites  Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignane, Cinsault and Viognier, and the Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Each is a remarkable exercise in patience, attention and discovery that yield very little actual product (75, 100, and 180 cases, respectively), tendrils in the heaventree of California fruit, but all the more representative for it. Our state is stippled red, white and pink (and golden all over etc.)  with so many different grape constellations, Ursas Major (Gallo, the largest producer in the world), and  Minor (innumerable nurseries and backyard vineyards), plus distant, unmapped vines wanting plotting, that there’s always more to explore, learn, grow and taste. This land is everybody’s land. 

The PlumpJack Wine Buying Team 

Cochon Fog Chaser Pinot Noir, Perli, Mendocino Ridge 2020

Region / Country of Origin: Mendocino Ridge, California

Vineyard Site:  In their  quest to make world-class coastal influenced, site driven Pinot Noir, the 2020 vintage and its wildfires sent Cochon north to the unaffected coastal regions of Mendocino County. Perli Vineyard lies within the Mendocino Ridge appellation and is 7 miles from the Pacific and a towering 1800- 2200 feet in elevation. This coastal AVA requires vineyards to be above 1200 feet in elevation and be within 10 miles of the Pacific. The elevation literally makes the vineyard site an island in the sky above the fogline. The vines benefit from the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean and the lingering fog which makes for an extra long growing season. The combinations of complex, rocky ancient oceanic sedimentary soils, mature vines planted in 2001, Dijon Clones and the cooling effects of the area's coastal fog provide the perfect growing conditions for Burgundian style Pinot Noir and help to make this elegant yet structured wine.

Winemaking: The fruit from this site was picked at night and brought into the winery in the early morning hours in mid-September. Half of the fruit was  destemmed leaving 50% to ferment whole–cluster. Prior to fermentation the grapes were chilled to 50 degrees in a small open top tank and held for 5 days to cold soak before a natural fermentation began from the grapes own native yeasts. During fermentation the grapes were punched down two times daily for a period of two weeks before being pressed and transferred to French oak barrels 40% of which were new for natural malolactic fermentation and aging. The wine aged in barrel for 18 months before being racked and bottled unfiltered

Tasting Notes: Showing a bright ruby-red color with an intense floral perfume. Violets and lilac burst from the glass with baked cherries, kirsch, wild blueberries plus hints of forest floor, black tea, vanilla and spice. Medium-bodied, brimming with energy with a mouth filling texture and a concentrated core of mixed mineral laced red fruits that mingle with spice on the palate, all carried and lifted by a lively acidity  that creates tension and lift in the wine. Elegant and polished with a silky-velvety,  supple texture and fine-grained, integrated tannins on the long and savory finish.

Winemaker: Adam Webb

Price per bottle / Price per case:

$40.99/btl $442.69/cs

Suggested Food Pairing:

Savory wild mushroom bread pudding, Beef Bourguignon, cheeses like Brie, Camembert, Gruyère or goat. Chocolate covered strawberries.

Cochon Whole Hog, Sonoma County 2021

Region / Country of Origin: 

Sonoma, California

Vineyard Site: Syrah is the backbone and foundation of this special Rhone blend. Jemrose Cardiac Hill Vineyard located at the northern end of the Petaluma Wind Gap between three mountain peaks benefits from an extremely cool, fog influenced climate, steep, well drained rocky, clay-loam soils and a unique north facing exposure which descends from 900 feet down to the valley floor. Cochon  took Syrah Clone 470 from the steepest blocks. This vintage includes a small amount of Clone 877 Syrah from Cherry Ridge Vineyard, managed by Dutton Ranch in the cool, foggy Green Valley of Russian River Valley, with its well-drained Goldridge soils adding a concentrated, spicy, low yielding intensity. They  also used a block of Old Vine Grenache at Sceales Vineyard in Alexander Valley. Planted in 1914, Sceales has been managed and lovingly cared for by Ralph and Janice Sceales for the last 40 years. The Vineyard is planted on a gentle slope in classic Alexander Valley in heavily cobbled, alluvial soils. The Mourvedre and Carignane are pre 1900 old vines at Oakley Road Vineyard in deep sandy soils from Contra Costa County lend some old world Rhone charm. The Cinsault is from the oldest plot of its kind, gnarly, 130+ year old, bush vines at Bechthold Vineyard in Lodi.

