Côte West, California
California Sales Only
|Country & Region||California|
|Producer||Bret and Kerrie Hogan|
C ôte West is an urban winery in Oakland dedicated to new world wines with old world (read Burgundian) restraint, hence the name. It’s the brainchild of Bret Hogan, aided and abetted by his wife Kerrie, and they bottle around 1,200 cases of altogether delectable wine each year.
A native of Carmel Valley, Bret studied at Notre Dame with two semesters abroad in Angers, deep in the Loire Valley. Subsequently he did a semester in Paris, had a stint with Google (in its early days!), but home brewing led him astray to Davis, where he got a degree in viticulture and enology.
In the growing season of 2013, he worked at Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Meursault, where for five months he found himself at the right hand of Dominique Lafon and his cellar master, Thierry Jasnots. It was there that his ideas about wine and wine making solidified.
He returned and started Côte West. In rather short order, he moved into a warehouse space in Oakland that fifteen years earlier had been converted into a proper winery, with real floor drains and a slab completely oriented around them. Everything needed is there to make fine wine.
Except the grapes. Consequently, Bret spends an inordinate amount of time in the field with the growers he works with and amid the vines that carry his name. A key tenet is to pick early to keep the pH low in order to have vibrant and fresh aromatics and to keep SO2 additions to a minimum.
He’s very much on the vanguard of the new wave of California wine. He’s also, bless his heart, a pragmatist.
In his words, thoughts on yeast:
No hard and fast rules here. It really depends on each specific lot based on various factors. I’m very much a proponent of native yeast fermentations where I think they can be successful, but I have no hard and fast rules. Things I take into account are the assessed strength of native yeast in the vineyard, desired fermentation temperature, and desired style of wine. For example, I let the Grenache go native in open top fermenters because the vineyard owner of that Grenache says he can get his native Grenache ferments completely through at almost up to 16%! Since I’m picking much earlier than he does with a potential alcohol of 13 – 13.5%, I’m not afraid to go native here.
Pinot Noirs get a cold soak and start to take off with native yeasts around day 4 or 5; soon thereafter I add a commercial yeast. I let Chardonnay kick off spontaneously, but then add a commercial yeast originating from Burgundy to ensure varietal correctness. These native starts bring in a certain “je ne sais quoi” from the vineyard, though I don’t rely on them entirely in all cases.
I like to ferment Sauvignon Blanc and Rosés at very cold temperatures which would almost certainly inhibit a native yeast, so I use a commercial yeast on these from the get-go.
Orange wine and Pétillant-Naturel are both native ferments to respect the traditional processes for which these wines are so regarded. So I’m all over the spectrum on fermentation approach – really depends on each lot.
Thoughts on SO2 and additions:
My thoughts on SO2 are to keep additions to the lowest amounts necessary in order to not suppress the beautiful aromas. This is one of the reasons why I try to pick early to benefit from a low pH so that tiny SO2 additions are effective. While I respect the concept of 100% natural winemaking using sans soufre, I think the total lack of SO2 allows the wines to suffer. Water and acid additions I try my very hardest to avoid altogether. This is why I spend A LOT of time in the vineyards leading up to harvest, sampling the fruit at regular intervals and running analyses on the juices. The most important decisions made all year long are when to pick and you can stay truer to your ideal approach if you’re on top of your vineyard picks so that you don’t have to compensate for things in the cellar.
