Freelance Wines Coup de Grace Red Blend 2015, Lodi
Cost: $28-30
R eally, the only things you need to make good wine are great grapes and a knowledgeable winemaker.
Sure, it helps to own vineyards, a fancy winery and tasting room, but those things are not essential. What really matters are the grapes and some imagination.
Both seem to be plentiful at Freelance Wines, which makes Coup de Grace ($28-30), a wonderful red blend from Lodi.
Great vineyards are found all over California. Most wineries don’t use all the grapes they grow and many growers don’t make wine, but sell all their grapes to wine makers. That opens the door for entrepreneurs like Adam Mettler and Mike Stroh to shop around for the best available grapes and create an exciting blend.
The Coup de Grace is an expressive wine, with great fruit flavors and and balanced acidity. It starts out an inky dark red in the glass with luscious aromas of berries, chocolate and spice.
This is a big, bold wine, with plenty of rich fruit, especially blackberry, strawberry and blueberry with some hints of spice. It is a warm wine, with a velvety mouthfeel leading to a long finish with some oak flavors at the end.
The blend is 47 percent old vine zinfandel from Lodi, 29 percent petite sirah from Lodi/Atlas Peak/Lake County, 15 percent petit verdot from Lodi/Lake County and nine percent cabernet franc from Lodi.
After fermentation the wine is all barrel aged for 17 months with malolactic fermentation in barrel adding to the wine’s rich, weighty mouthfeel. The wines are aged independently with the final blend created shortly before bottling.
It looks like the blend changes each year depending on the availability and quality of the grapes. Their 2012 red blend is 56 percent old vine zin, 21 percent petite sirah, 16 percent petit verdot and seven percent cab franc. Those grapes came from lodi, Russian River Valley, Napa County and Atlas Peak. Freelance did not produce this blend in 2013 or 2014.
Mettler is a winemaker at Michael David, the inventive company that gives us such fun wines as Petite Petit, Freakshow and 7 Deadly Zins. He’s a fifth generation winemaker who also makes wine for Mettler Family Vineyards.
Stroh is the marketing director for Michael David.
Between the two natives of Lodi they have extensive contacts with Lodi growers including the many vineyards farmed by the Mettler family. Freelance Wines make their wine at Mettler Vineyards, through a custom crush arrangement.
The bottle has a clever label, a painting depicting what looks like a battle scene from our War of Independence. It looks like George Washington leading his troops to victory, delivering the coup de grace to the British.
The label changed from the first vintage when it was a black and white drawing of a ninja battle.
Winery: The name says it all: Freelance Wines.
The company is owned by two veterans of the wine business in Lodi who have other jobs. They are free to do what they please with the Freelance portfolio. While working for others they are trying to leave their mark with their own wines.
Founded in 2012 by Adam Mettler and Mike Stroh, Freelance Wines has a goal of producing innovative, world class wines that speak of who the founders are. They say they are free thinkers looking to impact the world of wine on their own.
Mettler grew up in Lodi and is the fifth generation of his family to make wine there. Stroh also is a Lodi native and the marketing director for Michael David.
“We call it Coup de Grâce because we think of it as a ‘final death blow’ to other popular brands of blended reds, like The Prisoner,” said Mettler. “We think what we grow in Lodi is as good or better than what you get anywhere. Coup de Grâce is meant to ‘vanquish,’ so to speak, any of the competition.”
With no vineyards or winery, they were able to start their brand without the major capital investment required for those things. They are free to buy available grapes and make blends as they see fit.
So far, Coup de Grace is the only wine they make.
Michael always likes the soup, and he loved the wine.
Goes with: We had this wine with vegetable beef soup, one of the favorite meals I have been having since I was a child. It is one of those soups that is full of rich, savory flavors that fill the senses.
It would be easy for this dish to overpower a wine because it is a meaty, hearty soup. The bold flavors in the wine more than match the soup, and the wine and the soup make a great pairing.
This is an extremely easy soup to make. I start by boiling beef cut into bite-sized pieces, usually from beef stew meat or a big chunk of beef roast. I also add a beef shank or two. That creates a rich, beefy broth.
Then I peel and dice a wide variety of vegetables. The ones I use most often are small red potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots and celery. Sometimes I cut fresh corn from the cob, and sometimes I add cut up okra. I also add a couple of large cans of diced tomatoes. Everything gets dumped into the pot with the beef.
I also add two or three large cartons of beef broth, a few bouillon cubes and a tablespoon or two of the beef concentrate you can find in grocery stores. Salt and pepper to taste. At the end I add a full bunch of parsley, chopped up.
Let it cook for 3-4 hours to release all the flavors. And if you want it especially tasty wait until the next day to eat it. Serve over noodles.
I usually make a big batch so I will have leftovers for several meals.
The Coup de Grace also would go well with many hearty meals such as steak, lamb chops, beef stew, or full-flavor cheeses. It is a versatile wine. I also enjoyed it sipping on the back porch.

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