If you regularly enjoy the wines of one particular producer, it may be because you have become comfortable with that producer’s site selection. Cornerstone Cellars is one producer which realized long ago that when a great vineyard site comes along, get it. Then, keep getting it.
"Wine growing is an unending evolutionary process if you want to make great wine," says Cornerstone’s managing partner Craig Camp. "You need to experience a vineyard over a number of harvests and then taste the wine as it develops over the years to really understand its true character."
Camp doesn’t mind waiting out the vineyard as it shows him what it is worth, vintage after vintage. "Only time can show you what a vineyard can deliver then you can decide if it merits the status of a single vineyard bottling," he says. "I've always felt the vineyard should convince me instead of me convincing the vineyard."
For a few years, now, Camp and Cornerstone have been working with a few vineyards in Napa Valley that have earned the "single-vineyard" distinction. One of them is Oakville Station Vineyard in To Kalon. Camp and crew have used Oakville Station fruit enough to know that it is worthy of the vineyard specific designation.
Cornerstone will be using its White Label line to feature wines made from this handful of special sites. "Our White Label will become synonymous with this group of distinctive vineyards," says Camp, "which will be introduced over the releases of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages. Only a few hundred cases will be produced of each wine."
The folks at Cornerstone Cellars believe that there is definitely a sense of place in Napa Valley, just as there is in Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Loire Valley. Camp says the sense of place in the Napa Valley that they seek out year after year is "as compelling as any, anywhere."
The Cornerstone Cellars Oakville Station Merlot 2012 is the first single-vineyard release in this White Label series. The wine is 100% Merlot, hits 14.9% abv and retails for $75.
A very dark wine, the Cornerstone Oakville Station Merlot has aromas and flavors to match. The nose shows black fruit - the blacker, the better - and it is draped in smoke, herbs and spices. Sage and cinnamon join the smokey cover and provide a complex set of smells. The blackberry flavor is huge, with cinnamon, nutmeg, black olives and dusty sage competing for attention. With all that going on, it is still the fruit that dominates.
It’s an amazing Merlot, a beautiful wine. It will fit well in your holiday plans this year, but only 97 cases were made, so don't wait for Santa to bring it.
Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter