pureCru Wines was originally established as the result of a business partnership between winemaker Mitch Cosentino (we who we have met several times over the years, including sitting down with for this review), a grocer broker, a real estate developer and an oncologist. Mitch enjoys both winemaking and golf (both interests shared by the partners), and he and these three friends decided to focus on small lot wines that are handcrafted to be enjoyed on their own or with food. Today, pureCru Wines is owed by the Scotto family, proprietors of Scotto Cellars.
Mitch was born in Gustine, California (a small town south of Modesto). He discovered an interest in wine during college, prior to a career with wine he earned a degree in Broadcast Communications at California State University, Sacramento. For a time, he did produce several shows for Sacramento television station, KCRA Channel 3 and also hosted a weekly radio sports program and appeared in several television commercials.
Finding the job market in this field somewhat challenging in the mid to late 1970s he turned to wine. He signed on with a regional distribution company as their most junior salesman (Stanislaus Distributing Co). Within a year and a half his talents for sales was evident; he soon started managing this small company and became their Director of Operations.
Part of Mitch’s work at the distribution company involved wine maker dinners – where he met some of the icons in the industry including Myron Nightingale and Ed Spragia (both Beringer Winery veterans) and John Parducci (Mendocino County wine pioneer). Mitch considers all of these individuals as role models; they are the ones who helped encourage him to become a winemaker, recognizing his excellent sense of smell and taste.
Moving to Napa Valley in 1990 he has since been responsible for creating, designing and building nine wineries in Napa Valley and Lodi. Mitch was also the early winemaker for Napa brands such as Gemstone and Hoopes.
Mitch has been making wines commercially since 1980 (more than 4 decades to date); that year at only 28 years of age, he began Crystal Valley Cellars. In the early days the wines for this brand were being produced at a winery in Santa Clara and also at two wineries in Sonoma County. Mitch soon moved his operations to Hosmer Avenue in Modesto producing wines bottled as Crystal Valley Cellars and Cosentino Select including his popular Robin’s Glow, a Blanc de Noirs. Unheard of and probably still rather rare, Mitch produced a 1982 Sacramento County grown Chardonnay (Deer Creek). Later the operations for Crystal Valley Cellars were moved to 16750 E Highway 88 in Lockeford.
Early in his career, Mitch was already producing award winning wines including winning medals at the Orange County and Los Angeles County fairs in 1982. In 1986 Cosentino won Best of Class and a gold medal at the Los Angeles County Fair for several of his wines bottled under Crystal Valley Cellars. In the early years his grapes were often sourced from Central Valley vineyards, but later he began sourcing more grapes from vineyards closer to the coast. Although we have found records that the earliest Napa Valley wine, he produced was a 1978 Merlot.
In the mid to late 1970s he also taught a wine appreciation class at a community college in Modesto. He is a self-taught winemaker; before he started Crystal Valley Cellars, he made home wine. Mitch is also a golf enthusiast; he used to be a part of the Modesto Golf Club and in 1978 played in the Northern California Golf Association Championships held at Spy Glass in Pebble Beach.
In the late 1980s Mitch oversaw the construction of Cosentino Winery in Napa Valley including the hospitality center which opened in 1990 when he was only 38 years old. His father Tony also lent a hand at times. Mitch operated Cosentino Winery for 20 years. After selling Cosentino Winery in late 2010, Mitch consulted for the new owners for a period of time but is no longer involved in any aspect of their operations. However, his former winery still carries his name – a tribute to all the hard work he put into building that property and brand.
pureCru wines released their first wine in 2009; their focus is on Napa grown wines from local vineyards however they are not limited to just Napa and some of their wines are sourced from other parts of Northern California. pureCru wines do not own any vineyards, rather they source the grapes from premium vineyards that Mitch has come to know during his long wine making career in the valley – including from Pope Valley (eastern Napa County).
We have tried the pureCru wines several times over the years; these are wines that have good acidity, are balanced, texturally pleasing on the palate and we might add, are generally available at a reasonable price point. Mitch tends to age his red wines in oak longer than normal, sometimes up to 41 months. And while his red wines can certainly be aged – so can his white wines.
The 2021 pureCru AMT White Wine refers to the Alta Mesa AVA (Lodi) and Torrontés, a variety primarily associated with production in Argentina. This wine is 90% Torrontés and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. It is pale straw in color; the bouquet is extremely aromatic with a diversity of fruit including of peach, pear and apricot along with some floral notes (honeysuckle) and hints of Kaffir lime. The palate offers a diversity of flavors, primarily citrus including of grapefruit and pomelo with some notes of pear, apple, lychee and honeycomb. The finish offers a grapefruit pith-like nuance. This wine is richly flavored with a bright finish. While a seriously made wine, it is easy drinking; we could see paring it with a dip in a pool on a warm summer evening. This wine was pressed into a stainless tank, after it was cold settled it fermented slowly for more than 2 weeks and then left on the lees for two months before being blended with the Sauvigon Blanc and eventually being bottled. This wine is 13.2% alcohol.
The 2010 pureCru 100% varietal Chardonnay sees no secondary fermentation and was fermented in barrel and then aged in stainless before bottling. This wine shows aromas of ripe pear, some spice with a clean crisp and light palate. The wine has excellent acidity with the fruit showcasing itself on the fairly rich finish.
Since his early days of winemaking and throughout his career Mitch often assigns wines special proprietary names and continues to do so for the pureCru wines.
