Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak Stepping Stone 2008
About This Wine: Our 2008 Stepping Stone Cabernet Sauvignon is a concentrated, multi-layered wine where the dark, rich fruit dominates as the palate expands, but the acid remains lively, juicy and focused. The tannins are long, youthful and satisfying and bring richness and length to the palate. While enticing, generous and elegant upon release, this wine will become even more delicious in the cellars of the patient among us. While it is one thing to make great wines, it's a whole other challenge to produce beautiful wines of outstanding quality that are both reasonably priced and capable of expressing their full charm and complexity in their youth, which is part of our vision for Stepping Stone.<br/><br/> A 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, this 2008 Stepping Stone highlights the complexity and diversity of winegrowing in the Napa Valley. Sourced from 5 outstanding vineyard sites, each adding a unique personality to the wine, which is the secret to its silky textures and rich balance. From the muscular, dense, concentrated fruit of Wooden Valley to the lusciously complex, bold earthy aromatics and tannic structure of Oakville, which are then lifted with a touch of softness, acidity and forward, almost floral notes from the Coombsville and Carneros vineyards of Southern Napa.<br/><br/> 2008 was a dramatic growing season beginning with below normal winter rainfall, an extended April frost that reduced quantities in many regions, followed by ideal mid-summer and fall temperatures with no precipitation. Berry size was small and combined with lighter yields, resulted in excellent quality fruit producing wines with amazingly deep colors, great balance, flavor and aromas.<br/><br/> About The Winery: 1991 was the first vintage of Cornerstone Cellars - and a head-first plunge into the wonderful world of long-distance wine production for Memphis physicians, Michael Dragutsky and David Sloas.<br/><br/> Back in the fall of 1991, Sloas was visiting the Napa Valley. He and Napa wine merchant Bruce Scotland went up to see Randy Dunn on Howell Mountain, taste his wines and watch harvest. As the trailers unloaded, Dunn told them he had five tons more Cabernet coming in than he could manage at his place. Would Sloas want to buy it? He called back to Dragutsky in Memphis for a reality check. They agreed they had both lost their minds - and purchased the overage of 4.8 tons of premium Howell Mountain Cabernet. They were in the wine business.<br/><br/> Taken somewhat by surprise by their overwhelming reception, Dragutsky and Sloas decided that their love of good wine would prevail over all else. "From the beginning our philosophy was to use the best grapes, the best barrels, the best facilities," says CFO and Vice President, Dragutsky. "Making the best wine we can bottle is the real bottom line for us. It's thrilling to be out to a fine meal with friends, order our wine and see the great response to our Cornerstone wines."<br/><br/> From the first, the wines have been extremely well received in the press, getting ratings in the mid-nineties in the Wine Spectator and excellent reviews in The Wine Advocate and Connoisseurs' Guide.<br/><br/> Cornerstone Cellars was rated one of eight "World Class" Cabernet Sauvignon producers (along with Dunn Howell Mountain, Dunn Napa Valley, La Jota Anniversary, Mondavi Reserve, Phelps Insignia, Ridge Monte Bello, and Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23) in The Connoisseurs' Handbook of the Wines of California and the Pacific Northwest, 4th Edition.<br/><br/> 1991 was a great vintage year and Cornerstone Cellars found a cult niche: powerful Howell Mountain Cabernets - big, ripe and muscular with focused fruit of currant, cherry and plum - and a miniscule production of 400 cases. This is some of the latest Cabernet in the valley to ripen due to the lean hillside soils and the elevation of the vineyards on Howell Mountain (the vineyard sources are from 1700 to 2400 feet). The yield averages two to two-and-a-half tons per acre. While the temperatures are moderate, the daily pattern is reversed: on a hot day it is warmer in the morning since the vineyard is above the fog on the valley floor, and it is cooler later in the day which makes the flavors more concentrated. The later ripening allows "hang time" when the intensity of flavor develops and the tannins soften.<br/><br/> In 1997, Dragutsky and Sloas bought into a 12 acre vineyard on Liparita Road which had been the primary fruit source since the first vintage. The site is at approximately 1700 feet with red mountain clay soil typical of this part of Howell Mountain. In 2002 the vineyard was sold to next door neighbor and vintner, Mark Neal. A gradual replant is underway with all aspects of the project focused on putting the best wine possible in the bottle. Long term contracts with Neal ensure continuity of fruit source for many years to come.