I don’t make additions to cold stabilize the whites and rosés. I put them through a traditional cold stabilization process using jacketed tanks. I struggle with this decision because the energy demand is significant in cold stabilization this way, but I feel better about that than dumping strange gums into the wine which consumers are going to drink.
|Pétillant-Naturel Sauvignon Blanc||Sauvignon Blanc||Crazy beautiful vineyard at the top of a harrowing mountainous road. This was a really fun wine to make. The vineyard team collaborated with me on picking a little over one ton of the greener fruit specifically for this experimental Pét-Nat. It was the fruit on the side of the rows that was protected / shaded from the warmer afternoon sun
We pressed the Sauv Blanc 100% whole cluster and put the juice in stainless steel. The next day we racked it off the solids that settled out, and let it ferment naturally, but at really cold temperatures. We started out at 50F, but as we got closer to our target bottling of 1.8 Brix, we brought the temp down to 45 F to slow the fermentation down and not lose our ideal sugars at bottling - 18 g/L R/S. We then hand bottled under crown cap straight out of the tank.
The fermentation continued in a closed system in bottle, and went (nearly)]dry. I'm actually not sure what the R/S is in bottle, but from tasting, I'd say it's perhaps dry, but perhaps right at 2 g/L R/S - so barely perceptible at all. That was my ideal scenario - to leave a tiny tiny bit of R/S if any at all.
We riddled the bottles by hand, then froze the necks in dry ice and individually disgorged each bottle "à la volée" to remove ~ 95-99% of the yeast, then topped each one up with the same wine and crown capped them again. Then we cleaned up the bottles and hand labeled them. I think the wine finished around 6.4 g/L TA. Native ferment, no sulfur, unfined, unfiltered.
I get green apple, pear, and bready / toasted brioche on the nose, and the same on the palate, with a rich mousse-like texture while balanced with good acidity. It is served best very cold, and then if it warms a little in the glass, the classic SB thiols and perfumed notes are perceptible on the nose.
|Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley||Sauvignon Blanc||Gianquinto Vineyard, located in a cool pocket of Russian River Valley, has striking red clay and Goldridge loam soils. When this fruit is ready to be harvested, it has mature fruit flavors yet fully-intact acidity. This ideal chemistry makes it easy for us to fulfill our mission of minimal intervention in the winery. We handle the wine gently, which preserves the naturally-occuring dissolved CO2. This lifts fruit freshness and acidity. The maturation in 77% stainless steel and 23% neutral French barrels keeps this wine lively and balanced.
On the nose, this Sauvignon Blanc offers lime, passion fruit, honeysuckle, and floral notes. On the palate, this dry wine has zippy acidity and hints of peach and green apple.
|Sauvignon Blanc, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak||Sauvignon Blanc||Pine Mountain Vineyard, which climbs up to 2,800 feet on a peak that rises above the northern edge of Sonoma County, has volcanic soils which are well-drained and mineral-rich. The maturation of the wine in 80% stainless steel and 20% neutral French barrels lasts 5 months.
This Sauvignon Blanc offers a bouquet of perfumed lychee fruit, lime, grapefruit, passion fruit, honeysuckle, and orange blossom. On the palate, it is a very dry wine with zippy acidity and hints of peach and green apple.
|Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast||Chardonnay||La Cruz is a sustainably farmed vineyard located in the Petaluma Gap. The multi-layered, mineral-laden clay soils were formed from ancient seabeds. The Chardonnay is planted on a beautiful slope facing the Petaluma River at the tip of the San Pablo Bay. The vineyard is influenced by the cooling influences of the Bay as well as an opening in the coastal hills to the northwest, both of which allow fog from the Pacific to flow freely through the vineyards. This cooler microclimate results in more intense flavor development while preserving a refreshing acidity.
On the nose, there is lovely citrus fruit, brioche, and a hint of vanilla. This is a medium-full body wine with good acidity and notes of green apple, citrus, and caramel. The La Cruz Chardonnay truly embodies a meeting ground between white Burgundy and California Chardonnay.
|Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast||Pinot Noir||La Cruz is a sustainably farmed vineyard located in the Petaluma Gap. The multi-layered, mineral-laden clay soils were formed from ancient seabeds. The Pinot Noir is planted on a gentle slope just below the parcel where we source our Chardonnay. The vineyard is influenced by the cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay as well as an opening in the coastal hills to the northwest, both of which allow fog from the Pacific to flow freely through the vineyards. This cooler microclimate results in more intense color and flavor development while preserving a refreshing acidity.
