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2009 Cornerstone Cellars “The Cornerstone” Napa Valley

2009 is the inaugural bottling of The Cornerstone, a best barrels blend of Cornerstone Cellars Bordeaux varieties. The intent is to produce a top-quality, age-worthy wine that is also a clear expression of the vintage. Included varieties and their ratios will vary from year to year, as befits the vintage and vineyards.

This vintage is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, coming from the U.C. Davis Oakville Station Vineyard which lies within the much larger To Kalon Vineyard. It was blended with 2.5% each of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. After barrel aging and bottling, Cornerstone Cellars held the wine for an additional year to let it mature further.

I have tasted the wine twice, first on the release date and again yesterday. In August the wine was still quite tight coming out of the bottle but blossomed with 30 minutes of air. Now it seems even that amount of decanting isn’t entirely necessary.

2009 The Cornerstone is a powerful yet seductive wine with aromas of sweet dark flowers, black cherry and spice. I rarely use this term to describe wine but sexy is the word that came to mind when I took a sip. It’s the mouthfeel; full-bodied with a wealth of fine, powdery and fine-grained tannins. It would be fun to drink even if it had no flavor. But it does—delicious and long-lasting black cherry, tobacco spice and dark chocolate. Drink now through 2025. Very Highly Recommended.

2009 Cornerstone Cellars “The Cornerstone” Napa Valley
09 the cornerstone
Rating: Very Highly Recommended

Drink: Now through 2025
Release Date: August 2012

Closure: Cork
Production: 89 cases
Retail Price: $125.00

Winemaker: Jeff Keene
Blend: 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, 2.5% Merlot
Origin: Oakville Station, Oakville AVA (Cabernet Sauvignon), Talcott Vineyard, St. Helena AVA (Cabernet Franc), Stewart Ranch, Los Carneros AVA (Merlot)
Aging: 22 months in once and twice used French oak barrels, 12 months of bottle aging
Alcohol: 14.9%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Maybe 30 minutes
Temperature: 58º - 64º F
Food Pairings: Who needs food?

Interpreting my wine ratings

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid adds off as personal recommendations or who getting samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews directly from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved. Photo courtesy of Cornerstone Cellars. 

2007 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District Napa Valley

Stuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone Winery in 1971. He still operates it with his brother, Charles. Together they make small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Riesling from steeply sloping, dry-farmed estate vineyards on Spring Mountain. The vineyards run from 1,300 to 2,000 feet above sea level.

The 2007 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, the current release, is a streamlined and structured wine. It’s opaque in the glass and dark ruby-purple. Aromas of dry cedar and briary black fruit weave around each other in a light cloud of dusty earth and black spice. The palate is medium-plus in body, principally due to medium-plus tannins of fine powder and light chalk. The fruit is all business, properly ripe and flavorful but not effusive. Juicy acidity helps moderate the tannins and, together, they make this a good drink for the dinner table. Flavors include dusty black currant, redwood bark, dark spice, unsweetened chocolate and espresso. The finish is long and balanced between fruit, spice and powdery espresso tannins. If you know someone who insists that all Napa Cabernet Sauvignon taste alike or are too thick, sweet and/or fruity, give them a bottle of this mountain wine and dare them not to change their mind. Best from 2016 through 2023+. If you drink it now, do it with food or after some time in a decanter. Highly Recommended.

2007 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District Napa Valley
label cab07 lowrezRating: Highly Recommended

Drink: 2016 - 2023+
Closure: Cork
Production: 1,434 cases
Retail Price: $48.00

Winemaker: Charles Smith

Origin: Spring Mountain District AVA, Napa Valley
Blend: 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc Aging: 22 months in new American oak barrels
Alcohol: 14.2%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: 2 hours+
Temperature: 58º - 64º F
Food Pairings: ribeye steak, braised lamb shank, osso buco

The wine above was provided as a sample for review.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2008 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Red Hills AVA, Lake County

The Red Hills AVA of Lake County, established in 1984, lies on the southwestern shores of Clear Lake and entirely within the larger Clear Lake AVA. There are upwards of 30,000 acres within the Red Hills AVA boundaries, but just under 10% are planted to wine grapes. It is a warm region and does well with Bordeaux varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. The grapes are used not just in local wines but also for blending in higher profile regions such as Napa Valley and Sonoma County.

The two most unique aspects of the Red Hills AVA are its altitude and soil. The lowest portions of the AVA are 1,350 feet above sea level. Some areas reach 2,600 feet. Distinctive, deep red soil covers more than 90% of the AVA. Deposited by nearby volcanoes, it is gravelly — sometimes peppered with massive chunks of obsidian — and well-drained.

Hawk and Horse is a prototypical Red Hills AVA vineyard: 18 acres of red soil scattered with Konocti Diamonds (small, sparkling quartz crystals also known as Lake County Diamonds and Moon Tears). The vineyard undulates from 1,800 to 2,200. feet It is certified organic and biodynamic. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted in 2001.

