Showing posts with label Howell Mountain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Howell Mountain. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cornerstone's Howell Mountain Cabernet

The wines of Cornerstone Cellars have been around for nearly three decades, and the company has seen its share of change through the years.  One thing that appears to have stayed the same is their commitment to crafting excellent Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Napa Valley.  The recently added winemakers in Yountville, Charles Thomas and Kari Auringer, are guiding the good ship Cabernet now at Cornerstone.  Thomas has a 30 year track record in the Napa Valley, and Auringer is in her second go-round with the winery.

They only made a hundred cases of this $100 wine, and it proved to be very popular.  The website says the 2014 Howell Mountain Cab "sold out quickly at the winery."  Unavailable for the moment, Cornerstone says a "limited vertical release of 2013, 2014 and 2015 will be available in November 2018."  Get in line.  Alcohol hits 14.6% abv.

This wine is medium dark, dark at its core.  Aromas of rich blackberries and cassis come blasting forward, with tobacco, smoke and anise in tow.  There's a hint of something herbal - possibly eucalyptus? - poking through lightly.  A medium heft in the mouth is joined by firm tannins and a racy acidity.  It has a really clean palate, with dark berry and plum flavors not trod on too heavily by oak.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Elevating Zinfandel

There’s nothing like a good Zinfandel, except maybe a great Zinfandel. There were plenty of the former, and a few of the latter, on display at Elevating Zinfandel, a tasting event put on recently by Los Angeles wine educator Ian Blackburn through his WineLA. First, the highest points, then the "merely high."

When I think of the Zinfandels I really like to drink, Turley Wine Cellars comes to mind first.  They draw grapes from a variety of California vineyards, a listing of which reads like a “Who’s Who” of grapevines.

Turley Kirschenmann Vineyard, Lodi 2014 - Planted in 1915. Beautiful red cherry.
Turley Dusi Vineyard, Paso Robles 2014 - Elegant, possibly the best Paso wine I’ve had.
Turley Rattlesnake Ridge, Howell Mountain 2014 - Extremely elegant and smooth.

Ridge Vineyards is another name that Zin lovers know and revere.

Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel Blend, Alexander Valley, 2014 - Very dark, spicy with pepper and red and black cherry. It’s a true field blend, with different gapes commingled in with the Zinfandel, right in the vineyard, all picked and crushed at the same time and co-fermented. The rep told me there were "too many different grapes in the wine to fit on the label."

Beekeeper Cellars is the creation of our host, Mr. Blackburn, right. I remember telling him two years ago that his Zin could knock an unsuspecting Cab off of any steakhouse wine list. And it’s just getting better.

Beekeeper Madrona Spring Vineyard, Rockpile 2013 - Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. The nose on this one sure is.
Beekeeper Montecillo Vineyard Sonoma Valley 2014 - Dark and savory with an herbal edge and lots of pepper. A favorite of mine.
Beekeeper 2012 Reserve is tasting better all the time.

All the others poured admirable wines, too. Here are my favorites among them.

A Rafanelli Winery
Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2013 - Shows spearmint.

Bedrock Wine Company
Evangelho Vineyard Heritage Wine 2014 - An excellent wine. From Oakley, 120 year-old vines. Another field blend.

Brown Estate Wines
Chaos Theory - Zinfandel/ Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Sirah blend. Spicy nose with pencil lead. Big red fruit flavors, spice. Elegant and structured.

Mauritson Wines
Clay Mauritson, left, is on the winemaking team at Beekeeper, too.
His Cemetery Vineyard, Rockpile 2014 shows green pepper in a savory, herbal setting.

Chase Cellars
Zinfandel Rosé, Hayne Vineyard, St Helena 2015 - Bone dry, definitely not white zin.

Hendry Ranch Wines
Blocks 7 and 22, Napa Valley 2013 - Clone 2 Zinfandel. Strawberry jam.

Jeff Cohn Cellars
Sweetwater Springs, Sonoma Valley 2012 - Savory, earthy lavender. Silky smooth.

Martinelli Winery
Vellutini Ranch, Russian River Valley, 2012 - Very appealing light color. Floral berries, spice.

Quivira Vineyards
Hugh Chappelle, right
Flight 2013 - All Zinfandel. Smokey, red, savory.

