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Singularity

Purity and delicacy are wine descriptors that do not appear often in reviews of top scoring wines. Terms like powerful, opulent and dense are the genre of pointy wines.

Poor Beaujolais seems destined to miss the mark for ratings defined by such descriptors. Youthful, fresh, lively, fruity, zesty and, the phrase that always damns a wine for the point obsessed, a "food wine", means low 90s at best.

Big points are the black holes of the wine universe. In the heart of the black hole the wines are dense and no light can escape from them, only points seem able to escape. Before all the lightness of wine is sucked away, down into the black hole itself, is the point of singularity where lightness can still exist. That's where wines like Beaujolais become relative.

If young Beaujolais finds relativity a problem, where can old Beaujolais find its place in the universe? It turns out Einstein was wrong when it comes to Beaujolais, Einstein's formula E=MC2 does not compute in this case where less mass creates more energy.

Recently I did a double take when I got a club shipment from Kermit Lynch. Côte de Brouilly? No surprise there. But wait! The vintage was not 2014, but 2006. The 2006 Côte de Brouilly Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes is indeed a singularity. It's a lacy, high strung ballerina of a wine. It was pure pleasure to let her dance through my dinner.

Black holes warp space time just as the 100 point scale warps wine time. Lightness is a concept that suffers in a universe dominated by black holes. They have indeed warped the wine universe.

I prefer to experience wines at the point of singularity.

This Wine Makes Me Mad

This wine makes me mad. It really ticks me off. It's balanced, elegant, complex, interesting and outrageously good to drink. What really gets me is that it's from a warm climate, downright Mediterranean, with hot sunny days - just like the the Napa Valley. This leads to the question, what the hell is wrong with the Napa Valley and why can't we make wines like this?

Yes there are those few that do, but they are lone voices. We all know Corison, Dunn, Stony Hill and a few other regal producers who get nods from the more enlightened media. Yet when it come to points it's excess that still wins the day.

The wine that angered me so much? The 2009 Mas de Daumas Gassac a stunning wine from a place famous for its sunshine.

What's your excuse Napa Valley? Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Ram Horn Vineyard Syrah Harvest, Mendocino

A true family endevour, the Poor Ranch in Mendocino is home to some wondeful old vines. The third generation is now working on the land and a fourth is one the way. The vineyard has always been farmed organically, in fact, this was the way vineyards used to be farmed and they just kept doing the way they had always farmed the land. They kind of laugh when people talk about the "new California" style of agriculture. True natural winegrowing by people that know no other way

Let's Play Two

The Dodgers and the Mets were in game five of the division championships and it occurred to me that the winner would be facing the Cubs in the NLCS. As a long time White Sox fan I'd spent the better part of the last three decades hating the Cubs. Normally I'd just assume I'd be pulling for whoever they ended up playing.

However, now I've been on the west coast for so long I've truly become a San Francisco Giants fan. To be a Giants fan means having a deep contempt for the Dodgers. So the idea of a potential Cubs and Dodgers NLCS made me face my true baseball fan soul.

What I discovered is that Tony Bennett has won out over Frank Sinatra and my roots are now truly more on the west coast than the midwest, where I grew up. The true measure of this was revealed to me when I realized in a showdown between the Dodgers and the Cubs I'd have to pull for the Cubs. Mind you I might not have been pulling very hard for them, but anything is better than the Dodgers getting to the World Series.

I guess we’re defined equally by not only the team we root for, but by the team we decide to see as evil incarnate.

There are several things that have made the Giants number one in my heart over the White Sox. Without a doubt winning three World Series in six years didn't hurt, but the fact that the White Sox, as they play in the American League, have a DH and the Giants don't has really changed the way I like to watch baseball played. The game is just better without the DH.

The Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees are rich teams in big markets. The (L.A.) Dodgers and Yankees have thrown their money at the game always feeling that anything less than a World Series Championship is failure. The Cubs, on the other hand, have been satisfied to just take the money from their fans and delivered mediocrity knowing they would still pack their quaint ballpark just by coming close to the playoffs every few years. Success at Wrigley Field has been measured by accountants not championships. It’s hard to like a team that has treated its long suffering fans so callously. Just think if they win the World Series this year they can ride that gravy train for another century. If is often joked about the Cubs that any team can have a bad century. But in fact the Cubs have had a tremendous century, they just haven’t won any championships. The lovable losers have been taking it to the bank for a long time now.

It was this attitude that eventually drove my loyalties from Wrigley Field to Comiskey Park and there they’ll stay in Chicago. I was drawn to the White Sox as, like me, they had to win to succeed. I felt closer to a team that had to produce results than one who was living on a type of inheritance and was milking it for all it was worth. It took a lot to drive me away from the team of my youth and the first place I ever saw a major league baseball game, but the Cubs did it.

My mother loves the Cubs and so if they do win I will be very happy for her and the other Cub fans so desperately praying for their beloved Cubbies to finally break the fabled curse. The same goes for the players who will be the real champions if they can pull it off. However, the ownership of this fabled franchise should not be let off the hook. They could have pulled this off much sooner with the resources at their command. The reason the Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 is not due to the players or fans, but due to the callous economic interests of the various owners over the years.

I was lucky to visit Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. It was an amazing experience for someone who loves baseball and nothing moved me more than the plaque honoring Ernie Banks. Behind me in my office sits a framed scorecard my dad kept when he took me to a game in Wrigley Field on August 24th, 1962, the day after my ninth birthday. Warren Spahn pitched for the Milwaukee Braves and Hank Aaron hit a home run. A young player named Lou Brock was playing center field for the Cubs. Billy Williams was in right and Santo was on third. The Cubs lost. On the front of that scorecard are the autographs of Don Landrum, Ken Hubbs and the incomparable Ernie Banks all scored for me by my dad.

