Coquerel Vineyard was founded by Brenda and Clay Coquerel in 2006 with the purchase of an existing vineyard on Tubbs Lane in Calistoga. Several years later they sold part of this vineyard and acquired one of their neighbors vineyard’s – today they have a total of 12 planted vineyard acres
Brenda and Clay are high school sweethearts from Abilene Texas. Clay is the founder of Cockerell Dermatopathology, a medical lab based in Dallas, Texas. Both Brenda and Clay have collected wines for 30+ years and have always enjoyed French Wines especially from the Graves sub-region in Bordeaux, France. They fell in love with Napa during an anniversary trip. While visiting the valley, Brenda decided she wanted a wine project – they started with the vineyard, then they started making wine commercially. Today they produce about 4000 cases annually.
With a love for French wine, the Coquerel’s found Christine Barbe – a Napa Valley based winemaker originally from France who honors French wine-making tradition and techniques. If your a French winemaker who moves to the Napa Valley you quickly meet other winemakers from France. With Christine’s connections a number of their non estate vineyard sources are from French owned vintners that she personally knows.
Each wine is divided up into small batches during the fermentation – using separate yeasts and then ultimately blended together. The focus is to preserve varietal characteristics – the wines are only filtered one time before bottling.
When your neighbor’s vineyard was owned by Prager Portworks it is no surprise that the varietals planted here are Portuguese and Spanish grapes. After purchasing this vineyard the Coquerel’s decided to keep the varietals but make their own wine.
A rare varietal in Napa is Verdehlo – a white wine grown throughout Portugal as well as in the famed Douro Valley of Northern Portugal, in the Azores and most commonly associated with the island of Madeira. The only other Napa winery we know making this varietal is Casa Nuestra.
The 2011 Verdelho was a production of only 80 cases. This wine has pleasing aromatics – a juicy fruit component to the nose, white peach and honeydew melon. The palate is soft, somewhat creamy and well balanced with decent acidity. A pleasing finish lingers – a mix of both citrus with tropical nuances.
The Napa winery who releases a white wine as their first vintage is rare indeed. After a few vintages of just producing white wines, with customer demand they realized they needed to produce a red wine. A Petite Sirah was their first red from the 2010 vintage, a Tempranillo (not yet released at the time of this review) and a Cabernet Sauvignon will be released in the future. Their flagship wine and the backbone of their production has been their estate Sauvignon Blanc. They produce two Sauvignon blancs annually, one stainless steel fermented and the other aged in oak.
The 2011 Le Petit Sauvignon Blanc is their most produced wine – much of this vintage came from Yountville and then was blended with some of their estate fruit. This wine saw no oak during the fermentation and aging and was stirred sur lie several times a week for seven months. Initially there is a gravelly almost concrete component but as the wine opens the aromatics show including citrus. This is a classic Christine Barbe wine (she also has her own label, Toquade, a Sauvingon Blanc made in a similar style) with great acidity and freshness on the palate – green grass, very crisp and a lingering finish with notes of green apples. Great with spicy food.
The 2011 Terroir Sauvignon Blanc was aged in oak, sur lie – as a result, there is some additional weight and viscosity on the mouth feel. This wine drinks well by itself. It has a rounded mouth feel with underlying spices just waiting to evolve as this wine ages. And this is not a typical Napa Sauvignon blanc – it will age for a few years and continue to evolve additional complexities. This wine has less acidity than the stainless fermented counterpart.
The 2011 Tempranillo is from their estate vineyard – this varietal is dry farmed. The aromatics are lively, they immediately jump out of the glass – as the wine opens notes of chocolate, black licorice and darker cherries show. Dessert in the glass! It is dusty and earthy on the palate with rich earthy tannins.
La Petite Sirah 2010 is blended with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromatically this wine has a seductive nose with layered aromatics. The palate shows high toned fruit – more red fruit than dark – this is a big wine, robust with weighty chewy chalky tannins that linger for quite some time.
Coquerel continues to grow the brand including securing permits to build a winery on their property. Vineyard visits to their Calistoga property are available by appointment and are for serious wine enthusiasts looking for more intimate experiences. In late 2013 they formed a wine club and are increasing their distribution. Currently they are distributed in California, Texas, Oklahoma and New York. Because these are wines that pair well with food – restaurants form a solid backbone of their distribution. They are even producing one of their wines in kegs for restaurant distribution.
Coquerel is one of up to eighteen vintners featured in The Studio by Feast it Forward (opened in June 2018). This showroom is located directly across from the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa and packs numerous experiences into a small space. This two story building houses an “experiential showroom”, as founder Katie Hamilton Shaffer calls it – with a focus on wine, food and music.
Each vintner represented offers several wines – several of the showroom’s sponsors have prominent placement including guitars from Gibson Brands, Inc. and furniture from Crosley. A Chocolate tasting is also offered oddly enough sponsored by Sherman Williams and a vinyl station if offered for playing a variety of old records. Upstairs features a demo kitchen – when shows are being filmed here, televisions downstairs broadcast the live feed. This kitchen can also be used for guest chefs to offer culinary classes.
And visitor’s will want to stop by their bathroom – a television embedded in a mirror plays Feast it Forward culinary shows. The site can be used for a number of events – they have plenty of space in the back of the building. The Ultimate Airstream Film Lounge trailer is often be parked in the back – they use this trailer when they are on the road hosting unique lifestyle events and it also serves for private tastings on site or for special events. One such event at the showroom might be the “Terrible Tuesdays” in which bad films with cult like followings are shown.
The second floor has a sizable surround building deck – and features a swinging ‘bed’. This is an ideal perch to watch passerbys going to Oxbow Public Market or those enjoying the park next to the Napa River. These are also some of the best seats in the area to watch live performances overlooking the nearby green.
By Napa standards, their wines have refreshing price to quality ratio – the wines are very affordably priced. For more information, to purchase wine or to join their wine club, visit: www.coquerelwines.com