Cougar 2016 Negroamaro

Winery/Vineyard: Cougar Vineyard & Winery
Product/Varietal: 100% Negroamaro
Vintage: 2016
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: Rick Buffington

Rating: 90

2013 vintage received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast.

How They Describe It

Our 2016 Negroamaro is a 100% estate varietal wine originating from the Puglia region of Italy. This wine is rich with spicy notes, red fruit, coffee, and blackberry. It also possesses a smooth velvety oak finish. Pair this with spicy food or age for years to come.

How I Describe It

While retaining plenty of ruby characteristics, Cougar’s 2016 Negroamaro is perhaps the most garnet wine we’ve rated so far on Temecula Wine Ratings. Depth of color is medium.

As with most Italian wines, bright red fruit lead, featuring cranberry, tart raspberry, plum, and strawberry. What makes the 2016 Negroamaro intriguing, though, is its herbaceous aromas: garlic greens, stewed tomatoes and bell peppers, and toasted thyme are reminiscent of a full Italian dinner in in the glass. There is a cheesy note from from the yeast, along with charred wood, coconut, and nutmeg from the oak. An ever-so-slight tinge of farmyard brett hints at time spent aging in the bottle.

Cranberry, raspberry, and plum shine brightly. Oak elements blend nicely, highlighting clove, charred wood, leather, as well as a bit of butterscotch and coconut. Hints of bleu cheese and thyme align with the nose. Truffle and farmyard display the wine’s aging.

The 2016 Negroamaro is a dry wine with medium-plus acid. At 14.3% ABV, alcohol is considered high. Well-integrated medium-plus tannins provide a velvety mouthfeel. Flavor intensity is medium-plus, and finish is medium.

Why is This Wine Special?

Growing wine grapes and making wines is challenging and risky. At any point in the grape growing and winemaking process, entire vintages can be ruined.

Plant the vines incorrectly: ruined.

Growing season is too dry: ruined.

Growing season to wet: ruined.

Too hot: ruined.

Too cold: ruined.

Then there’s one of the many blights which periodically decimate vineyards all over the world, including one about 20 years ago in Temecula. And even if everything goes well in the vineyard, and through the winemaking process, there is always the risk that the resulting wine won’t match drinkers’ palates.

That’s probably why your supermarket wine aisles are almost entirely Cabernets, Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Sauvignon Blancs. Those are safe bets.

But Cougar Vineyard and Winery threw safe bets to the wind. They did something daring. They introduced grapes no one heard of. While fairly common in the Puglia region of Southern Italy, Negroamaro is virtually unknown in California. Only a few other wineries accept the challenge. Fortunately, Cougar does tremendous justice to this obscure varietal.

And Cougar doesn’t stop with Negroamaro. Their entire tasting menu is a journey through lesser-known Italian grapes. While they join other Temecula wineries with Sangioveses and Pinot Grigios, their whites include Falanghina, Fiano, and Arneis; and among their reds are Nebbiolo, Sagrantino, and Lambrusca di Alessandria.

Negroamaro also makes for an interesting choice to plant. It’s name literally translates to “black and bitter”, the latter descriptor being potentially off-putting. And while the 2016 Negroamaro is a departure from the Syrahs, Cabs, or even Sangioveses, I believe anyone with an affinity for Temecula wines absolutely must try a bottle.

When & How I Would Drink It

This is a quintessential dinner wine. And not just a dinner wine, an Italian dinner wine. Acidic, starchy, and fatty foods will bring out the wine’s fruity notes. And spiced sauces will blend well with the Negroamaro’s natural herbaceousness.

When (not if, when) you get your hands on a bottle, pair the Negroamaro with dishes like Chicken Parmesan, spaghetti with meatballs, cioppino, osso buco, and other traditional Italian meals.

UPDATE: This is a wine which is best drank after breathing 45 minutes to an hour after opening. However, it can over-oxygenate overnight if not stored carefully. Unless you own equipment to close and vacuum the it, I recommend finishing the bottle the same night it’s opened.

How to Get It

Order Online: or call (951) 491-0825

Bottle Price: $50 (discounts for wine club members)

Cases Produced: 237


Have you tried the Cougar 2016 Negroamaro? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.

Leave a Reply