The more wines we taste from our friends at Cornerstone Cellars in the Napa and Willamette Valleys, the more we admire the great work they continue to do. Consider, if you will, the six samples from the 2009 vintage that we tried recently. Each exhibits the consistent high quality that we’ve come to expect from this producer, and does so with what is for us, an engaging and appealing style. We began our survey by pouring glasses of the 2nd vintage of Cornerstone’s Pinot Noir, which proved to be a worthy successor to the 2008 model that we reviewed in September of 2010. (click images to enlarge)
2009 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 13.9% alc., $50.00: Clean ruby garnet color; black cherry aromatics shaded with earth and mushroom follow through nicely on the palate, with oak influence well in the background. Medium-to-medium full bodied, with good intensity of flavor, smooth texture and deceptive structure that should take it several years down the road. A wine of class, substance and appeal, this is some very nice Pinot Noir indeed. Sourced from five Willamette Valley AVAs; Eola Hills (37%), Yamhill-Carlton (21%), Chehalem Mountain (21%), Ribbon Ridge (13%) and Dundee Hills (8%). 14 months in French oak barrels, 60% of which were new. Find this wine
As previously reported, the Stepping Stone line strives to offer high quality at lower prices than wines with the Cornerstone label, and the following two selections succeed completely in that regard.
2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5% alc., $35.00: Clean, dark color; effusive ripe black currant and black cherry made even more attractive with a judicious kiss of sweet oak and a subtle briary note lurking underneath. Flavors echo and expand, being rich and expressive; full bodied, with a smooth, velvety texture that belies substantial structure for at least a few years in the cellar. Satisfying and harmonious, this is a winner. Sourced from 5 outstanding vineyard sites, including Wooden Valley, Oakville, Coombsville and Carneros. Find this wine
2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, 14.25% alc., $35.00: Clean, dark color; attractive aromatics of black cherry, black currant, blackberry and a kiss of sweet oak not quite as bold as the CS, but still quite inviting. Flavors follow through on the palate very nicely, with great balance; full bodied, yet almost sleek, with deceptive structure and a smooth demeanor. Like the CS, so tasty already, but with the guts to go for at least a few years in the cellar, maybe as much as five, or even ten. Between this and the Cab Sauv., these may be the most immediately likeable, if not the best, Stepping Stone reds we’ve tried to date. Sourced from the Carneros vineyards of Southern Napa, where, due to the moderating influences of the San Pablo and San Francisco Bays, the growing season starts earlier, but extends longer than most inland areas. Find this wine
Cornerstone has added a red blend to its flagship Napa and Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings, and it is indeed every bit as impressive as those two.
2009 The Cornerstone Napa Valley Red Wine, 14.9% alc., SRP $125: Deep, dark color, not quite opaque; mostly toasty oak on the nose, fleshing out on the palate with more of the same over a dense core of black currant and blackberry fruit. At this point, the toast from the oak tends to dominate this full bodied Bordeaux blend, but with its significant structure, there should be plenty of time for it to integrate. It does open with air, showing more and more sweet, lovely fruit, but, really, at this point, this one is all about potential, which it has a ton of. If you have to pull the cork on one now, I’d suggest giving it an hour in a decanter, but best to give it five years and more in the cellar to see what this baby is going to evolve into. I have a feeling that the wait will be well worth it. Deep, dense and intense. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, Davis Oakville Station, Oakville, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, Talcott Vineyard, St. Helena, 2.5% Merlot, Stewart Ranch Vineyard, Carneros. Find this wine
Finally, the aforementioned Napa and Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons are as good, if not even better, than anything we’ve had the good fortune to try from Cornerstone.
2009 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.9% alc., SRP $60: Clean, dense, dark color, with lovely aromatics of rich, ripe black currant, blackberry and black cherry, graced with a perfect kiss of sweet oak; these impressions echo and expand on the palate, with slightly drying tannins on the finish and subtle earth underneath it all. Sleek, full bodied and structured for several years in the cellar, and yet, so tasty already. There’s no fat on this baby, it’s all good! Find this wine
2009 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain, 14.9% alc., SRP $75: Clean, dark color; deeper, darker and more intense than the Napa bottling, with less obvious oak and serious structure that requires years in the cellar. Full bodied, with deep, dark black currant/cassis and earth flavors and aromas, this needs some time in a decanter and grilled red meat to even be approachable now, but a good ten years in the cellar will serve it best. The Napa is a charmer; this one’s a bruiser with a long life ahead of it. Find this wine
Based on these five wines, it’s pretty easy for us to say that Cornerstone just keeps getting better and better!