Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cellars - 2008 Syrah / 2008 Cabernet Franc

Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to taste a number of releases from both Cornerstone Cellars and their sister label Stepping Stone. While the flagship label is focused with laser like precision on Cabernet Sauvignon, Stepping Stone has a host of varietals in its growing portfolio. Today I’ll look at two current release reds. The 2008 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Syrah was produced from fruit sourced in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. In addition to the Syrah from the Truchard Vineyard (95%), a dollop of Grenache (5%) from Lake County was also blended in. A mere 153 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $20.

Dark brooding fruit aromas fill the nose of this 2008 Syrah. Purple fruit flavors like plum, and dark fruits like blackberry fill the palate. They’re accompanied by copious amounts of spice such as white pepper and a hint of vanilla bean. Bacon fat emerges on the finish along with minerals and rhubarb. This Syrah shows off soft, yielding tannins and solid acidity. It drinks nicely on its own but excels when paired with flavorful foods.

The 2008 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Franc was produced using mostly fruit sourced in Carneros. In addition to Cabernet Franc (96%) from the Truchard Vineyard, a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (4%) from the Ink Grade vineyard on Howell Mountain was blended in. Just over 600 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $30.

Leather, cherry and red plum aromas explode from the nose of this 2008 Cabernet Franc. The palate is loaded with a cornucopia of fleshy dark fruit flavors. Blueberry and black cherry are both in strong evidence. Earth, espresso and minerals are each part of the finish along with chocolate notes that keep echoing after the last sip is swallowed. Excellent acidity makes this a fine companion to a host of food choices.

Both of these wines from Stepping Stone are fine values that do a nice job of showcasing varietal character. For my money there isn’t nearly enough stand alone Cabernet Franc out there, particularly in California. So finding a well made, reasonably priced one from a winery with an already impressive track record makes me smile, and reach for a second glass.