Monday, July 7, 2014

Let Your Franc Flag Fly: Stepping Stone By Cornerstone

Cabernet Franc is not exactly a problem grape, but it does like to let its franc flag fly.  They know about that around Chinon, in the Loire Valley.  The grape’s tendency to display aromas like cassis and raspberry are okay with most folks, but some American palates find the bell pepper and tobacco notes a little off-putting.

Cornerstone Cellars' managing partner Craig Camp writes in his Wine Camp blog about letting Franc be Franc.  Camp writes, “Many wineries seem to want to tame the cantankerous cabernet franc's edgy personality, but we don't. In fact, we revel in its idiosyncrasies. Being Franc is everything to us.”  Francly speaking, when the wine wants to walk on the wild side, let it.

“Not wild like crazy, but like nature,” he explains.  And a bit like the Cornerstone philosophy, too.  The winery states clearly that they don’t make wines for just anybody.  Camp continues with his Cab Franc 101 class, “Cabernet franc should have an edge aromatically showing wild herbs and mint and a firm structure that grabs your attention. Like most really interesting things, it's not for everyone.”

The Cabernet Franc grapes for this wine come from Napa Valley vineyard sites in St. Helena, Oakville, Coombsville and Carneros.  A touch of Carneros Merlot rounds out the wine.  Camp says the spice of the Merlot echoes the natural wildness of the Cabernet Franc with a cool-vineyard herbal note.  He starts to get a little overheated about here, claiming, “I don't know if we make a sexier wine.”  In the black label, it's certainly one of their better-dressed offerings.

The 2011 vintage was a cool one in Napa Valley, and Camp states that some people who look for high-octane, fruity wines were disappointed with it.  “If you took the weather we had in 2011, and gave it to Bordeaux,” he writes, “ they would be drinking Champagne and slapping themselves on the back.”  I have found that many 2011s from Napa Valley are giving me exactly what I look for in a wine - complexity and restraint.

A sample of the Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Black Label Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2011 was made available to me for the purpose of this article.

This Cab Franc is inky dark and has the aromas to back that up.  Brooding black currant fruit is smartly outfitted in herbs - sage and eucalyptus - and a hint of bell pepper.  The palate continues the dark thread, with flavors of blackberry and black raspberry.  There is an herbal streak here, too, with savory notes matching the fruit.  The tannins are right out front and the acidity is mouthwatering.


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