by Fred McMillin
for November 16, 1999


Grow It for The Poet



1980, Modesto, Central Valley, California—Wine distributor Mitch Cosentino, (pictured) is complimented frequently by producers as having a "winemaker's palate." ...Anthony Dias Blue, American Wine

The Rest of the Story

So this is what Mitch did with that gifted palate.

Mitch Cosentino

Mitch Cosentino

1982—First, he rented a corner of a Modesto warehouse. Crystal Valley Cellars was born. "With a low overhead and a busy mind swarming with new marketing ideas," before long Crystal Valley was the second largest producer in the Central Valley, second only to Gallo. Critic James Halliday recalls that while most of the wines were "strictly Central Valley" types, Mitch also produced his first serious wine, a 1982 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. IT WON A GOLD MEDAL.

1990—Those winning wines were made from grapes Mitch purchased outside the Central Valley. So, as this decade started, that "winemaker's palate" spotted a little (6-acre) tract south of Robert Mondavi in the Napa Valley. Modesto's Crystal Valley operation moved north and became the Cosentino Winery.

The Wines

The successes continued. Here are a few highlights. Cabernet Franc—The 1992 won "Best American Franc" at a major show and was served at the White House. Chardonnay—The Sculptor Chardonnay was judged "superb" by critic Prof. John Baxevanis. James Laube gives it a rousing three stars. Bordeaux Red Blend—Because the blend allows such a free reign of ideas, the Consentino product is called The Poet, and that's today's wine.

1996 The Poet Meritage Red Table Wine
Appellation—Napa Valley
Winery—Consentino, Yountville, CA.
Varietals - Cabernet Sauvingon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot
Winemaking—Punched cap fermented; unfined
Production—Only 1,050 cases
Contact—Julie Harrelson, (707) 944-1220, FAX (707) 944-1254
Price—$40 range

Postscript—About Punched Cap Fermentation

Fermenting red wine extracts color and flavors from the wine skins. But they don't cooperate. The skins tend to float to the top, forming a "cap." The easiest way to re-mix the two is to pump the juice from the tank up over the cap. However, Mitch compared that with pushing or "punching" the skins down into the wine...with punching, the cherry-berry flavors were more intense, the tannins were richer and less harsh. The Cosentino Winery was the first to put "punched cap fermentation" on its label. Speaking of firsts, The Poet was America's first licensed Meritage wine (and every vintage has been a gold medal winner!)

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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