On the nose, this is undeniably Pinot Noir. It is intensely aromatic, floral, and earthy. It offers lots of red fruit, spicy black pepper, and a touch of vanilla. On the palate it is rich in strawberry and sarsaparilla, has a seductive body, supple tannins and pleasant acidity.
|Grenache, Dry Creek Valley||Grenache||Mounts Family Vineyard is known for growing exceptional Rhône varieties. Their rocky soils remind us of the Southern Rhône where large rocks at the base of the vines absorb the sun’s heat during the day and radiate the warmth to the vines during the cold nights.
In Spain the variety is known as Garnacha, and in France it is called Grenache noir. This Grenache is made from clone 362, a favorite among many winemakers of the 22 Grenache noir clones. It was harvested on September 5 at 23 Brix, fermented 100% whole berry with native yeasts, and pressed to barrel where malolactic fermentation occurred. The lees were gently stirred during the first month of its 11-month maturation. The wine was racked one time, a month before bottling.
The resulting wine is all about texture and finesse. It has a rich, seductive mouthfeel, cinnamon and candy fruit roll-up aromatics, and bountiful, yet elegant red fruit on the palate.
|Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville||Cabernet Sauvignon||Krueger Lane Vineyard is located in Coombsville, Napa’s most recently recognized sub AVA. It lies in southeastern Napa, at the southern section of the Vaca Range. The vineyard’s unique deep red earth is comprised of volcanic soils and alluvial deposits. Temperatures during the growing season are moderated by the vineyard’s proximity to the San Pablo Bay, just to the south. This cooler climate, relative to the hotter parts of the valley to the north, permit longer hang time on the vines. This contributes to more complex flavor development, all while keeping sugars and alcohol in check. The wine was matured for 22 months in French barrels (one third new oak) before bottling.
This Cabernet Sauvignon has a dark red-purple hue. The nose is rich, exhibiting ripe red fruits, a touch of vanilla and mocha. On the palate, this wine exudes black cherry, and chocolate. The finish reveals good acidity and smooth, elegant tannins.
|Rosé of Counoise, Dry Creek Valley||Counoise||This rosé was made from whole cluster pressed Counoise, a variety more commonly found in the South of France that is ideal for rosé. Mounts Family Vineyard is located in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County and its third-generation growers were among the first in California to introduce Counoise to the region.
The vineyard has striking red, rocky soils which are rich in iron volcanic deposits. This hardy vineyard site with plenty of sun has the potential to produce bountiful yields. To minimize those yields with a focus on quality, this Counoise was grafted to a devigorating rootstock. The vineyard team also made multiple passes in the rows throughout the growing season to drop fruit. The resulting concentration of flavor is quite apparent.
Intensely aromatic, bright and perfumed red fruits bound out of the glass. On the palate, this dry rosé has a rich body, yet lively acidity. The juxtaposition of this lush mouthfeel and bracing acidity makes this a very versatile rosé.
|Rosé of Grenache||Grenache||From whole-cluster Grenache grown in fine silt and clay loam soils and picked early to capture lively acidity and to keep alcohol in check. It ages 5 months in stainless steel. While pale in color, this rosé is concentrated, full-bodied and intensely aromatic. It showcases an exquisite bouquet of strawberry, bosc pear, and melon.|
|Rosé of Zinfandel||Zinfandel||From whole-cluster pressed Zinfandel grown in sandy, decomposed granite soils formed by an alluvial fan in Contra Costa County. The ancient vines were originally planted in the 1880's; the vineyard has been owned and farmed by the Del Barba family for almost a century.
Aged in stainless steel for 4 months. Red fruits spice and peppery Zinfandel on the nose. On the palate, this dry rosé showcases strawberry and raspberry, has great structure and lively acidity.