The 2016 pureCru Sangio Vetta Napa Valley is 93% Sangiovese and 7% Merlot. This wine remarkably spent 38 months aging in barrel and was blended one month prior to bottling. But the extended time in oak complements rather than detracts from the fruit. It is medium ruby in color with sweetly fruited aromatics including of raspberry, cherry cola, red licorice twist soft candy and some dried fruit influences including of apricot and various berries. The bouquet also shows some dessert spice notes including of clove. This wine is easy drinking with bright red fruit across the palate (without any noticeable tartness). Flavors include cherry, licorice, strawberry and pomegranate. The tannins are lightly textured with a short-lasting grip on the finish. This wine lingers savory and mouth watering. It would possibly pair well with a Gott’s Kimchi Burger.
The 2010 pureCru Purety is a wine made with almost an equal blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. A number of Napa Valley produced Sauvignon Blanc wines are often blended with Sémillon but usually not up to 50% like in this wine. Sémillon brings body or weight to a wine; this variety is very important in white Bordeaux including for Sauterne wines. It is planted throughout parts of France and Australia. This wine aromatically shows notes of green apple, honeydew melon and lesser notes of tropical fruit. The palate is crisp, clean with good acidity from the Sauvignon Blanc tempered by the fruit contributed from the Sémillon.
The 2007 pureCru Sangio Vetta is a blend primarily of Sangiovese with smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. While this wine could be called Sangiovese, Mitch feels it is best represented as a blend. The name “Sangio Vetta” means a peak or pinnacle in Italian; this wine blend varies depending on the vintage but always includes a majority of Sangiovese. This is one of pureCru’s most popular wines – and we can see why with both with the quality and price point. The nose is sweet, slightly jammy and almost liqueur like leading one to believe this wine might be fairly sweet on the palate. There is some slight residual sugar, but its presence is small enough so that it is more in the background. The palate shows mostly red fruit including cherry, cranberry and perhaps a hint of rhubarb.
The 2012 pureCru Sangio Vetta was made from grapes grown on the hillsides on the back of Howell Mountain (above Pope Valley). It shows bright and lively aromatics including ripe plum, raspberry and blackberry, with a flinty characteristic more in the background. It also shows hints of mocha and vanilla as the wine opens. This wine is balanced and drinks easily. Offers mouthwatering acidity with flavors of red currant. It is refreshing on the palate and certainly could be an everyday drinking wine, perhaps paired with pizza, pasta or as we were told by their wine director, this wine goes well with a variety of fish.
The 2009 pureCru Secret 7 is only partially a secret it is 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon that is often a blend between Clone 7 and a “secret clone”. Of their wines we tried, this is the “biggest” and most complex. The nose shows red and blue fruit (blueberry) with a well layered palate. For being a big wine, it is pleasantly well balanced, and the tannins are also well managed. Only 97 cases of this vintage were made. The 2010 pureCru Secret 7 shows exotic baking spices on the bouquet, hints of mint, vanilla and darker fruit. The wine is rounded on the palate with delicate slightly dusty/gravelly tannins that linger softly.
Mitch has produced 100% varietal Cabernet Francs since the mid 1980s, but only more recently has he made one for pureCru.
Studio by Feast it Forward Napa
As of April 20, 2023, select pureCru wines are available for tasting or purchase at the Feast it Forward tasting room in downtown Napa. A private tasting can also be arranged by appointment.
The studio 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 and 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 demonstration 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 to read the latest in all the graffiti and words of wisdom that visitors mark on the walls. The site can be used for a number of events including the availability of plenty of space in the back of the building. The Yard is a sizable outdoor space featuring several stages, cute places to taste wines, a lemonade stand, a place for food trucks and a comfortable fake lawn. The Ultimate Airstream Film Lounge trailer is often be parked in The Yard; this trailer is used when the Feast it Forward team is 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 has included “Terrible Tuesdays” in which bad films with cult like followings are shown.
The second floor features a sizable surround building deck and a swinging ‘bed’. This is an ideal perch to watch pedestrians walking 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 at the nearby green. And the interior features a full kitchen used for various culinary TV shows.
Wines on First (permanently closed)
From 2016 to late 2019 pureCru Wines were available for tasting in the Wines On First tasting room located in a small courtyard behind Oenotri Restaurant (excellent Italian cuisine) just off of First Street in Downtown Napa. We keep our notes and photographs here for historical reference. The main tasting room was open by walk-in and a smaller adjoining room was available for private tastings, pairings and or lunch. And for several years another Napa producer, J. McClelland Wines were available for tasting here. They joined several years after the tasting room opened.
pureCru moved out of this tasting room in late 2019 and their wines are no longer available for tasting here. Their wines are currently being produced at a winery south of the city of Napa in a business park.
When Wines on First was open, a first in the city of Napa was this tasting room’s partnership with a restaurant (Oenotri). Oenotri used to serve full meals inside the Wines on First tasting room. The restaurant menu changed daily, but the wines did not. Dinners were paired with a select number of wines poured in the tasting room. And having food paired with these wines tied in well with Mitch’s philosophy of making wines that go with food.
Total production each year is around 2000 cases each year. Private tastings can be arranged by special request. For more information and to join either one of two wine clubs – the Original Cru and the Grand Cru (membership offers up to 25% discount on the wines), visit: www.purecruwines.com
We had the chance of an interview with Mitch Cosentino, a passionate winemaker and consultant that knows well Napa wines and the Italian wine scene… His observations and reflections on the evolution of the American market were absolutely enlightening…
Posted by Gambero Rosso International on Saturday, March 7, 2020