I love Syrah from the Rhône Valley; I love it from Argentina; I love it from the rolling hills north of Santa Barbara; I love Syrah from Tuscany and Texas, from downtown to upstate, from Natchez to Mobile, from Memphis to Saint Joe, wherever the four winds blow. Someone told me once that I should have named my site "Now And Syrah," which would have been worthy of consideration had there been any sense to the phrase.
The folks at Cornerstone Cellars, who provided the Stepping Stone Napa Valley Syrah 2012 for review, are of the belief that the southern Napa Valley is an exciting region for Syrah, and who am I to argue? Their Black Label Syrah project seeks out mature Syrah vineyards that can produce wines with a distinct personality, unique to their site. Cornerstone's Managing Partner, Craig Camp, says "in 2012 that led us to the heights of Atlas Peak and the Soda Canyon Vineyard. This is a classic mountain syrah," he goes on, "with depth and power balanced by a fine structure and rich tannins. Certainly this is Syrah that will reward those patient enough to cellar it." I wish I were so patient.
The yields from the rocky well drained soils of the mountain vineyard were rather low, so only 160 cases were produced, in addition to a couple dozen magnums. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in French Burgundy oak, 40% of which was brand new. Retail is $40.
Camp notes that 2012 was a classic vintage, offering "a steady parade of glorious, warm sunny days and cool nights which allowed the fruit to enjoy long, even ripening.
The Stepping Stone Syrah is very dark, in color and style. Aromas of cassis, tar, meat, tobacco and a whiff of smoke come together in tantalizing fashion, showing the effects of that new oak. There is a very dense feel in the mouth, full and rich, with blackberry, plums, black pepper, sage, nutmeg and eucalyptus. Vibrant acidity and pronounced tannins really serve food pairings well, and the herbal sensations last on the finish, which has great length. Cornerstone recommends it with braised meats, but you can make mine a ribeye. It's a beautiful experience.