Google+

Moving Day

Big news! Cornerstone Cellars is moving! We’re moving from our current address of 6505 Washington Street to our new address of 6505 Washington Street. Okay, that’s not very dramatic news as we are moving all of about twenty feet across the parking lot, but it’s big news for us and good news for you. We’re moving into the space right behind our current Yountville tasting room and will be closed from March 23rd to April 1st (no kidding) as we prepare an exciting new tasting experience for you in our beautiful new space.

On top of this there is truly exciting news for our old space as soon a dynamic new culinary partner will occupy our old tasting room featuring charcuterie, cheeses, bubbly and exclusive designer fashions and jewelry that you won’t be able to resist.

In addition to our exciting new neighbor, Cornerstone Cellars will be expanding our offerings from Yount Street Glass. Their handcrafted jewelry and gifts from recycled wine bottles could not be more fun or beautiful and we are excited that our new spacious tasting room will allow us to expand our offerings of their selections. With our new neighbors, more Yount Street Glass and an ever more exciting selection of wines from Cornerstone Cellars we are sure you won’t be able to resist visiting all of us in Yountville ever more than you do now.

While it’s true that you’ll have to walk a few more steps to get to Cornerstone Cellars, we know you’d find those few steps so entertaining you’ll never know you took them.

We can’t wait to welcome you to the new Cornerstone Cellars!

One Hundred Percent

2012 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc Black Label

We believe in the power of blending the classic Bordeaux varieties for the same reason the French do: it makes the wines better. Cabernet provides the power and structure, merlot texture and aromatics and cabernet franc is a bit like MSG as it lifts, brightens and adds excitement to the wine. This blending process is an important part of what we do at Cornerstone Cellars.

Well most of the time. The fact is the 2012 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc Black Label, Napa Valley is one hundred percent cabernet franc. We did not plan it that way, but the wine insisted and it's our job to listen to what the wine has to say, not tell it what to do.

Blending trial after blending trial ended up the same way with the unblended Cabernet Franc being the winner. There was simply nothing this cabernet franc needed so we decided to do exactly that - nothing.

Cabernet franc and the warm, long 2012 vintage were made for each other. The perfect fall weather allowed the grapes to ripen slowly at the end, coasting in to full ripeness without losing the natural herbal edge that defines cabernet franc. The result is a wine with the richness of Napa Valley that is still lifted, bright and mouthwatering.

While this wine is one hundred percent cabernet franc, it is still a blend as we have combined fruit from three exceptional vineyards for our Black Label Cabernet Franc and each of them add something special: Our Oakville Station Vineyard in To Kalon adds depth, power and a velvety texture; the Talcott Vineyard in St. Helena gives structure and richness; the Carrefour Vineyard in Coombsville brings lift, freshness and classic cabernet franc aromatics. Together they create something very, very special.

Isn't That the Point

11_Pinot_Black.jpg

It very strange how in winemaking you can end up at the same point in very, very different ways. "It is important to understand that a point is not a thing, but a place," notes the Math Open Reference. The point we are always trying to achieve is a pure expression of our three "V's": vintage, variety and vineyard.

To achieve this with varieties as transparent as chardonnay and pinot noir takes a clear vision of where you are going. To arrive at the same point in winemaking is not to make carbon copies vintage-to-vintage, but to arrive at the place you feel each vintage is taking you. Patient, careful winemaking allows wines of very different vintages to arrive at the place, the point, you are seeking as a winemaker. To arrive at this point you have to let the wine achieve its own natural balance for the year that created it. So in some years you have structured wines and in others a more natural richness and forward personality. Just because they are different does not mean they have not arrived at the exact point you are trying to achieve.

Two such vintages are 2011 and 2012 in Oregon's Willamette Valley. In 2011 rain and cool weather made fruit sorting an art form if you wanted to make exceptional wines. We rejected bin after bin and individually sorted and selected each bunch that made it into the fermenters. The end result speaks for itself in the beautifully lifted and structured 2011 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, White Label. The wines from this year are naturally tight and are only now starting to reveal their delicate layers of complexity. As someone who cut their pinot noir teeth on Burgundy I particularly love this wine. Then there was the sunny, gentle 2012 vintage where there was hardly a thing to sort. In fact, the 2012 chardonnay fruit was the most beautiful and defect free I've ever seen in Oregon. The 2012 Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay, White Label reflects this generous vintage, not by being soft, but with a rounded firmness that will develop for years to come. I think this is a perfect example of the extraordinary potential of chardonnay in Oregon and why I am convinced this is the best region for chardonnay in North America.