Dark ruby in the glass, the 2008 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon offers aromas of ripe dark fruit (cassis and Chambord), sweet spice and clove orange. It’s nearly full-bodied in the mouth and opens with flavors of sweet black fruit, violets, oak and dark spice. Firm tannins (light-grained and chalky) build from the mid-palate and persist through the lengthy, spicy finish. The wine is ready now but, even after decanting, the tannins want a well-marbled steak. It should be softer after a couple of years in the cellar. Highly Recommended

2008 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Red Hills AVA, Lake County
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: now - 2017
Closure: Cork
Production: 1,150 cases
Retail Price: $65.00

Winemakers: Dick Peterson and Scott Harvey
Blend: 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot
Origin: Hawk and Horse Estate Vineyard, Red Hills AVA, Lake County
Aging: 18 months in French oak barrels - 50% new, 50% once used
Alcohol: 14.1%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Splash decant
Temperature: 58º - 64º F
Food Pairings: Ribeye steak

 

Ratings Key:
Recommended = 87-89
Recommended+ = 89-90 
Highly Recommended = 90-92
Highly Recommended+ = 92-93
Very Highly Recommended = 93-95
Very Highly Recommended+ = 95=96
Highest Recommendation = 96-100 

The wine above was provided by the winery for review.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2009 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Chicken Ranch Vineyard, Rutherford

Trinchero Family Estates is the second largest family-owned wine producer in the United States (behind Gallo). There are many brands under the TFE umbrella. Trinchero Napa Valley is unique among them in focus, aspiration and price point. It’s wines are all Bordeaux varietals and blends from estate vineyards in Napa Valley. Most of them are single vineyard, varietal wines. All are intended to be of high quality and terroir-expressive. Prices for the red wines range from $40 to $100.

Mario Monticelli has been the Trinchero Napa Valley winemaker since its founding in 2007. Prior to that he held the same position at Quixote and before that was assistant winemaker at Melka Wines where he worked on wines for Quintessa, Vineyard 29, Lail and others. At Trinchero Napa Valley he has full control over the winemaking from vineyard to bottle.

The Chicken Ranch Vineyard is on Zinfandel Lane, a less than a mile east of Raymond Vineyards by my estimation. Decades ago, it was an egg farm. Now it's a vineyard with deep, clay-rich red soil. It is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for which the soil is particularly well-suited. Trinchero farms Chicken Ranch Vineyard biodynamically — buried cowhorns and all — but it isn't Demeter-certified.

I’ve tasted more than 75 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the 2009 vintage within the past two months. The 2009 Trinchero Napa Valley Chicken Ranch Vineyard Cabernet is very consistent with the better wines from its locale (northern Rutherford, valley floor). There is balance among flavors (fruit, herbal and spice) as opposed to being strongly fruit driven. The fruit is ripe, but not jammy. Tannins are light-grained and will reward some bottle age, but don’t demand it.

Trinchero_Napa_Valley_2009_Chicken_Ranch_Cabernet_Sauvignon_LO_Res_Bottle_Image

In the glass, the 2009 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Chicken Ranch Vineyard is medium+ ruby and elegantly aromatic with black cherry, spicy tobacco leaf and earth. In the mouth, there are medium+ body and tannins which are nearly matched by acidity. The attractive flavors of cherry, dry herb and tobacco spice are consistent with the nose and medium+ in length. Monticelli doesn’t concern himself much with alcohol percentages, instead focusing on overall balance and ensuring that the wine doesn’t taste alcoholic. Mission accomplished here and at just 13.5%. Drink now through 2018. Highly Recommended.

2009 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Chicken Ranch Vineyard, Rutherford
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: now through 2018
Release Date: June 2012
Closure: Cork
Production: 2,985 cases
Retail Price: $50.00

Winemaker: Mario Monticelli
Origin: Chicken Ranch Vineyard, Rutherford AVA, Napa Valley
Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Aging: 22 months in French oak, 65% new
Alcohol: 13.5%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 58º - 64º F
Food Pairings: 

The wine above was tasted at the winery.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2009 Fisher Vineyards UNITY Cabernet Sauvignon

Fisher Vineyards is best known for closely connected to a specific place. The Coach Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon, Lamb Vineyard Cabernet and RCF Vineyard Merlot are made from estate-owned vineyards in eastern Calistoga. The winery is located on the Sonoma side of Spring Mountain. There, various combinations of facings, steep grades and old vines produce distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the Mountain Estate Vineyard and the Wedding Vineyard.

However, there is only so much wine you can produce from a given vineyard. And only so many vineyards you can own. Fisher Vineyards’ UNITY wines broaden the portfolio without creating any confusion with the single-vineyard estate wines. The UNITY offerings are multi-vineyard blends with the fruit sourced from small, sustainable growers in both Napa Valley and Sonoma County.

The 2009 UNITY Cabernet Sauvignon — being released this week — comes from three very different areas: the valley floor in Calistoga, the eastern Oakville Hills in Napa Valley and the western side of the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma County. The wine has just enough Cabernet Sauvignon to be varietally-labeled. It is blended with all four of the other Bordeaux-varietals plus a splash of Syrah.

Four thousand cases of the wine were made, but it’s primarily available only through Fisher Vineyards’ mailing list or restaurants, such as Bardessono in Yountville. You can also find it at The Capital Grille which pours UNITY Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass nationally.

The 2009 UNITY Cabernet Sauvignon is medium-plus ruby in the glass with enticing aromas of maraschino and black cherry, raspberry and milk chocolate. Gently chalky tannins support the flavors of cherry, berries, dark cocoa powder and dry leaves. It’s a satisfying wine, easy-to-drink yet interesting enough to reward contemplation. It is ready-to- drink now but will evolve attractively over five or more years. Enjoy this Cabernet Sauvignon on its own or with dry-aged steak. Highly Recommended.

2009 Fisher Vineyards UNITY Cabernet Sauvignon
09unitycab_96x390Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2018
Release Date: ~ January 24, 2012

Closure: Natural Cork
Production: 4,000 cases
Retail Price: $45.00

Winemaker: Whitney Fisher
Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Syrah, 1% Malbec
Origin: 76% Napa Valley (Calistoga and Oakville Hills), 24% Sonoma County (Mayacamas Mountains)
Aging: 15 months, French oak barrels

Alcohol: 14.7%

I tasted this wine at the winery.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.