Today’s recommendation for a Father’s Day gift of Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Napa Valley. Travel to Napa and you’ll get to taste many different varietals, but one fact will quickly take hold; Cab is King. And with Dad being King on Father’s Day it’s only natural that a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon would make a nice gift. Today’s selection is from Cornerstone Cellars. This boutique producer of Cabernet makes just a few thousands cases of wine per year. At just over 1,200 cases their 2005 Napa Valley designated selection is their largest current production. Their wines are made by Celia Masyczek who is both highly regarded and sought after. Today I’m going to look at their, smaller production, Howell Mountain Cabernet. This Napa Valley sub-appellation is located east of Calistoga. Elevations 1,400 feet and above, a lack of fog, early morning warmth and vineyards that fully ripen a bit later than the rest of the valley are all things that make Howell Mountain unique. The Cornerstone Cellars 2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of fruit harvested over a period of a month. This wine is 100% Howell Mountain and all Cabernet. Aging was accomplished over 22 months in French oak; 75% of the barrels were new. 620 cases of this vintage were produced. The suggested retail price for this wine is $100.
A couple of things are readily apparent about this Cabernet when you pour and taste it. The first thing is that it’s black as night; reminding me a bit of Petite Sirah in its hue. Second and not at all surprising is that it needs some air. There’s a lot going on the minute you pop the cork and taste it so you could be fooled into not decanting; don’t make that mistake. After an hour in the decanter the difference is beyond substantial. It’s like the distinction between taking a car with a big engine out on the highway and opening it up after having cruised neighborhood streets for an hour; only then can you truly appreciate the power of the engine. The same thing is true with this Cabernet Sauvignon.
Having given it that time to open up I found the nose to be full of effusive black raspberry, earth, mushroom and hints of leather. The palate is intense and layered with opulent fruit, bold spice and tremendous mineral notes that underpin things. The finish, which has terrific length, features ever emerging earth, dusty baker’s chocolate notes and echoing spices. This wine is very well structured.
What I like best about this offering is that it achieves its intent. The 2004 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is a full throttle, ripe Napa wine with the added punch of mountain fruit intensity. All that said this wine is balanced and will age well. No doubt in fact that this Cabernet will improve for 15-20 in appropriate storage conditions. Personally though, I find its exuberance and explosive berry fruit hard to resist right now. So if Dad has been good this year and you decide to splurge on this wine for him, know that you are getting a tremendous example of Cabernet from one of the regions it flourishes in. If you're lucky, he'll share some with you.