Showing posts with label Oakville. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oakville. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Merlot Kicks Off Cornerstone Single-Vineyard Series

Why make a vineyard-specific wine? It’s the dirt. The place where those grapes grow should offer terroir like no other around. Lenn Thompson wrote in the New York Cork Report about single-vineyard wine programs, "and how important it is that they reveal and identify unique place-grape combinations that display consistently." Evan Dawson wrote there, "Single-vineyard wines offer an exciting glimpse into the intricacies of our sense of place, and that's because the people making them have patiently scoured the region for the best locations."

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.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Just Gimme A Cab!

At a wine tasting event I attended once, I was awaiting my turn at the pouring station when the gentleman ahead of me loudly asked the server for "anything you got that's a Cab." His tone, I took to be rude. He sounded as if he were dismissing all other red grapes without a fair trial. I have since come to learn that real dyed-in-the-wood Cabernet Sauvignon lovers simply don't have time for anything else. Suggest that they may enjoy a Grenache or Syrah as a change of pace, and you will get a quizzical twitch of the eyebrow as an unspoken, "Why?"

At Cornerstone Cellars, they do love Cabernet Sauvignon, they just don't obsess over it, or stalk it. They embrace a lot of different grapes, but their first love was Cab. It will always be special.

The grapes making up Cornerstone's 2012 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon were sourced from four outstanding Cab sites. 92% of the wine's makeup is Cabernet Sauvignon - from South Napa Valley, Yountville, Oakville and Howell Mountain. 5.5% of the grapes are Carneros Merlot while 2.5% are St. Helena Cabernet Franc. Fans of Cornerstone will recognize the Napa vineyard sites they return to again and again for quality fruit: Oakville Station, Ink Grade, Kairos, Talcott. These vineyards are a big reason that Cornerstone wines are reliably top-notch.

The wine rings up 14.7% abv on the alcohol scale and $50 at the cash register. 1,265 cases were bottled, along with a couple dozen magnums. Aging took place over 18 months in French oak barrels, half of which were made from new oak.

The 2012 Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is opaque in the glass. Aromas of cassis and sweet oak spice dominate the nose, while traces of anise and pencil shavings poke through. The palate is so rich, it doesn't have to dress up. But it does so anyway. Black and blue berries are in front, with allspice, nutmeg, and tobacco sweetening the deal. Add great tannic structure to the package and I'm all in. This is a superb wine, whether you are a Cab fan or not.

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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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