Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Wine: Corallina Rose Stepping Stone By Cornerstone


Every summer I encounter some really wonderful wines for warm weather.  This year I’m sharing them in a series spotlighting the wines of summer.  Look for them as we taste our way through the dog days.

Napa Valley’s Cornerstone Cellars is better known for their Cabernet than their rosé, but their Stepping Stone line of mid-priced wines designed for “everyday consumption” features a truly memorable rosé.  The Corallina will surprise those folks who don’t think a pink wine brings much to the table.

The wine is a rosé of Syrah, and it’s made specifically as a rosé, not in the saignée method, in which the pink juice is a by-product of a red wine.  The grapes come from Boyd Vineyard in Napa’s Oak Knoll district.  It’s a vineyard dedicated to the growing of grapes specifically for the Corallina rosé. The wine carries a 14.1% alcohol level and is bottled under a cork.

Winemaker Jeff Keene says they pick the grapes early, at a lower sugar level, like they would for a white wine.  Then come the whole-cluster press - three hours skin contact gives the wine the brilliant color.  Stainless steel fermentation is followed by a racking to used French oak barrels.  There, the wine sits on the lees for five months.  Here is Keene’s video on the wine.

Cornerstone Managing Partner Craig Camp supplied me with a sample of the 2011 Corallina, and he says,  "With the 2007 vintage Cornerstone Cellars embarked in a new direction with acidity and balance being our cornerstones, not simple brute power.  Obviously the white wines and, of course, this rosé make it to the market far more quickly than our red wines so in a very real sense these wines give you a preview of the future of all our wines.”  Corallina retails for $20.

The wine shows a rich and deep pink hue in the clear bottle.  I get watermelon and strawberry on the nose, but not just the fruit - stems and all.  That herbal element comes from the whole cluster press.  In the mouth it’s dry and zippy - cranberry and apple burst forth on a river of acidity.  A peppery touch of Syrah shows through, and the wine has more weight than you would expect to find in a rosé.  Cranberry lasts on the finish for a good, long while.  The Corallina is complex and delightful.

Will it pair with salads?  Sure, but winemaker Keene is right.  He advises you break it out when you grill.  It will go great with your summer BBQ plans.


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