<br/><br/> About The Team <strong>A New Era at Cornerstone</strong> - I'm pleased to announce that, for the first time in many years, Cornerstone Cellars has a full-time winemaker. With our plans for growth and ever higher quality goals, I felt a consulting winemaker would not be able to give us the focus and time required to achieve our goals. Our new winemaker, Jeff Keene, is a veteran winemaker with more than a decade of Napa Valley experience. A native of New Zealand, Jeff was a research chemist, but returned to university in New Zealand to get a degree in enology. A former associate winemaker with Peter Franus and head winemaker at Havens Wine Cellars, Jeff will bring an elegant touch to the wines of Cornerstone Cellars. Also joining our winemaking team is star consulting enologist Peter Franus, whose more than thirty years of Napa Valley winegrowing and winemaking will help achieve our goal of taking our Cornerstone wines to the pinnacle of Napa Valley wines.<br/><br/> <strong>A New Era with New Wines</strong> - This September saw the release of our new Stepping Stone wines: 2008 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($20), 2007 Carneros Cabernet Franc ($30) and 2007 Red Hills-Lake County Grenache ($20) all of which were produced by our new winemaking team. Our mission with Stepping Stone is to craft wines of exceptional value and we have achieved that goal in our new releases. The Sauvignon Blanc is steely and crisp, the Cabernet Franc is fragrant and elegant and the Grenache is powerful and peppery. Production of all of these wines was limited and I expect them to sell out before the end of the year.<br/><br/> We've just harvested our first Cornerstone Cellars white wine, a single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from an exceptional block in the St. Helena AVA. This new wine will be released next Spring and will help introduce more consumers to our wines. Our traditional Cabernet Sauvignon portfolio remains unchanged, except that our 2008 Napa will now have some Cabernet Franc in the blend from our Casanova Vineyard on the rocky hills at the eastern edge of the Oakville AVA. With this vintage we are taking all the fruit from this tiny, but exciting vineyard. Our flagship wine, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, will continue to come from the Ink Grade Vineyard and is made with 100% organically certified grapes, as it has been since 2004. The current releases are 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.<br/><br/> Our new tasting room and hospitality center in Yountville is now open and we invite you to visit us when you are in Napa.<br/><br/> Technical Analysis: <strong>Alcohol:</strong> 14.9%<br/><br/> <strong>Appellation:</strong> Napa Valley<br/><br/> <strong>Vineyards:</strong> Oakville (UC-Davis Block, Cassanova Vineyard), Wooden Valley (Rancho Chimiles), Coombsville (Hardman Road), Carneros (Truchard Vineyard)<br/><br/> <strong>Varietal:</strong> 100% Cabernet Sauvignon<br/><br/> <strong>Year:</strong> 2008<br/><br/>
vineyard, vintage, & variety OUR THIRD DECADE OF EXCELLENCE EXCELLENCE IS NOT ENOUGH. We have to go beyond and establish an ever higher goal each vintage. Our mission is to craft wines that are not only exceptional, but memorable. Each of our wines expresses the essence of vineyard, variety and vintage, which combine each harvest to create something never to be exactly repeated.
Editorial Reviews for Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak Stepping Stone
The nose is marked by noticeable toasty oak that adds hints of coffee, bittersweet chocolate and allspice to the core of lightly herbal black currant fruit accented by notes of eucalyptus and dried tarragon. In the mouth this is nicely focused with good tension provided by the solid underlying acidity and brisk tannins. It offers nicely layered fruit that never becomes too dense, though the tannins turn a bit woody towards the back end, though they are buffered by the rich black currant and plum fruit, which gains nuanced mint and spice tones on the moderately long finish, ending with slightly drying tannins and a flourish of Mexican chocolate. A nicely balanced wine, rich and fairly bold yet juicy and fresh while remaining distinctly Cabernet with the potential for improvement over the short term. 90pts
Full-bodied and silky smooth. Absolutely delicious on its own and paired equally well with roast pork and grilled steak.
Tried this at their Yountville Tasting Room. Overall, thought it was average. Woody and spicey, but with no overall distinctiveness that made me want more. It was served after a very powerful Syrah, which I think took something off this tasting.