Driving down Highway 29 in Napa Valley I spied the ivy covered grand front entrance of Cosentino Winery. Then I recalled the many times Mitch Cosentino came to Santa Clarita Valley to do tasting events for Valencia Wine Company. There were many locals that were enamored with Mitch’s wines. Fast forward a few years and the winery was bankrupt, and part of Mitch’s exit involved leaving his name behind.
I’m sure there is more to it than that, but that’s how I recall it. I sought Mitch out later, via his new Napa tasting room, with a new front entrance that now simply reads “Pure Cru”. The winemaker is the same, the only difference I noted was that the price points seemed much more reasonable than other Napa wines, and made the wines much more accessible.
After visiting Mitch a couple of times it got me to thinking. How many wineries are out there with a name that no longer truly represents the wine? Is this lost on the consumer? Does it matter? To me it’s the winemaker that makes all of the difference, wouldn’t others notice that too?
Below please see my Facebook roundup – you may be surprised to find out that a favorite winery no longer has its namesake at its head. In others, especially older wineries where the namesake is no longer living, you shouldn’t be too surprised, but don’t assume a family member is at the helm, or has the same degree of talent as the originator.
The Name Changers
“…One of the places I mentioned to Eve was Parducci. Another not listed here is Mirassou. Swanson was just added to the list. There were many more…” Mitch Cosentino.
“Arrowwood, Pretty-Smith, Beringer, Franzia, Callaway, Charles Krug, Firestone, Deloach, and Fetzer are just a few of the many wineries that are no longer controlled by their founders and namesakes. There are many.” Gary Eberle.
“Stags’ Leap, William Hill, Wild Horse, Chateau Montelena, Cuvaison, J Winery, B R Cohn, Von Strasser and Benzinger. To name a few…” Mitch R.
“Justin.” Jo T.
“Sanford.” Denise L.
“Robert Mondavi.” Kai E.
“Louis Martini.” Lee W.
“Kuleto.” Lisa B.
“Some change the name from the original owners, such a Sawyer in Napa becoming Foley-Johnson, and Stuart Cellars in Temecula becoming Bel
Vino.” Tom D.
“Byron.” Lee T.
“William Hill.” Vincent B.
“Raymond.” Kazia S.
“Erath.” Jaff H.
“Parducci in Mendo-Land has no Family members working (or controlling) the business.” Art N.
“Gary Farrell.” Mark N.
Do consumers care?
“I believe that only in the “cult” wine world do the consumers care as they are mostly tiny to small operations, family run. If you look at all the wineries controlled by Constellation, Gallo and Treasury, thriving because most consumers don’t worry about who owns the wines they like.” Art N.
For me, I think the consumer just needs to be aware. There are several reasons to buy your wine from a winemaker you like, and not just a brand you are used to: you can be guaranteed that the product that you are after has been crafted by the hands you expect.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com