Cornerstone Cellars - 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon / 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

It was about a year ago that I tasted the wines of Cornerstone Cellars for the first time. My initial impression was strong and favorable; so I took a closer look. Since that time I’ve had the chance to taste these wines a few other times. Notably at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference I was able to taste several vintages side by side. That experience underscored the quality of the wines and showcased the inherent ability these wines have to age. It also showcased the consistency from vintage to vintage that this boutique producer has established. Today I’m pleased to take a look at their current releases of Cabernet Sauvignon. First up is the Cornerstone Cellars 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit for this selection was sourced from four vineyard sites. This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel aging was accomplished over two years in French oak; a year of bottle aging followed. 1,200 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $65.

The deep, dark purple hue of this wine is striking the moment it’s poured from the bottle. Berry, eucalyptus and cedar aromas follow and fill the nose in a profoundly exciting manner. Rich berry flavors accompanied by spice are prominent throughout a layered palate that is tight at first, but opens with some air. Earth, pencil lead and espresso notes are al part of the lengthy and lingering finish. Firm tannins and solid acidity form the backbone of this wine.

If you’re going to drink this Cabernet now, decanting is in order and highly recommended. An hour will be good, 2-3 would be better. However if you have the patience lay this down for a few years and you’ll be rewarded by a wine that is more resolved and expressive than it its now in its exuberant youth. Either way this is a terrific Cabernet.

The second wine is the Cornerstone Cellars 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. 100% of the fruit for this wine was sourced at their organic vineyard block on Howell Mountain. This offering is also 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel aging was accomplished over two years in French oak; two years of bottle aging followed prior to release. 433 cases of this selection were produced. The suggested retail price is $100 (However it's currently $75 at their webiste).

Wild strawberry, red raspberry, cassis, mushroom and eucalyptus aromas are all part of the highly expressive and ostentatious nose of this 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Cherry leads the way throughout a palate that is layered, complex, full flavored, intense, balanced, and in a word, impressive. Spice notes accompany the cherry and lead to the finish which shows off black tea, chocolate and earthiness that emerges more and more as this Cabernet opens up. The finish on this wine is very lengthy and particularly striking for the level of balanced intensity it maintains. Firm tannins and solid acidity lend to a wonderfully structured wine.

This Howell Mountain Cabernet is really just a baby right now. Yes it’s delicious, particularly after several hours of air, but it really should be put away for 5 or more years to truly come into its own. If you insist on drinking it now definitely decant it for several hours and pair it with something hearty. This is another excellent and exciting release from Cornerstone Cellars.

There are a lot of great Cabernets coming out of Napa Valley from producers of all shapes and sizes, so its hard to get to anywhere near all of them. Here are two tremendous ones that are well worth an extra special effort to locate. Cornerstone Cellars impressive run of top notch Cabernet Sauvignon continues with these releases.

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