Robert Biale Vineyards
Grande Vineyard, Napa Valley 2013 - Vines planted in 1920. Outside the Oak Knoll District. Dark and savory.

Seghesio Family Vineyard
Rockpile, Sonoma Valley 2013 - Subtle and elegant.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Two 2011 Napa Cabs From Cornerstone Cellars

Napa Valley is one of the great wine regions for Cabernet Sauvignon, but even great wine regions sometimes have disappointing vintages.  The 2011 vintage was just such a vintage for most Napa Valley winemakers. Wine Spectator said Napa grapes couldn’t catch a break in 2011, "from a cold, wet spring, a late fruit set, a mild summer and a harvest that dragged on into November, bedeviled by rain and rot." They even quoted one winemaker as saying "It was a horrible year for Napa Cabernet." But, not so fast, king-of-grapes breath. It has also been said, "You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

Craig Camp, managing director of Napa’s Cornerstone Cellars, knows a thing or two about Cab. He says a cool vintage is a blessing, not a curse. "To say that I have a chip on my shoulder about the 2011 vintage in the Napa Valley would be an understatement," Camp writes in an email. "Anyone who has spent any time in the vineyards of Europe can only be amused by the moaning about what a challenge this vintage was."  Camp feels that challenges are a part of agriculture, but as far as the wines go, "the wines that underwhelm you from this vintage are due more to decisions made by winemakers, not due to the weather."

Most folks have it backwards, Camp writes. "The problems climate presents to winegrowers in Napa are those of over-ripeness, sugars that mature ahead of flavors and lack of acidity. In truth, the hot vintages are the problem vintages in Napa, not the cooler ones. The producers that had the most problems in 2011 are those seeking to make the biggest, most powerful wines possible."

The Cornerstone approach is to shoot for a style of wine driven more by acidity than ripeness or alcohol. That’s why Camp is not singing the blues about 2011. "We were more than able to work with the natural ripeness grudgingly given us by Mother Nature," he continues. "We are very pleased with our 2011 wines and love their balance, freshness and length. That length is ... something that just does not exist without great acidity. Camp cites their '11 Cabs as being varietally correct. "They actually taste like the variety from which they are made. That means our cabernet has that bit of an herbal edge that makes the variety so compelling to me and so amazing with food."

Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

The 2011 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is made up of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes taken from Kairos Vineyard, Oak Knoll District, Oakville Station, and Ink Grade Vineyard on Howell Mountain with a 12% contribution of Merlot from Oakville Station.

The grapes were harvested throughout October of 2011. Aging took place over 22 months in French oak barrels, 65% new oak. Alcohol rings up at 14.3% abv and the bottle sells for $65.

The various sites from which the grapes were picked are like a Who's Who (What's What?) list of great Napa locales. Cornerstone gets this fruit regularly, and there is a reason for that. The quality exhibited in these grapes is noteworthy, and the folks at the winery took note.

This wine is dark and delicious. Opaque and deep burgundy, the nose brings an elegant package of cassis, graphite and smoke. The flavors are juicy and ripe, with blackberry and currant serving as a framework for the great oak effect. There are spices galore - cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, anise, sage and even a hint of bell pepper. It's not a vegetal wine by a long shot, though. The richness and depth of the aromas and flavors are what I expect from a first-class Napa Valley Cab.

Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, White Label 2011

Camp explains why the Howell Mountain fruit is so desirable: "The vineyards of the Howell Mountain AVA are well above the fog line meaning many extra hours of sunshine, which paid off big time in the cooler 2011 vintage. In fact, I believe the wines from this AVA really benefited from the milder weather, which helped restrain the aggressive mountain tannins."

Camp feels their Howell Mountain Cab has great Cabernet structure, should be getting just about perfect in five to seven years and can be expected to develop for decades beyond. This wine hits 14.5% abv in alcohol and sells for $80 retail.

The nose on this Napa Cab is beautiful, and that's an understatement. It starts out bright and perky, darkening with time into a brooding bad boy. The cassis, blackberry and anise aromas develop a tarry sensation that means business. The flavor profile sharpens its focus, too. The red currant and plum turn black and the lighthearted cherry takes on an earthy, licorice note. The tannins are firm but forgiving, and the finish is long.

If the price tag means it's a "splurge wine" for your budget, let the splurging begin.

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