Friday, October 25, 2013

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2010

Napa-based Cornerstone Cellars has a very good line of wines with "everyday" price points, the kind that allow the average wine lover to enjoy it whenever, not just on top-shelf special occasions.  The Stepping Stone line is produced each vintage from grapes grown in different vineyards - the better to keep the price affordable.  While the $35 retail isn't exactly destined for the bargain bin, the quality of the wine is definitely what you might call a bargain, or, more accurately, a value.  The 2010 Cabernet Franc joins their Cabernet Sauvignon at the top of the Stepping Stone price list.

Cornerstone partner Craig Camp writes, "Franc-ly speaking cabernet franc is a pain in the butt.  Hard to grow and tough to ripen just right.  Underripe gives you veggie stew and too ripe gives you concentrate of Welch's.  So why are we spending so much time on cabernet franc?"  He answers, "The truth of the matter is when you get cabernet franc just right it is nothing short of incredible. It is worth the effort."

Camp explains that Cabernet Franc grapes ripen late, and they like cooler sites which allow for lengthy ripening.  If the site is too hot, the sugar is too high; too cool and it's not sweet enough.  These Cabernet Franc grapes were harvested in early-to-mid October 2010.

In this effort, winemaker Jeff Keene works with fruit from Napa Valley's cooler southern AVA's like Carneros, Oak Knoll and Coombsville as well as cooler micro-climates in Oakville and St. Helena.
The wine is composed of 92% Cabernet Franc from Talcott Vineyard in St. Helena and Truchard Vineyard in Carneros along with 8% Merlot from Stewart Ranch Vineyard in Carneros.  Camp says the Merlot is used for "lift," a "brightness in aromatics and flavors."  It spent 18 months in French oak, half of which is new.  Alcohol kicks in at 14.6% abv.

The Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc has a deep, rich ruby tint and a dark nose of plummy fruit with an herbal, forest floor component and hint of black olives.  The fruit is just short of ripe, with a greenness that is simply delicious.  Great acidity and nice, firm tannins frame the succulent flavors in an experience I expect at much more than this wine's sticker price.

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