Rosés of Summer: 2013 Stepping Stone Corallina

2013 Corallina Napa Valley Syrah RoséToday is the day before Summer officially starts.  Here in the Bay Area, summer has a tenancy to be a bit confused, and we’ve had some amazing weather, then cold weather, then amazing weather, then fog, then…

As confused as it can be, Summer to me is the time to drink Rose and think pink.  There is a lot of pink wine out there, but not every pink is the same.  Rose wines can vary from just barely pink, almost clear, to deep, rich, translucent ruby.  Every grape under the sun has been made in to a rose wine, but the most common are Piont Noir, Grenache, Syrah, and a smattering of other grapes such as Cab Franc and Mourvedre.

Typically, my personal favorites are Grenache and Pinot Noir rose, but there is a very special crop of pink Syrah out there that makes my heart go pitter patter!

Each year, Cornerstone Napa creates the Stepping Stone Corallina is a beautiful women of distinction, created from the Syrah fruit from Napa Valley.  And each year, General Manager Craig Camp, promises me that it is the best year ever.  Last year, I didn’t think that the team at Cornerstone could possible top the 2012.  But, it seems that they have done it with the 2013!

The 2013 Corallina Napa Valley Syrah Rosé is made as Cornerstone processes their white wines, where the Syrah is kept in whole clusters and gently pressed to maintain complexity and the nuances of a purpose made rose.  A bone dry rosé , this beauty bears no relation to the sweet, sticky White Zinfandels that are still (unfortunately) mostly closely associated with rose wine.

The light, fresh, and crisp Corallina has bright watermelon, Tuscan melon, and blood orange notes with an interesting fresh tomato note that was at once, unexpected and delicious.  The refreshing crispness of the Syrah has bright cherry notes, floral aromas, and an edge of herbaciousness that keep you guessing.

At only $25, I can drink this all summer.  Bright and juicy, it is perfect for summer sipping with everything from barbecued chicken to burgers, and can stand up to salted watermelon salad, and rich cheeses as well.

Corallina was given to me by the winery as a press sample, but clearly I love this beautiful women.  For more Rosés of Summer, keep watching every Friday!


Change is in the air – Stepping Stone by Cornerstone

When Cornerstone Cellars burst on the scene with their sister label, Stepping Stone, it was an existing time for wine lovers.  The quiet powerhouse of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon had the opportunity to move in to some fun and interesting varietals, such as Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and a beautiful rose of Syrah.

Recently, with the leadership of General Manager Craig Camp and winemaker Jeff Keene, the Stepping Stone label has grown up:  Now, Stepping Stone by Cornerstone (Cornerstone Black Label) represents the best in class of the support cast of characters that make Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux, so sexy.

Cornerstone Stepping Stone Cabernet FrancWith the new labels, Stepping Stone by Cornerstone slides seamlessly in to the Cornerstone lineup.  The elegant white on black label mirrors the black on white labels of the Cornerstone Cabernet lineup and makes a bold statement about where these wines lie on the quality and flavor spectrum.

My favorites (well ok they really are ALL favorites but…) is the 2011 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc.  When I stopped by the see the gang at Cornerstone earlier this year, I tasted through the lineup and once again, the Cab Franc stand out.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Cab Franc in general, and Cornerstone’s in particular.  The 2011 has all of the savory herbaciouness that makes Cab Franc so unique, with a pop of raspberry and plum.  Hiding in the back of the mouth, I get dried herbs, French lavelddar, and tobacco along with some dark chocolate dancing on my tounge.

This is a silky, rich, unctuous wine, but it’s also bright.  With the herbal backbone it’s a great pairing for herbed chicken, pepper steak or pretty much anything.  For $45 this is an affordable luxury that you can share with your friends to warm up on a chilly late spring evening.

Here in Northern California, we aren’t sure what season it is yet.  We had about 3 days of high summer, followed by a day of winter.  It’s now calmed back in to Spring, so I say open a bottle of Cornerstone tonight and make it choose your season for you!

Corenrstone Cellars is located in yountville, just north of the town of Napa.  If you’re making a trip to Napa, make sure you stop in.  You won’t be sorry!


Howell Mountain Cabernet has a special place in my heart!

There is something so special about mountainside fruit in Napa Valley.  With both Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain boasting some famous vineyards & producers, and a very different flavor profile emerging from both of these unique areas, they are both small AVAs that hold a special place in my heart.

Napa Valley has been making Cabernet Sauvignon for over 100 years.  Napa can be, and generally is, synonymous with New World Cabernet.  But, for some people, the stereotypical big, fruity, over powering valley floor fruit can be too much.  Now of course, there are always expectations to this rule (Titus are you listening?), but in my personal and professional opinion, there is a lot to be gained by looking up.

