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Cornerstone Cellars

Craig Camp
September 25, 2013 | Craig Camp

Napa Harvest Dawn: After the Storm

The last of the storm clouds depart over Atlas Peak as the sun returns to dry out the vineyards of Yountville.

Craig Camp
September 18, 2013 | Craig Camp

Harvest Dawn

The dawn has yet to glow over the Vaca Mountains to the east. I am standing in the dark morningcoolness as hazy figures glide through the blackness waiting for first light to signal the start of the day's work. Harvest 2013 is now seriously underway in the Napa Valley as we prepare to pick our first grapes for red wine this vintage, Oakville Station Merlot. Theoretically the harvest started here weeks ago for sparking wines (they're done already) and some white wines, but in the Napa Valley you're not getting serious until you start picking merlot, cabernet franc and, most of all, cabernet sauvignon.


While the scene sounds idyllic, and indeed it is, there is an undeniable feeling of pressure. We get just the one chance a year to make meaningful wines from each of these sites. There are no second chances. Every decision is critical, including the timing of today's pick, which I believe we have gotten just right.

Vintage 2013 is full of potential. Our early spring combined with a warm, but not too hot summer has been ideal for developing the complexity of flavors we strive for in our wines while preserving the essential acidity, which makes them live. It is our responsibility to fully realize this potential.

The Oakville Station Merlot was of such outstanding quality in 2012 that we have decided to produce not only our first single vineyard bottling of merlot, but our first Cornerstone Merlot ever. The 2012 Cornerstone Cellars, Oakville Station Merlot will be bottled next July and released after a year of bottle age in 2015. We only produced 100 cases and it will be exclusively available to our Cornerstone Club members. Looking at the outstanding quality of the merlot we are picking this morning, I have every reason to believe that 2013 will see our second single vineyard bottling from this very special vineyard block that is tucked into the famous To Kalon vineyard. 

So as it happens each year in the natural cycle that is agriculture, our goals remain the same, but Mother Nature makes the rules. Our goal is to make elegant, refined wines that elevate your experience at the dinner table. Almost every year here in the Napa Valley nature gives us the privilege of achieving our goals. It is our duty to repay that privilege by doing the very best we can do. While that's a heavy responsibility, it is also a great honor. The ultimate expression of this honor is achieved when we can share our wines with you.

Time Posted: Sep 18, 2013 at 12:21 PM
Craig Camp
September 14, 2013 | Craig Camp

Harvest 2013: Oakville Station Cabernet Franc

Picking is hard work and the team does amazing job. Here just picked Oakville Station Cabernet Franc is loaded into half ton bins.

Craig Camp
September 14, 2013 | Craig Camp

Harvest 2013: Oakville Station Merlot

Morning clouds hide the hills while dawn's first light fall on pickers harvesting our Oakville Station Merlot. 

Craig Camp
September 14, 2013 | Craig Camp

Harvest 2013: Oakville Station Merlot

Pickers pull leaves from just picked merlot in our Oakville Station block. Harvest was a full three weeks sooner than last year.

Cellar Blog
September 3, 2013 | Cellar Blog

Top Reviews from Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine

90 Points STEPPING STONE by Cornerstone Napa Valley 2010

93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot. This so-called “second” wine from the folks at Cornerstone should not be considered as lesser in any way, and, instead of being an inexpensive substitute for its supposedly more accomplished cellarmates, it is a complex, very deep, wonderfully precise Cabernet of fine focus and balance. It is held back a bit by its youthful tightness, but it is exceptionally well-structured with seamlessly fit tannins and is certain to grow for years. It is a genuine surprise as well as a remarkable value, and it warrants any search that its finding demands. GOOD VALUE $35

93 Points CORNERSTONE The Cornerstone Napa Valley 2010

82% Cabernet Sauvignon; 11% Merlot; 7% Cabernet Franc. “The Cornerstone” is a special, individually barrel-selected wine that is meant to showcase the very best that the winery can do, and its mission is met in 2010. Optimally ripened, very deep and long on layered richness with a fine interplay of cherries, cassis, rich loamy soils and judiciously applied oak, it conveys a great sense of confidence and fruity drive yet still seems to be holding much in reserve.  It is a sturdy and serious young Cabernet, but it is never severe, and it has all the pieces in place to gradually grow into a most memorable wine if allowed to rest for a half-dozen years. $150

91 Points CORNERSTONE Howell Mountain Napa Valley 2010

10% Merlot. Each of the new Cornerstone offerings gets good marks for fruity precision and focus, and each one sports a fair measure of root-beer-like sweetness from its ample oak. This Howell Mountain bottling shows the tighter structure and more active tannins that its appellation predicts, but it conveys a fine sense of depth and is never limited by its toughness. It wants a couple more years in the cellar than most of its mates, and we anticipate maturity in a decade or so. $80

Time Posted: Sep 3, 2013 at 8:44 PM
Cellar Blog
September 3, 2013 | Cellar Blog

Harvest is Coming!

Vintage 2013 is off to a fantastic start. 

This early growing season, 2 weeks earlier than normal, has all the crew at Cornerstone Cellars excited for the upcoming harvest. The growing conditions have been ideal. Even though the Napa Valley has experienced one of the driest winters in many years which has prompted early irrigation of the vines, the spring was very mild and one of the few where frost wasn’t an issue. With glorious warm sunny days, the weather couldn’t be better. Even the late June heat wave had little effect on the vines and the leaf protected grapes clusters with their hard skins helping to resist heat damage.

In our vineyards there are the first signs of veraison, the initial step of the ripening process. Now the Napa Valley has entered into its typical weather pattern with cool mornings aided by low clouds or marine layer which the sun burns off by late morning and the cooling Bay Area breezes coming in to cool the late afternoon. These temperatures are perfect for this critical time of the season so we get the flavor development which Napa Valley fruit is famous for. 

But the greatest aspect of this early season is that it’s EARLY giving the grapes more time for optimal ripening to develop their intense, vibrant aromas and flavors, to be picked at just the right time and not rushed by weather concerns, to bring you fabulously balanced elegant wines.

Here’s to a fantastic, absolutely fabulous 2013 vintage.