Cougar Vineyards & Winery goes to NYC, has only wine varietal in the world

Cougar Vineyards and Winery’s Lambrusco di Alessandria is the only wine of its kind in the world, according to a well-respected wine grape author. Jeff Pack photo

Cougar Vineyards and Winery owner Rick Buffington was excited to talk about a couple of firsts for the Temecula Wine Country winery recently.

First, he gave an update on the winery’s recent trip to New York City with fellow winery owners and the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association to participate in a Behind the Wine Bottle event in Manhattan.

“The purpose was to go there and promote Temecula and the winery to about 18 different media journalists in New York,” Rick Buffington said. “So we had a dinner, and we had a tasting where we presented our wines.”

The event took place at Obicà Mozarella Bar in the Flatiron District in a private downstairs space, and guests were greeted with a Carter Estate Brut sparkling wine.

The Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association and Hart, Doffo, Cougar and Wiens owners and representatives host a ‘Behind the Wine Bottle’ event in New York City in October. Jeff Pack photo

During the tasting portion of the evening, Wiens presented their 2018 Vermentino and 2017 Reflection; Cougar shared their 2018 Falanghina and 2018 Vermentino; Doffo served their 2018 Viognier and 2016 Motodoffo Royal Tinto; and Hart presented their 2018 Estate Sauvignon Blanc and 2016 Reserve Volcanic Ridge Syrah.

Rick was joined by Damian Doffo, Jim Hart and Joe Wiens to interact with the journalists and guests.

During the dinner portion of the event, Doffo shared its 2017 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 Private Reserve Malbec; Hart presented their 2018 Rosé of Sangiovese and 2017 Sangiovese; Wiens brought with them a 2018 Chardonnay and 2017 Reserve Sangiovese; Cougar served a 2018 Arneis and their 2015 Lambrusca di Alessandria.

“I thought it went really well,” Rick Buffington said.

“The Lambrusco knocked their socks off,” Jennifer Buffington said.

“It did really well,” Rick Buffington said. “I mean they liked it. I think they were intrigued more by the fact that we are the only producer in the world.”

That bit was the other big news Rick Buffington had to share.

According to the Buffingtons and “Native Wine Grapes of Italy” by Ian D’Agata, Cougar Winery is the only winery in the world making Lambrusco di Alessandria using only the grape.

Rick Buffington said other wineries include the grape in other blends, but only Cougar makes a wine exclusively using only the grape.

He had heard they were the only one in the world, but the book confirmed it for him.

“Coming from a writer in Rome that is dedicated to studying the native grapes of Italy, it makes it the real deal,” Rick Buffington said. “Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of it.”

Considering all the restaurants that tasted it in New York loved it, they all want to get their hands on it, Rick Buffington said.

According to the Cougar website, “Lambrusca di Alessandria is an autochthonous grape of Italy. It was first described and recognized by name by Count Giuseppe Nuvolone, Vice Director of Piedmont Agricultural Society, the Royal Academy of Agriculture where in 1798 he read his celebrated ‘Instructions for the Cultivation of Vines and the Best Method for Making and Storing Wine.’ It is most likely native to the area of Alessandria and Pavia in Piedmont, Italy.”

Considering the uniqueness of having the only wine in the world made entirely from Lambrusca di Alessandria grapes, Rick said he was going to try to grow some more of the fruit.

“It does really well here, so I think we’re going to try to,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of room left, we don’t have any room, really, so maybe we’ll graft it to something else.”

Cougar Vineyards and Winery is at 39870 De Portola Road in Temecula.

Upcoming events include Cougar Craft Night Wednesday, Nov. 20, and the Marge Bitetti book signing Monday, Nov. 25.

Visit for more information.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at