Why?  In the case of Howell Mountain, the rolling hills and steep slopes have created several micro climates.  Each small clearing is above the fog.  When the white stuff rolls off of the ocean, and my house is socked in the pea soup, the weather on Howell Mountain is sunny, but cool.  Sitting on this inversion layer, the weather flip flops, and evenings are warmer than the days, which help to maintain the heat spikes that can be more extreme down the hill.

Located on the eastern side of the Napa valley, and north of Atlas Peak, Howell Moutain is roughly parallel but north of Chiles Valley and east of Srping Mountain, and St. Helena.

Rocky, dry soils on the mountain are well drained, and the cooler temperatures and later bud break lead to warm summer nights.  All of these factors help to create balance between acidity and sweetness, which means, complexity and richness in your glass.  Yum!

In the Cornerstone Cellars, the 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet really shows these elements.  Farmed organically, the Ink Grade vineyard is on the east side of Howell Mountain at 1800 feet.  Producing smaller berries with an intensity of flavor, a touch of Oak Knoll Cab and Carneros Merlot are blended in.  I adore this wine, and found it deep, and earthy with beautiful blue black notes of blackberry and blueberry, with cracked black pepper and dutch cocoa.  The word that came to mind immediately was unctuous.

At $80 it’s a splurge, but well worth it for wine lovers and a special occasion.  

 This wine was provided by the winery for consideration, and while all opinions are my own, seriously, this is the good sh&*!



Putting the pieces together

Brick by brick, Stone by stone.
That’s how you build a castle, and also a successful winery.

Tonight, the weather is crisp, and the rain has cleared up.  Butternut squash soup is cooking and I’m sipping on Cornerstone Cellars’ sister label Stepping Stone 2009 Syrah from Napa Valley.  I’m a huge syrah fan, and this is a great pick for budget minded wineaux.  It’s a great example of the grape, and rivals syrahs that retail for $35-40 easily.

The earthy plums and blue/black fruit come out in this rich bold wine, perfect for winter sipping.  It’s bold and velvety smooth, with hints of black pepper and licorice.  I really love this wine, and for $20 you simply can’t wrong.  MUST BUY

With the soup that was bubbling away, we had a touch of Creme Fraiche and bacon.  I think I might be able to eat an ENTIRE bucket of Creme Fraiche but that’s another story.

Please, go out and buy some Stepping Stone today!  My faves are the Cab Franc and the Syrah, so get both.  You can’t go wrong!

Twitter turns a corner

And dies.  So much for Twitter Taste LIVE right?  Although we didnt’ get to tweet and share our tasting notes in real time, I was very happy to be able to share the Cornerstone Cellars Napa wines with my group of blogger friends anyway.

So there we were, surrounded by friends, sipping on some amazing Cabernet and eating some tasty treats provided by The Winehiker.

We worked backwards from 2005 to 2002, and while we probably could have let these air more, time did not allow.  If i were to taste them again, I would decant them all for at least 2 hours before the first taste, and periodically taste them over 24 hours to give them their full potential.

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2005$65

This is 100% Cab Sav, and comes from three areas of Napa:  Howell Mountain, the western edge of Oakville, and the Southeast corner of Napa Valley.  The blending of these three distinct areas really created something special here.

Wow!  What a big boy.  I immediately smelled dark fruit, cherry and blackberry.  Upon first sip, it was like drinking blackberry cider, with some baking spice to top it off.  This was a full but soft wine, with some earthy spice on the backend.  It’s ready to drink now, and is full and lush with very little noticeable tannin.  What I love about this cab is that it is not overpowering, both of fruit and on oak.  Nicely balanced.

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2004 – $100

This 2004 Howell Mountain came from a high elevation vineyard, which shows off the complexity of the Howell Mountain District.

I tasted a lot of cocoa powder, followed by soft rich fruit, baking spices and evergreen.  The dark fruit was nicely ripened, and the bits of earth really balanced out the rich fruit.  It’s a big, bold, but soft wine with a great backbone.  I found that the 2004 had more structure than the 05 Napa, and it showed with tons of blackberry and meaty characteristics.  it was a full wine, and one you could chew on.  I found the 05 Napa was fruitier and plusher than this wine, and the Howell Mtn could stand up to a good pice of meat.



The 2004 was definitely my favorite of the night.  It had the power of a classic Napa cab, but was not overwhelming.  At the same time, it had a nice balance of fruit and a good.

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2002 (Library Release) – $125

This is the Library Reserve selection of the Howell Mountain, and it was very interesting to taste them side by side.  I found it to be a bit lackluster for my taste, with flavors of stewed fruit.  It had a very meaty flavor profile, but was a bit muddy.  I enjoyed all three of these wines, and even enjoyed the 2002 Howell Mountain, but preferred the 2004.

Thanks for another fun event!