2007 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Codename: 1/3 High, 1/3 Low and 1/3 Right in the Middle

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Return to Cornerstone Cellars and procure their delicious Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Status: Accomplished

Current Winery: Cornerstone Cellars

Wine Subject: 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Jeff Keene

Backgrounder:

For today’s wine, we sent Agent White back to Cornerstone Cellars, a Wine Spies favorite. Cornerstone produces some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon that the The Wine Spies have had the pleasure to taste. The Wine Spies were extremely lucky to meet up with winemaker, Jeff Keene, to taste his fantastic 2007 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. Read Agent White’s tasting notes, along with his exclusive interview with Jeff Keene, below.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Densely garnet purple hued and nearly black with a barely clear dark core. Along the edges the purple hues lighten just slightly. When swirled, thin legs of random speeds descend to the wine below

Smell – Rich and bold, as a classic Napa Cab has layers of dark black fruit including blackberry, cassis, currants and hints of plum melding with earthy and mineral laced undertones. Quite complex with aromas of leather, cocoa, white pepper, exotic spice and green bell pepper and herbs all making appearances in sequence.

Feel – Full-bodied and dry, this smooth and bold Cab has compact firm tannins and excellent mineral qualities but does so in without being abusive on the palate. Balance and well developed with sufficient acidity that frames the fruit into the finish.

Taste – Great dark and black fruit including blackberry, cassis, blueberry, currants and plum all present in a somewhat restrained manner. Just under the delicious fruit are all the complex flavors to match the aromas found on the nose including toasted oak. The textured palate also includes a touch of mineral graphite that lingers.

Finish – Long and clean with the fruit fading first followed by complex spice and then the oak leaving the graphite and minerals behind.

Conclusion – The 2007 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a fantastic Cab that has all the complexity and richness that you’d expect without being overly fruit forward. The fantastic mineral qualities and compact tannins really deliver an elegant experience. Please be sure to let this wine open for an hour or more to reveal all of its aromas and flavors; or cellar for up to ten years. As for food pairing, a double cut porterhouse cooked rare with only sea-salt, cracked pepper and rosemary and you can call the executioner…

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Jeff Keene

WINE EDUCATION: Postgraduate Degree in Oenology and Viticulture from Lincoln University, New Zealand.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Cornerstone Cellars, Peter Franus Wine Company and Havens Wine Cellars

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: To produce wines that reflect site and appellation, respecting traditions and to make wines we love to drink.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT WHITE: Greetings, Jeff. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

JEFF: Thanks, Agent Red! It’s great to be back with you.

WHITE: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

JEFF: Well, growing up in a house where there was nothing, but the ‘bag in the box’ wine on offer, I can tell you it inspired me to find better wine, so you could say my parents inspired me…

WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

JEFF: All wines I try influence me in one way or another, but in terms of winemakers I have learned – and still learning from – Peter Franus and Michael Havens. These are two great but stylistically different winemakers.

WHITE: Who do you make wine for?

JEFF: You, me and all the consumers out there who enjoy great wines.

WHITE: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

JEFF: The 2007 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the first step of our “new generation” of wines. Our goal was to move towards a more elegant and expressive wine, which spoke fluently of the power of the Napa Valley, yet expressed a harmonious balance. With this vintage we begin including larger percentages of fruit from cooler, southern Napa vineyards, in this case our Hardman Road block. This raises the acidity and aromatics perfectly complimenting the powerful Howell Mountain and velvety Oakville blocks. Each represents about a third of the final blend.

WHITE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

JEFF: Well there is certainly no better match with a young Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon than a well aged steak grilled to perfection. The youthful tannin of the Cabernet makes the perfect foil to the richness of the meat and the deep fruit flavors contrast with the smoky flavors of the charring. Ten years from now I’d lean to lamb, which is the ultimate mate to Cabernet.

WHITE: In your opinion, what makes the Napa Valley so special?

JEFF: There are a small number of wine regions in the world whose names are synonymous with a single variety because they are so perfectly suited to growing distinctive wines from that variety. For example, Burgundy or Oregon with Pinot Noir, Chablis with chardonnay or Piedmont with Nebbiolo. The Napa Valley means Cabernet Sauvignon because we have the perfect combination of soil types and climate to produce Cabernet Sauvignon of great intensity and complexity. The slow ripening Cabernet Sauvignon is able to achieve perfect ripeness in our long, dry growing season.

WHITE: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

JEFF: It’s bottling season and we’re getting ready to bottle our 2009 Stepping Stone red wines and Cornerstone Cellars selections. We’re very excited to be bottling a new wine at Cornerstone this year, which by the way is our 20th vintage. Our 2009 Cornerstone Cellars, “The Cornerstone” is our new top reserve selection. Each vintage this will be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from individually selected barrels of our finest wines from each vintage. No single variety will be listed on the label so we can craft to the blend according to the unique personality of each vintage. The 2009 “The Cornerstone” will be released in September 2012. In the vineyards it has been a cool spring with a good bud break with little frost threat and now we’re watching for the first sign of flowering. The long range forecast is for another cool vintage, which we like as it produces more elegant wines that better show the individual vineyard characteristics.

WHITE: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

JEFF: With great enthusiasm and vigor. With wine in general, don’t be afraid to try new wines, new winemakers, new regions / new experiences. Let your own intuition guide you.

WHITE: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

JEFF: I would just like thank The Wine Spies for this fantastic opportunity to showcase one of our wines and to thank all your readers out there for their amazing support. Thank you.

WHITE: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Cornerstone tasting room, in the heart of downtown Yountville, can be seen in this satellite photo.

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