Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Oregon Pinot From Napa Winery's Northern Branch

The folks at Cornerstone Cellars have been putting corks in bottles of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for quite a while. In addition to their Bordeaux fascination, you may know that they also have a Burgundian side - a side which necessitated that they open a shop a little further north.

Cornerstone/Oregon has received the winery's white label treatment with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for some time now. It was with barely contained enthusiasm that Cornerstone's managing partner Craig Camp announced a more colorful Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The Cornerstone Oregon Stepping Stone Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2012 is a mouthful, in more than just name alone.

This Pinot spent 14 months in French oak, 18% of which was new oak. Alcohol is up there in this ripe wine, at 14.1% abv. 500 cases were produced and the wine has a $30 retail price. As part of the Cornerstone artist series, the label is beautifully adorned with Oregon artist Janet Ekholm's "The Color of Life."

The wine is a fairly dark ruby that stops short of opaque. A very hefty nose sports big, dark fruit and a faint whiff of eucalyptus. The wine drinks hefty, too, packing some punch, as a wine from a very warm vintage is supposed to do. But it's not all brawn - there is charm there as well. It doesn't hit you and take your wallet, it sits you down to talk, then slips your phone out of your pocket while you're looking away.

The simplicity of this Pinot is beguiling. There are plums, blackberries and black cherries, too. But the herbal aspect rather sneaks up on you after you've stopped paying such close attention. Thyme and sage try to float away right under your nose, leaving a slight mocha note to explain why those guys didn't hang around. The intense fruit flavor leads one away from the Pinot trail, but there are enough hallmark characteristics of coffee and tea to keep you on track. The wine drinks both easily and heartily at the same time.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter