Yes, it is plain wrong and should never exist. Seriously, a Pinot Noir, any wine in fact, with 15.3% alcohol must be evil. And yet this Californian Pinot Noir was strongly recommended to me when, during a visit to a stylish NYC wine shop, I asked for an unusual American wine below thirty bucks. As I love Pinot Noir and as Kate from September Wines was very enthusiastic about this one I decided to take it home with me (for $27.21, if anyone cares to know).
A few weeks later on a cold autumn weekend in London a pheasant was merrily roasting in the oven. The meal, the atmosphere and the colours around me were quite autumnal, and as the appearance of the Cotturi seemed to reflect that, I decided that the wine's time had come.
I had asked for unusual and the colour certainly delivered: a beautifully light red-brown bordering on sherry; also fairly cloudy, with lots and lots of sediment - more than I have seen in any Pinot Noir. The nose features baked fruit, spice and alcohol-marinated cherries. Add to that mentholy herbal notes (giving it a bit of sharpness) and mocha wood aromas (from the barrel ageing) and you end up with what smells a little like a woodland sherry.
On the tongue a smooth wine, with noticeable yet well integrated tannins and a substantial body to which the alcohol certainly adds - like muscle wrapped in, no, not silk, but fur (because of the deposit). This wine really profits from a decanter and careful pouring in order to avoid getting too much deposit in your glass. Overall the Pinot does a reasonable job hiding its ridiculously high alcohol level, but you will notice a little sharpness on top of your gum as part of the mocha fruit finish.
The Cotturi has something old and almost faint to it despite its muscular body. What saves it from falling apart into two somewhat antagonistic elements is the surprisingly lively acidity. I keep repeating myself, but acidity in red wine is underrated - and in the Cotturi it did a great job in balancing the wine. It went well with the pheasant and also gave a good base for the sauce. I still prefer my Pinot Noir lighter in alcohol, but I also have to admit it worked better for the Cotturi than I anticipated - if you like your Pinot as a furry and ageing yet muscular beast.
After finishing the wine I visited the Coturri website and learned that they too recommend it with game birds and as a base for a sauce. I also learned that only 500 cases of this wine were produced, and that it was aged for four years in the bottle before being sold. It certainly is not your every day Pinot Noir, so I definitely got what I asked for!