We’ve enjoyed pretty much everything that our friends at Cornerstone Cellars in Napa Valley have sent us to sample over the past few years, from both their flagship Cornerstone label and their second, Stepping Stone. Recently, we took possession of five of the current Stepping Stone offerings, and tried them over a series of evenings. We mostly liked what we tasted, but did find one selection excessively ripe for our tastes. Read on for our detailed impressions.
2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc Cuveé Musque, 13.5% alc., $18.00/bottle: Clean, medium color, with textbook clonal character and a subtle creaminess lurking quietly in the background that might give the mistaken impression that it saw some oak. Medium bodied, with flavors and aromas reminiscent of grapefruit, pine, lime and a hint of grassiness; medium-to-medium full bodied, with good cut and length. Pairs nicely with grilled salmon and red snapper. Sourced from a vineyard in St. Helena; underwent an extremely cool, gradual fermentation in stainless steel. “The Sauvignon Blanc Musque clone is responsible for some of the finest Sauvignon Blancs in California. Used by many wineries as a blending component, a few wineries (Stepping Stone by Cornerstone being one) are now using the Musque clone as if it were a distinct grape variety: Sauvignon Musque.” – Cornerstone Cellars Find this wine
2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Napa Valley Riesling, 13.5% alc., $18.00/bottle: Clean, medium color, with decent varietal character; slightly plump in the mouth, with good length and just a little bitter, with grapefruit, green apple, mineral and a hint of pineapple characteristics. A good specimen of the variety, but I still prefer what’s coming out of places like Oregon, Washington, New York and, yes, Michigan. Sourced from Henry Ranch, Carneros, Napa Valley. Received an extremely cool, gradual fermentation in stainless steel followed by aging in stainless barrels. Find this wine
2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Corallina Napa Valley Syrah Rosé, 13% alc., $18.00/bottle: Salmon pink in color; rich, ripe and fairly intense, with strawberry, raspberry and cherry flavors and aromas, underscored with a subtle note of earth. More than medium bodied, with good acids and length, this provides a nice variation on the rosé theme and is quite enjoyable. Sourced from Mogambo Vineyard, in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. Gently whole cluster pressed before undergoing an extremely cool, gradual fermentation in stainless steel, then racked into mature barrels for aging. Find this wine
The Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Rocks! bottlings are new entries into the lineup that Cornerstone GM Craig Camp describes as follows: “Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Rocks! are house wines for serious wine connoisseurs, yet they are priced so that even the most budget minded wine drinker can enjoy a great bottle of wine. These wines are a license to let Jeff (winemaker Jeff Keene) and I play in the cellar and come up with combinations of varieties that tickle both our fancy and our palates. Each vintage can bring a very different Rocks! as we blend wines we make with wines we discover. Our palates are guided only by what inspires us each year instead of trying for any particular style. Our goal is to make delicious wines at everyday prices: house wines for Cornerstone drinkers. We produced just 500 cases of each and their suggested retail price is $15.”
2010 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Napa Valley White Rocks!, 13.5% alc., $15.00 SRP: A blend of Chardonnay and Muscat, this clean, medium colored white is rich and ripe, but not excessively so. It shows characteristics of both varieties, and in this case, they mesh well, offering nice pear and red and green apple flavors and aromas with subtle mineral underneath, all on a medium-full bodied frame, with good cut and length. Kim has somewhat a different take on it, describing it as “almost like a lemon-orange creamsicle.” However you describe it, we both liked it, as did our friend, Tom Bloomer, so three thumbs up for this one! Find this wine
2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Napa Valley Red Rocks!,14.9% alc., $15.00 SRP: A seemingly unlikely blend of Zinfandel and Pinot Noir that shows deep, dark color, with a very ripe black raspberry and black cherry personality shaded with smoky oak and earthy undertones; medium-full bodied, with decent structure and length. We probably would have liked this back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but it’s just too sweet and ripe for our palates these days. Find this wine
Reporting from Day-twah,