SONOMA MOUNTAIN WINERY / Niccolo Arturo Coturri
Glen Ellen, Sonoma, CA
The Coturris have always been pioneers. They arrived in California from Farneto, Italy in 1901, already winemakers in the old European model. But it wasn’t until 1979 that Harry ‘Red’ Coturri and sons Tony and Paul went on to found the winery that would become the seat of natural winemaking in California. Today the Coturri estate up on Sonoma Mountain might be one of the region’s most venerable, but it remains one of its most progressive, too.
In 2009, Niccolo Arturo Coturri set out on his own and launched the Small Vineyard Project under his Sonoma Mtn Winery label. In essence, this is a cluster of small vineyards that Nic had grown up tending organically, and in 2009, he finally had the chance to start using the fruit.
His philosophy, like his father Tony’s is zerozero. Add nothing and take nothing away. The project’s vineyards are spread wide throughout the higher elevation parts of Sonoma Valley, a clutch of different aspects, micro-climates and grape varietals planted largely on gravelly loam, clay and granite. Everything here is dry farmed, worked by hand, to organic and biodynamic principle. In the winery, Nic works with ancient open-top fermenters from the local redwood, indigenous yeasts and no sulphites to make wines guided by, but not ruled by, pre-Prohibition, old California styles and techniques.
Almost a decade in, and SMW is already somewhere very different than where it began. The more classic ‘old Coturri’ library bottles of 2009 are shapeshifting and finding an identity which is old-school and avante-garde both together. That means co-ferments and field-blends that speak to the essential tradition that arrived with Italian immigrants in 1800s California, but also a return to 1960s California-style single-varietal Cabernets, Merlots, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that were all but obliterated by Napa oak-bombs of the 90s and 00s. And yet, all of the SMW wines reflect an an unbounded expression and creative freedom that is Nic’s own.
Seeing his wines in the UK and Europe is something that Nic feels strongly about. This is his great-grandfather’s heritage and, when Enrico Coturri first passed down the Italian tradition of winemaking to his son Red, he instilled in him a Central Italian farmer’s palate. So any Coturri wine makes sense in Europe. In particular, we’d look to the Testa Field Blend — an honest, old Italian jug-style wine made with the Testa family’s immaculate grapes from dry-farmed old vines that date back over 100 years. And to a hard cider that’s not cider as we know it: a Californian hard cider becoming Pet Nat, pure cloudy, single-varietal juice from an indigenous old Californian apple, the Gravenstein. These are projects that span categories and make up their own space. We think: make room for them.
Each SMW wine is vinified differently, but in broad strokes, berries are de-stemmed but only partially crushed, leaving 10-20% intact during the fermentation. All wines are aged in neutral French oak, never fined nor filtered and racked directly from barrel.
Vineyard: 30 year old vines on Les Robles clay loam/clay loam
Cellar: short maceration in open-top fermenters, then pressed off skins; 9 months in neutral French oak, bottled from barrel.
Vineyard: 25-30 year old vines on Goulding Clay Loam (gravel clay) and Arbuckle Gravelly Loam
Cellar: 10 day maceration in open-top fermenters, 12 months in neutral French oak, homogenization in stainless steel.
Cuvee no.1 (Merlot/Syrah/Cabernet/Zinfandel/Chardonnay
Vineyard: multiple vineyards, mixed soil; zinfandel from 40 year old Home Farm vines.
Cellar: co-fermented maceration over 10 days, then 18 months in neutral French oak; bottled from barrel.