Any love for Tony Coturri?

Never hear much about him on these boards. Tony’s a pioneer in the organic, biodynamic and low intervention world and has practiced those things on his Glen Ellen property for almost 50 years. He used to be laughed out of the room for his use of natural yeasts and low SO2 levels back in the days, but I think things have come a bit more full circle since then. But, I have heard that his wines have been a little uneven due to his philosophy, so perhaps some of the resistance was justified. In any case, I have to say that his Albarello I had in 2015 was a profound wine memory and set me on the path to making wine myself. I didn’t know wines could taste like that or be so juicily irreverent and fun. It sent me deep down the “natural wine” hole. I’ve come back from that since then (and I know there’s resistance to the term here), but it was a good ride while it lasted. A few years back I was at the Raw Wine thingy here in LA and got a chance to chat with him a little bit and taste his estate Zinfandel. I thought it was excellent wine and one of the highlights of that festival. I got reminded of it as we were talking Zinfandel in another thread.

In any case, just thought I’d bring him up - has anyone had any experience with him and his wines? [cheers.gif]

Some of his early 1990s Chauvet Vineyard Zins were fantastic, others (even from the same vintage and store) were putrid swill, and there was no way to know which a given bottle would be. The charitable spin would be that he was ahead of his time, but I think it would be more accurate to say that it was grossly irresponsible not to add SO2 at bottling for wines that were sold into the mass market where they were certain to be exposed to a range of temperatures.

I had hit and miss experiences with the Coturri wines until a few years ago when Caleb Leisure joined as assistant winemaker. The wines I’ve tried since then have been more consistent. BTW, don’t miss Caleb’s wines under his own label - all made in Georgian qvevri that he imported himself.

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I tried an older (10+ years old) Coturri “natural” Zinfandel a few years ago. It was a dead bottle.

However, the “Steel Plow Vineyard” Grenache from his Winery Sixteen 600 was good stuff. I would encourage the curious to explore these wines. He’s got a Syrah as well, a Cab Sauv, a Rhône-style red, and a Zinfandel or two. Most of the grapes are from Sonoma Valley or Sonoma Mountain, and he has a hand in farming many of the properties.

Winery Sixteen 600 website:

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Had a wonderful visit with him. A true Pioneer. Some nice wines and some messed up wines. He gifted me a 80s Cab that was so microbiologically f’ed up that Abe Schoener said I would get ill drinking it!

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Winery Sixteen 600 is Sam Coturri, son of Phil Coturri, Tony’s Brother.

Have had quite a few great wines from Tony: Zins, Cabs, Cider. Occasionally a problematic bottle but at his reasonable pricing and unflinching (and incredibly long) dedication to natural winemaking, I’ll happily excuse an occasional miss for the kind of revelatory experiences that can be had for under $30 with his wines.

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Yup… have known Tony Cotturi for yrs from ZAP events. When it comes to pharming, there is none better than Tony.
I’ve had some profound wines from him. But with the witch’s brew of bacteria he puts into the btl, they show a disturbing trend to head south. Some of the most vile wines I’ve had have been aged btls of his. It’s always a gamble… but an affordable gamble.

This is encouraging. Like many others I had too many horrific bottles to balance the beautiful ones.

When it came to consistency he made Puzelat look like Yellowtail.

Similar experiences to others. They can be great when they are on but a bit inconsistent. You have to give him credit for sticking to his guns all those years. He stole the show in a documentary about natural wine I worked on a few years ago. I’d 2nd what Ken said about more recent bottles and the Caleb Leisure wines.

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I present to you the root cause of Tony’s volatile 1998 Zins.
Yes, that’s me after hand punching down a wooden vat full of Zinfandel.

Hmm…that’s a pretty big smile on your face. Maybe the cure for crabbiness is getting out and getting your hands into some grape juice fermenting in an old wooden vat! I know it does wonders for me every year.

Trust me, I would love to. Been cooped up all year between medical issues and COVID. I would wash T-bins for you free of charge if it was feasible.

One of the blessings of living near wine country is the opportunity to get your hands in fermented grape juice and clean T-bins, destemmers, and presses free of charge.


I tried maybe 5 bottles, maybe zins, in the early/mid 90s. The miss rate was probably 3/5 so I simply never bought again. The good oneS were very interesting but I have no patience for that miss rate. Maybe things have changed today.

Tony is such a good guy. I never met Phil, but my friends and I stayed in Glen Ellen right around 1995 or so and asked Tony if it would be okay for us to stop in. We’d primarily been buying Tony’s Zins - Chauvet and the Estate Zin, mostly - for some years and just wanted to come say “hello.” Tony was great, and so generous with his time, we enjoyed spending a good part of the afternoon with him. I think of Tony as a kind old friend that I don’t talk with often enough. In many ways it was my years drinking those Zins of Tony’s that propelled me on my wine journey. Thanks for posting this, Adam! [cheers.gif]

I’m curious as to when Caleb began there. I visited the Coturri property quite some time ago but specifically recall that Tony had just recently installed earthenware fermenters in the ground inside a large shed. I can’t place the time but think it could have been maybe 10 years ago or even more. Tony is quite the character. We enjoyed the wines that day and have recommended him often to people who believe they’re ‘allergic’ to additives in wine.

I have no idea if it was Tony, Phil, or who. Tried 2 bottles of Coturri around that same time frame, couple years apart, including an Alicante Bouschet. I’m sure PLCB handling did the wines zero favors. They were 2 of the most spoiled undrinkable wines I’ve ever tasted.


Same here. They were some of the most horrific wines I had ever tried. I really don’t know how he stayed in business selling that shit.

Great farmer but his wines were so hit or miss. I always looked forward to tasting his Zins at the ZAP tastings when he participated and had some fantastic ones but gave up on buying/cellaring them as the hit or miss ratio was too much.

I had a couple of very nice bottles of his years ago. Then I had other bottles of the same wines that went down the drain. Stopped buying. In my experience, it was far worse than an occasional miss.