Coro MendocinoCORO Mendocino: Must Try  Zinfandel Wine Blends by: Laura Ness

The concept of CORO Mendocino is simple: make Zinfandel-based blends using an approved list of varietals that are grown in Mendocino county and make them taste great. Put them all in the same kind of bottle, with the same label and same packaging. Sell them as a set by vintage, as well as individually. It’s been going on for 15 years now. It started as a conversation between longtime friends and winemakers in Mendocino’s Ukiah Valley and grew into a movement. A cool logo and cartouche for the bottles inspired wearables, etched wooden boxes, magnums for wine auctions, release parties, dinners, bocce tournaments and more. People even got tattooed over it.

Coro MendocinoCoro, which means singing with one voice, is an attempt to do just that. Why Zinfandel? Because Mendocino’s Ukiah Valley is home to some beautiful old vine Zin that lends itself nicely as the backbone to a big brute of a wine. But when you add Syrah, Petite Sirah and other elements, like Carignane and Grenache, the experience is transformational. Think of it as Mendocino’s special signature wine: nobody else does anything similar in the US. It’s been likened to Chianti, but it’s much more creative than that. All the wines are blind juried several times throughout their development process, which means the final products are noteworthy and without fault.

Coro MendocinoThe true beauty behind this project is the fact that it’s a cooperative effort, with winemakers collaborating to do their best work, to advance their own winemaking techniques and to improve the overall quality of the wines coming out of the region. Although the players have changed throughout the years, there are still a core group that keeps their hand in it, moving it forward, creating wines that stand the test of time.

Vintage 2011 was a notoriously difficult one in much of California, but it certainly did this crop of wines a big favor, knocking the alcohols way down. As a result, these wines are perfect for food, and the spicier, the better. For the most part, acid levels are ideal.

We tasted all 8 and ranked them from 1 to 5. It was clear where the preferences lay, but in the end, they were all exceptionally delicious with the menu.

Click Here to Watch Wine Oh TV’s video coverage of Mendocino Wine Country

On The Menu


Artichoke and jalapeno dip with crackers

Goat Cheese served with plum jam and crostini



Main Dish

Grilled boneless leg of lamb marinated 72 hours in herbs and spices, including mint and garlic, served with a reduction of plum jam, balsamic, wine and Worcestershire.

Side Dishes

  • Roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta and red pepper flakes
  • Potatoes Au Gratin, with Swiss and Gruyere, layered with roasted sweet yellow peppers, Fresno and Anaheim chiles
  • Roasted rainbow carrot tart with caramelized onions and parmesan
  • Asparagus and rainbow carrot quiche with roasted green chiles

The key to developing the rich flavors of the carrots is to cook them in cranberry pear balsamic until soft, then convection roast them at high heat with jalapeno garlic olive oil, blood orange olive oil, blackberry ginger balsamic, and the secret ingredient I pretty much use across the board, Omnivore Salt, which you can buy online. It’s excellent stuff, especially fab in egg and cheese-based dishes. It makes roasted veggies of all kinds just that much more tasty.

Wine Notes & Ratings

Each wine was scored on a 1 to 5 point scale and there were 5 tasters. The total score appears in parens. The blend composition is followed by the stated alcohol percentage.

Barra of Mendocino: (22)

Blend: 69% Zin, 25% Petite Sirah, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon: 14.5%

Notes: Pleasing Cab aromas lead to slightly sweet flavors tinged with pepper, a good satiny texture and a grippy finish

Winemaker: Owen Smith

Brutocao Cellars: (14.5)

Blend: 52% Zin, 27% Barbera, 11% Primitivo, 10% Carignane: 14.7%

Notes: Fairly simple, straightforward, soft and redolent of very ripe cherries.

Winemaker: David Brutocao

Clos du Bois: (22)

Blend: 50% Zin, 37% Carignane, 10% Petite Sirah, 3% Syrah: 13%

Notes: Aromas of raspberry and plum lead to energetic and engaging flavors of cranberry and baking spice. Great acid, lovely tannins, good structure and pleasing finish.

Winemaker: George Phelan

Fetzer: (14)

Blend: 48% Zin, 30% Syrah, 21% Petite Sirah, 1% Mourvedre: 14.3%

Notes: Smells like a blackberry bush: comes off quite tight and young. On the palate, has generous, angular tannins and requires time to open and be approachable.

Winemaker: Zidanelia Arcidiacono

Golden Vineyards: (28)

Blend: 65% Zin, 25% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah: 14.62%

Notes: Gorgeous, appealing nose redolent of toasty oak. Flavors of blackberry and blueberry jam are delightfully wound into the very smooth and silky mouthfeel, leading to a long and fabulous finish.

Winemaker: Dennis Patton

McFadden Farms: (23)

Blend: 50% Zin, 35% Syrah, 15 % Petite Sirah: 13.5%

Notes: Spunky notes of white pepper, coriander and sandalwood make this a very enticing wine. In the mouth, it’s spicy, smooth and delivers pleasingly integrated tannins and a bright finish.

Winemaker: Guinness McFadden

Parducci Wine Cellars: (30)

Blend: 45% Zin, 27% Petite Sirah, 20% Syrah, 8% Grenache: 14%

Notes: This really smells like Zin, with jammy fruit and generous peppery spice. Appealing from start to finish, it has good structure, energetic flavors good acid and a smooth mid-palate. It fires on all cylinders.

Winemaker: Bob Swain

Testa Vineyards: (21)

Blend: 40% Zin, 35% Carignane, 15% Charbono, 10% Petite Sirah: 13.5%

Notes: Intriguing aromatics make this wine a sniffer’s delight, complete with candied beets, roasted root veggies and grilled fennel. Flavors are quite similar, with roasted beets in blackberry balsamic, a hint of roasted cherry tomatoes, abundant acid, good tannin and pleasing dollops of pepper.

Winemaker: Maria Martinson

Friday, June 19: Vintage 2012 CORO Release Party Dinner in San Francisco at Dogpatch Wineworks

Join the winemakers of Coro Mendocino for an evening of fine food and wine at Dogpatch Wineworks in San Francisco to celebrate the release of the 2012 vintage. Enjoy a multi-course dinner paired with all eight of the 2012 Coro wines, and hosted by Liam Mayclem of KCBS’ Foodie Chap and KPIX 5 TV’s Eye on The Bay. The 2012 vintage includes wines from Barra of Mendocino, Brutocao Cellars, Fetzer, Golden Vineyards, McFadden, Parducci Wine Cellars, Ray’s Station and Testa Vineyards.

Tickets are $700 per couple and include a complete set of the 2012 Coro Mendocino wine collection, a $350 value.
To purchase tickets, visit


Laura NessLaura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at

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