17 Jan Please The Palate Wine of the Week: Côte West Wines 2019 Counoise, Mounts Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley
According to the California Grape Acreage Report, as of 2022, there are only 65 acres of Counoise planted in California but only 59 of these acres are bearing fruit. When you realize that there are 95,000 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 47,000 acres of Pinot Noir planted, you realize how little Counoise is available. So when I saw a bottle of wine with Counoise on the label, I knew I had to have it! That is why the Côte West Wines 2019 Counoise, Mounts Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley is the Please The Palate wine of the week.
About Côte West Wines
Bret Hogan is the co-founder and winemaker of Côte West Wines, an urban winery in Oakland, California. Bret started his career working in customer service and sales in the tech industry and brewed beer in his free time. Knowing he wanted to do something different, he thought about making wine. His first step was purchasing grapes on Craig’s List. He liked making wine and applied to UC Davis for a Masters degree in Viticulture & Enology. But he delayed attending for a year to get experience at a larger winery and spent a year at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa. Then while at UC Davis, Bret was awarded the Taste d’Vin fellowship which resulted in spending a year working at Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Meursault, Burgundy.
Bret returned to California and worked for a winery in San Francisco. Then in 2014, he started Côte West Wines with his wife Kerrie. He made Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the first vintage, adding Sauvignon Blanc in 2015, Rosé of Counoise in 2016, and Grenache in 2017. In 2018, they moved into their current facility in Oakland and added more grape varieties to their program. Today Côte West Wines produces 13 different wines.
Bret sources grapes from distinct Californian sites with unique weather patterns, terrain, and soils that lend themselves to excellent wine and produce wines in an old-world Burgundian style. Côte, which refers to a hillside, seashore, border, or one of those rare sloped regions that are home to the world’s most interesting vineyards, west brings the “old world” and “new world” together. Grapes are picked early for fresh acidity and lower alcohol and minimal sulfur is used.
Counoise is a variety more commonly found in the South of France. It is a late ripener and often the last variety to come off the vines during harvest.
Bret was having trouble finding Cinsault. A friend said he knew someone in Dry Creek Valley who had Counoise. He drove to Mounts Vineyard where there are 4 acres of Counoise planted. Planted in 2012, the Mounts family had thought they had planted Cinsault, only to find out three years later it was Counoise. The Counoise is planted in red rocky soils that are rich in iron and volcanic deposits.
Bret gets 2 acres of Counoise from Mounts Vineyard. He first purchased Counoise in 2017 and made rosé. But in 2018, he made three rosés from Counoise, Grenache, and Zinfandel and had too much. So, in 2019, he made a red wine from Counsoise.
Counoise produces big clusters and the vines are expressive thanks to poor soils. Bret puts 15% whole cluster grapes at the bottom of the tank and tops it with 80% destemmed fruit. This results in a subtle carbonic effect which elevates the fruit character of the wine. The wine is pressed into neutral barrels and the free-run juice and pressed juice are kept separate until the end.
The wine is a translucent color with a very pretty aromatic nose of strawberry, cherry, earth, and floral notes. The inclusion of stems adds a little spiciness. On the palate, the wine is light to medium-bodied with dusty tannins and juicy acidity.
The Côte West Wines 2019 Counoise is a food-friendly wine. I enjoyed it with baked salmon and roasted potatoes. It can also be enjoyed with ravioli, seafood and sausage jambalaya, pizza, or roasted chicken. It is very versatile and quite tasty!
Where To Purchase
The Côte West Wines 2019 Counoise, Mounts Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley retails for $32 and can be purchased directly from Côte West Wines. After 2019 sells out, there will only be rosé of Counoise available.