About the Winemaking: Each vineyard was allowed to reach full maturity late in the season, after which the grapes are delivered to the winery in the early morning. Upon arrival the grapes were gently de-stemmed and placed into open top fermenters for cold soak and primary fermentation using only native yeasts. 50% of the Syrah and Grenache as well as 25% of the  Mourvedre from each lot were fermented whole cluster for added spice and complexity. The grapes were punched down by hand two times daily for a period of 2 ½ weeks till each wine was dry. The wines were gently pressed and transferred to a mix of new and seasoned 300 liter French oak Hogsheads, nicknamed HOGS, for malo-lactic fermentation and aging for 16 months, then bottled unfiltered.

Tasting Notes:  Displays a saturated opaque purple color. Aromas of brambly, spicy black cherry, Crème de Cassis and ripe blackberries mingle with touches of white pepper, crushed stone, grilled bread and forest floor. The flavors follow the aromatics and are deep, complex and concentrated with dark plum and vanilla persisting and a medium to full bodied richness. Dense and structured yet remains surprisingly plush and rounded with a supple texture. Finishes long and lingering with ripe, dark fruits, peppery spice and dusty, integrated tannins.

Winemakers:  Adam Webb

Price per bottle / Price per case: 

$25.99/btl  $280.69/case

Suggested Food Pairing:

Ribeye steak, marinated BBQ beef, roast chicken, root vegetable stew,  Manchego, Camembert, and Emmental cheeses.

Cochon ‘Eleve’ Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, Crouse, Napa Valley 2019

Region / Country of Origin: Napa Valley, California

Vineyard Site: Crouse Vineyard is a 16-acre vineyard planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon located in the heart of the Mount Veeder appellation of Napa Valley. Mount Veeder is a volcanic peak that rises to over 2600 feet. Most of this beautiful appellation is covered in Oak, Madrone, Laurel, Fir and Redwood trees with sweeping vineyards carved into the steep hillsides. This is mountain farming at its best. The rugged landscape and diverse volcanic soils produce extremely low yielding, but intensely concentrated fruit, which makes for wines with amazing complexity. Crouse ranges in elevation from 700 to just over 1000 feet. In 2016, Cochon selected fruit from the Bacchus Block. This unique steep terraced hillside block is literally carved into the mountain! Still youthful, it is  planted entirely to Clone 337 Cabernet Sauvignon producing extremely small berries and tiny yields. A perfect site for élevé!

About the Winemaking: The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Crouse’s Bacchus Block are so unique and distinctively flavored. The primary  job in shepherding grapes to glass is to capture that very essence with as gentle handling as possible. The grapes were hand picked in the early morning, gently de-stemmed, the fruit sorted and whole berries gravity fed into an open top fermenter for cold soak and primary fermentation using only native yeasts. Grapes were then punched down by hand  two times a day for approximately two and a half weeks after which the wine was pressed into French Oak Barrels, 60% new, for malo-lactic fermentation and aging. The wine , aged in barrel for 30 months, was racked and bottled unfiltered.

Tasting Notes:  Displays an opaque, deep purple color and an expressive nose of Crème de cassis, mulberries, burberry pie and licorice with hints of olive tapenade, mountain underbrush, pencil shavings, tobacco and cedar. Medium to full-bodied and rich with a core of concentrated black and blue fruits coming in savory layers, accented by dusty earth, bay leaf and spicebox. Firmly structured and vibrant, the complex fruit is supported by fine powdery tannins that intermingle with the fruit and linger on the long, elegant finish.

Winemaker: Adam Webb

Price per bottle / Price per case:  $62.99/btl  $680.29/cs

Suggested Food Pairing: 

grilled veal chop with morel mushrooms, Beef Tenderloin Au Poivre with blue cheese potato terrine, cabernet tellicherry demi glace, 

Suggested cheese pairings: Asiago, Cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan, Pecorino, Blue Cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, Taleggio

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