Stepping Stone by Cornerstone - 2009 Corallina Rosé / 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Finding a wine producer I really like is heartening. Then when I see them replicating quality over a number of vintages it takes things to a new level. Cornerstone Cellars in Napa is such a producer. The Cabernet’s they produce are top shelf wines. Having had a chance to taste several recent vintages as well as a few with some age on them I’ve taken note, of the consistency of quality, their wines show off, balanced against vintage variation that helps display their sense of place. So it’s been particularly nice to see them launch Stepping Stone, the sister label to Cornerstone. The first wines I had from this label were impressive in their price point and I was eager to taste their new releases. Today I’ll look at two of those with a few more to follow in the next week or so. The Stepping Stone by Cornerstone 2009 Corallina Rosé was produced using fruit sourced at the Fore Family Vineyard in the Red Hills section of Lake County. This offering is a blend of Grenache (50%) and Syrah (50%). This wine underwent cold fermentation in stainless steel followed by oak aging in older puncheons. Just fewer than 200 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $16.

This 2009 Rosé has a fresh and inviting nose that brings to mind a bowl of red summer fruits sitting in a bowl on a nearby windowsill. Cherry, strawberry and spice flavors all come out in force through the lively and bright palate. Baker’s spices emerge towards the back end and lead to the finish which shows off some red ruby grapefruit and crisp savory notes. A thump of vigorous white pepper closes things out. Acidity keeps things in check. More than anything this wine is summer in a glass. Pair this delicious, beautifully dry rosé with life itself.

The second wine is the Stepping Stone by Cornerstone 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was produced using fruit sourced at vineyards in four distinct Napa regions; Oakville, Wooden Valley, Coombsville and Carneros. This selection is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 964 cases of this wine were bottled and it has a suggested retail price of $35.

Plum and blackberry aromas waft invitingly from the nose of this wine. Taking the first sips it’s clear this offering is a bit tight and needs some air to allow it to blossom. An hour or so in the decanter does the trick and after that it opens up more and more with each passing moment and every successive sip. This is a full bodied wine that shows lots of sweet berry fruit through the palate; blackberry is in particular evidence with black raspberry playing a secondary role. These flavors are joined by a veritable cornucopia of spices that emerge a little at a time and lead to the finish. Lot’s of dark bittersweet chocolate, sour cherry and wisps of pomegranate mark the lengthy and layered finish. This wine is full flavored, full bodied and impeccably balanced. At $35 this represents an excellent value in Napa Valley Cabernet when you consider its quality level. it's very tasty right now but a couple of years in the cellar will make it even lovelier.