It is exciting to release such a distinct range of personalities with our Cornerstone Oregon releases this fall. For me such differences are the things that make wine so exciting and pleasurable. After all, isn't that the point.

A Beautiful Factory

It was majestic, breathtaking. It cost tens of millions of dollars. It was the most beautiful factory I'd ever seen. Such are the temples of wine in the Napa Valley. Shrines to people rather than agriculture. The days of Bottle Shock have long passed to be replaced by sticker shock. The Napa Valley is no longer the place a farmer can bring his winemaking dream to reality.

Today in the Napa Valley people build pyramids to their own memories just as the pharaohs did in ancient Egypt - and for the same reason. Immortality is expensive. Making wine is farming and it's hard to think of anything less glamorous. The choice for the ages is obvious - temples last longer than wines.

I was visiting one of Napa's new pyramids a few weeks ago and it was perfection. Majestic floor to ceiling windows filled with vineyard views, a winemaking facility loaded with the cutting edge technology and, of course, it was all integrated with equally cutting edge modern art. There was only one thing missing. There was no soul, no soul of the wine and no tie to the land. The connection to the land was lost as everything about the place was about people - nothing was about nature and dirt, which was nowhere to be seen except through perfectly clean, massive windows. It was there to see, but there was nothing to touch or that could touch you.

You can buy the land, the equipment, the art and the media, but in the end the wines will have no soul, no soil, unless it is really inside of you. Without that soul, no matter how much you spend, you just end up with a beautiful factory and like all factories you pump out an industrial product. Designer wines designed for points not people.

The marketing employed to sell these wines is as cold as the facility they're made in. Data points replace people and social media becomes a strategy not a conversation. You don't want to get your hands dirty.

Corison Winery

On Route 29 in the heart of the Napa Valley is a plain gray barn where the wine, and only the wine, tells the story. There Cathy Corison has endured the pointless point-ridden decades for wine when only points mattered and pH did not. Today she has been magically rediscovered without changing a thing. It seems actually having a vision and a passion, not simply an ego and a bottomless checking account, have become fashionable again. This, at least, is something we can be thankful for in the Napa Valley

There are real wine temples, like that plain gray barn, out there in the the Napa Valley and across California, but as in Indiana Jones, you'd better choose wisely. Most people choose poorly forgetting that it's in the cup of a carpenter that you're more likely to find real wine.

Being Franc

2011 Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Black Label Stepping Stone Cuvée 

Every vineyard, vintage and variety has its center. It's our job as winemakers to find that center and let it speak through the wine. If you think I feel there is Zen in crafting a wine you'd be right. When you find that center the wine truly has not only something to say, but something worth listening to.

This is why Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc is so distinctive. We let it be Franc. Many wineries seem to want to tame the cantankerous cabernet franc's edgy personality, but we don't. In fact, we revel in its idiosyncrasies. Being Franc is everything to us.

Where is cabernet franc's center? For me it a little on the wild side, sauvage, as the French call it. Not wild like crazy, but like nature. Cabernet franc should have an edge aromatically showing wild herbs and mint and a firm structure that grabs your attention. Like most really interesting things, it's not for everyone. Perhaps that what we like about it as we freely admit we are not trying to make wines for everybody.

Finding cabernet franc in the Napa valley is not easy and, unfortunately, expensive. We have been fortunate to find some amazing sites that allow us to weave the diverse characters of vineyards in St. Helena, Oakville, Coombsville and Carneros into a wine that embraces its Franc-ness. A dollop of spicy merlot from Carneros rounds out the texture and expands the aromatics with the herbal touch of merlot from a cool site echoing the sauvage of the cabernet franc itself. The fresh acidity lifts and separates each aspect of the wine allowing it to be voluptuous, yet finely balanced. This is a full figured Napa beauty that displays all of its seductive charms while never losing its elegance or firmness. I don't know if we make a sexier wine.

Just a note on the vintage, there have been a lot of knocks from the press on the 2011 vintage in the Napa Valley, proving once again a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous. The fact is if you took the weather we had in 2011 and gave it to Bordeaux they would be drinking Champagne and slapping themselves on the back. The only people that had trouble with this vintage are those winemakers dreaming of making big-point-fruit-bombs by picking at brix levels approaching thirty. Winemakers that were looking to harvest ripe grapes, as compared to overripe ultra-hang time fruit, cruised through the vintage just fine. A case in point being our 2011 Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Black Label Stepping Stone Cuvée.

We believe we have found our center with the 2011 Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Black Label Stepping Stone Cuvée by being willing to let franc be franc. We hope you will take the time to enjoy this wine in a state of mindfulness. Being Franc requires concentration.