So for my mom, dad, Ernie and that beautiful game in 1962 I will root for the Cubs to make it this time in spite of the suits who have run the franchise so cynically for the last century. Terrible owners have given Chicago the Black Sox and a hundred years of frustration for generations of faithful Cub fans. It’s time to think about the game, not them.

“Let’s play two,” said Ernie, the most beautiful quote in baseball. For the next two weeks, I’ll be a Cubs fan.

Harvest Willamette Valley 9/13/15

Our Oregon crew sorting pinot noir

It’s 6:30 in the morning and it’s time pick the grapes. However there is no picking crew waiting except us. This vineyard was going to be harvested by the four of us. This is the Maverick Vineyard, in the Oregon Willamette Valley sub-AVA of Yamhill Carlton. It’s just a baby and an infant like Maverick does not produce enough fruit to interest a crew of pickers paid by the bucket. The fruit needed to be picked so the four of us picked it.

Then to the winery where over the next twelve hours seven of us hand sorted and processed 15 tons of pinot noir, from our other vineyards, which are now happily cold soaking as we finish cleaning up the mess that only handling ton after ton of grapes can make.

Winemaker Tony Rynders harvesting Maverick Vineyard

An interesting thing happens after you hand sort that much fruit. The tartaric acid crystallizes on your fingernails making them look like they’ve been painted white. I don’t think it’s good look for me.

You’ll excuse me after fifteen hours of hard work for not being more eloquent, but I’ll give you a more detailed look at our Cornerstone Oregon harvest tomorrow. Good night as another fifteen tons will be waiting in the morning.

Harvest 2015 Rhone Rangers 9/9 9/10 2015

Kari checking on Corallina fresh from the press

Today and yesterday we’ve been Rhone Rangers as on Wednesday we brought in our first marsanne and rousanne from the David Girard Vineyard in El Dorado. As exciting as that was, today is always a special day for us as we harvested our Crane Vineyard Syrah for what has became a very special wine for us - Corallina Syrah Rosé.

In what as become a rather innocuous wine category as rosé became more popular, I’m very proud that Cornerstone Cellars is known for making a rosé with true character. I’m glad the media agrees with us making Corallina Syrah Rosé the top ranked rosé in California http://cl.ly/d3uE

Gorgeous Corallina juice

The only problem with the 2015 Corallina Syrah Rosé will be there won’t be very much of it. Due to poor fruit set we are looking at about a 40% drop in production. No worries, we’ll be sure our friends get their Corallina first! As always we seek to make Corallina better every year and this will be the first vintage that is 100% barrel fermented. This will make the wine even deeper and more complex. The juice this year is particularly deeply flavored and colored and I expect the 2015 to be a dramatic rosé.

The marsanne and rousanne are part of our new expanded “Wine Dance” series of wines made from classic Rhone Valley varieties. Joining Corallina Syrah Rosé will be this rousanne/marsanne blend, a viognier, a grenache and a mourvedre from El Dorado and an old vine syrah from Mendocino. These are our “Rhone Rangers” and you’ll be introduced to these new releases in 2016. The style is ultra-traditional with no new oak used to maximize the bright, fresh fruit flavors of these wines.

Munching on marsanne

We co-fermented the rousanne and marsanne and the juice had this glorious, rich honeyed character that is sure make an expressive and delicious wine.

Tomorrow will be a very long day. We’re hitting the vineyards at 5:30 a.m. and will be picking two merlot and one cabernet franc site here in the Napa Valley. I’m sure the sun will be down before we get everything in the fermenters.

A New Cabernet for Cornerstone Cellars: Michael's Cuvée

Essentially all wines are cuvée blends to one degree or the other. Unless a wine comes from a single barrel or tank that passed from fermenter to bottle with no additions all wines are are blends. They’re either blends of barrels or vineyards or varieties or all of the above. The important thing is why you make a cuvée. Like so many wine terms, reserve for example, there is no legal restrictions in their use so it is only the integrity of the producer that gives these terms their meaning.

We have the privilege of working with some of the finest vineyards in the Napa Valley, which means some of the finest vineyards anywhere in the world. They are so exceptional that we have decided to bottle them in small single vineyard lots in order to let their beautiful personalities clearly sing in their own voice. The first of these single vineyard wines will be released this fall.

However, sometimes even the finest singers love to sing with others finding a new harmony and complexity in blending the textures of their voices. It’s the same for winemakers, we can’t help but explore the new layers and personalities that can be created by blending.

It is in this spirit that our Cornerstone Cellars Michael’s Cuvée was born. A selection from our finest vineyards and varieties, Michael’s Cuvée is a unique expression of the best of each vintage brought together in a new and distinctive harmony. Such an important wine could not have just any name and so we chose a name deeply and emotionally tied to the entire history of Cornerstone Cellars. Michael’s Cuvée is named for founder Dr. Michael Dragutsky, whose spirit and passion have fueled Cornerstone Cellars since our founding in 1991.

As befitting the first release of such an important wine, the 2012 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Michael’s Cuvée is a true statement wine. Combining some exceptional vineyards with an extraordinary vintage we have crafted a memorable wine that will evolve for many years to come. The 2012 Michael’s Cuvée is 91% cabernet sauvignon with 9% merlot. The blend was selected from the Oakville Station Vineyard (To Kalon) 57%, 28% Kairos Vineyard in Oak Knoll and 9% Ink Grade Vineyard on Howell Mountain. Less than 250 cases were produced.

The 2012 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Michael's Cuvée is a classic, powerful, but elegantly structured Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Deeply colored with rich, cassis laden aromatics, it is youthful and concentrated at this point and will develop even more complexity and elegance as it ages over the next decade or more. While voluptuous and richly textured it is still bright and fresh with a long, smooth finish.