A wine is far more than its flavors, aromas, and other physical attributes. It is also the integrity of its story.
It may have been a bit of romanticism at the start, but Coterie's founders, Shala and Kyle Loudon, were hooked the first day they worked at a small winery. Shala, whose family has a history with wine in Italy, and Kyle, a lifelong foodie, envisioned a future inspired by their pasts. Plenty of points test your resolve when you create a winery from scratch, but the spiritual sway of the land and wine are strong in California. These feelings run deep.
Shala and Kyle believe in a little of the unconventional. They believe in making wine primarily by hand, without the homogenization imposed by too much technology. They offer the wines of Coterie primarily through a members list, directly from the winery, and at a small number of fine restaurants, rather than through wide distribution. They take special pride in receiving accolades that are volunteered, rather than soliciting scores, reviews, and awards. They believe in personal interactions with those who have a certain intimacy with their wine, rather than broadcasts over social media. They are honored to have been part of unique groups and special places, such as Outstanding in the Field, whose breathtaking farm dinners have included their wines for over a decade, and landmark restaurants like Oliveto. There have been other beautiful detours along a road less traveled too, such as the winery's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program with Spade and Plow Organics and numerous events with the delicious cheeses of Cowgirl Creamery.
The word "coterie" itself embodies a community of shared interests and tastes. The winery's letterpress-evocative labels convey the care and craftsmanship behind this ethos. Coterie's location and winery are a further reflection of this spirit, and are other examples of believing in the unconventional. The winery is located in a neighborhood setting near downtown San Jose, where it transformed an old warehouse into a beautiful place for wine.
You can't make a great wine without great grapes, and to make wine from great grapes is to be inextricably tied to the seasons, the places, and the people that bring them to fruition. You feel deeply the calm and quiet of winter, the rejuvenation of spring, and the vitality of summer. Then, as harvest arrives in the fall, there is the anticipation of what lies ahead from what nature set in motion seasons before.
Coterie does not not simply buy grapes at the end of the summer. Its relationships with its growers, and the vineyards under their exceptional care, are cultivated and measured in years, not financial yardsticks. Sometimes there is a formal contract, but more often there is simply a handshake, or a wink and a nod in the vineyard. Every harvest has its own rhythm, and the rhythm of each harvest is remembered for years to come, be it the frenetic harvest of 2011 or the relative equanimity of 2018.
There are no bad vintages, just some where you have to work harder. In the end, each vintage is a gift, a lens through which you get to view a special place at one point in time, whatever that point gives you. With such an abiding love for each vineyard, it's not surprising that Coterie produces almost all its wines as vineyard-designate wines. These are wines featuring the grapes, and expression, of just a single vineyard.
Few products are more natural than wine. At its essence, wine is just grapes that have undergone the wonderfully natural transformation of fermentation. The winemaking of Coterie is carried out as close to this ideal as possible. This is non-interventional winemaking. Given that the evolution from berry to bottle and beyond is largely in the hands of nature, every wine is a leap of faith.
Care and attention are essential in both the winery and the vineyard. In the vineyard, much of the work and all harvesting is done by hand, with thoughtful viticulture practices and little mechanization. In the winery, it's as much about the things left undone. The gentle touch and complexity offered by whole-cluster pressing is preferred over destemming. Chilling during settling and cold soaks are handled with dry ice rather than industrial coolers, and the small size of vessels and individual barrels used in fermentations regulate their temperatures naturally. Small vessels also allow punchdowns by hand as they ferment, like gently stirring a sauce, instead of the turbulent pumpovers that big tanks require. After fermentation, grape berries, seeds, and stems are primarily screened out of the wine rather than the wine being pressed from them; only the last 20% or so of the volume overall requires any pressing at all. Settling before bottling is carried out just by gravity and time.
Coterie limits how much each wine is moved around, and minimizes or eliminates fining, filtering, and cold stabilization, as well as the addition of sulfur dioxide (sulfites). How can you tell? Some wines may exhibit a faint cloudiness, a slightly less polished yet more nuanced character, or a bit of crystalline sediment ("wine diamonds") at the bottom of a bottle. Some liken these slight imperfections in wine to the more natural qualities of a live performance or analog recording in music over a digitally perfected master. Each has its place, but Coterie leans towards this more natural approach whenever it can.
A small group with shared interests or tastes.
Since 2007, Coterie has produced wines from tiny parcels within acclaimed vineyards that express the distinction of their place. We make every wine berry to bottle by hand with exceptional care in the vineyard and non-interventional practices at the winery. Our winery is nestled in a cozy neighborhood near downtown San Jose, a short walk from the SAP Center and The Historic Alameda. We're part of a movement of wineries locating back into urban areas to make fine wines within the communities in which we live.