When Megan and I first drove up to Corison, smack in the middle of busy Highway 29 in the Napa Valley, I was struck by the charm of the little yellow cottage in front.  The unassuming winery behind the cottage was bustle with the frenzy of the mobile bottling line, but Cathy Corison welcomed us in anyway and took us on a walk around the Kronos Estate Vineyard.

Cathy Corison has been working in wine for more than 20 years.  She honed her craft at Napa Valley staworts like Chappellet Vineyard, Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch.  While making wine for other people, she kept wanted to express her own wine voice, and so in 1987 the first Corison Cabernet was born.

The location of the winery is on the benchland between Rutherford and St. Helena, and is known to produce world class Cabernet.  The soil here on the Rutherford Bench is stony alluvial, and it is the best kind of growing condition for Cabernet.   The old vines produce a bold, powerful and elegant wine with red and black fruit showing through with grace and satin luminosity.

The estate’s Kronos Vineyard is in fact one of the oldest Cabernet vineyards in the region, and therefore is a rare treat.  At a time many in the wine business were ripping out old vines to replant and go with the modern technologies, this vineyard stayed put.  These granddaddies aer 37 years old (give or take), and are farmed organically.  Corison has owned the land since 1995 and the first vintage was 1996. These meaty vines are thick as tree trucks, and yield such small numbers that you would think you were at a fruit stand and not a winery.  That said, the resulting juice holds a terrific array of flavors with concentrated fruit and refined structure.

As we heard the story of the winery and Cathy’s career, we tasted through 4 of the Cabernets, each with their own style and flavor, but each an amazing treat.

1996 Kronos Cabernet – this was the first vintage produced after Corison bought the property.  This wine is alive with grass,  green pepper, plum, spice and blackberry.  It still has a lot of fruit for a 12 year old wine, and I could really pick out the cherry.  It is in the European style, and is powerful but still elegant.

1997 Kronos- Dark, deep, difficult to get nose.  More tannin and less fruit.  Firmer texture.  Slight flavor of grape bubble gum  More spice, less fruit, subtle.  Violets, dried roses, floral, nice acidity with a lot of spice.

1998 Kronos- rich red fruit, restrained leather and tobacco.  Plums and sandlewood, a touch of cassis.

We also tasted more recent vintages, but they are still babies.  I am looking forward to going back and tasting them again as they develop, as well as taste the older vintages again.  I was so wowed by them, my notes are a little lackluster and don’t properly do them justice.

If you are in Napa, dont’ miss a visit to Corison at 987 St. Helena Highway.  It is open by appointment only from 10am – 5pm, but since there almost always there, just give them a buzz at 707.963.0826.

Happy tasting!

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