When sample packages from Cornerstone Cellars, J Vineyards and Elyse Winery arrive in the mail, I’ve learned to stand up and take notice.
I’ll lead with the still wines. Both Cornerstone and Elyse are known for hand-crafted and boutique wines that express the terrior where they are produced. I’ve found these to be balanced, delicious and get better and better every year. The wines are all distinct and differ depending on where they are grown. Winemaker Jeff Keene who talked about how his wines express their sense of place .
My notes on the wines were as follows:
- The 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon combines the grapes of three vineyards — Ink Grade on Howell Mountain, Oakville Station in the To Kalon district and Kairos in Oak Knoll. Tons of blackberry, raspberry, dried herbs, chocolate and mocha. I had the chance to try this in the spring and it only got better with age.
- The 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Ink Grade Vineyard on Howell Mountain known for its white soils, which is unique. This wine had tons of black fruit, spice, flowers, mocha and chocolate. I loved every sip of this and it was beautiful.
- The 2010 Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc was full of berries, herbs and the greenness that is indicative of cabernet franc. It was balanced and delicious.
In the spring, I sat down with the Elyse Winery’s portfolio of wines at the winery. The Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel 2008 was impressive then, and the 2009 is impressive now. I took this wine to a gathering with friends and it was definitely the favorite of the evening. It was full of red berry, spice, earthiness, plum and coffee.
And now onto J Vineyards & Winery bubblies. I had the chance to meet Kathryn Lindstrom, chief operating officer, and Melissa Stackhouse, vice president of winemaking, when they made a trip to Dallas, also in the spring. Melissa talked about the collaboration that happens with her wine making team of three where there is a focus on the integrity of the grapes and bringing the fruit into the glass. She views her team’s role as “allowing the wines to find their own happy place” and interfering minimally.
I tried the J Cuvee 20 Brut which we opened at the turning point of the Auburn game when it became clear we were going to the Championship game. I tasted almonds, citrus, pear and freshly baked bread. With our victory solidified and as I made my plane reservations to Pasadena, we turned to the J Brut Rose NV, which was full of luscious strawberry, brioche, raspberry and notes of floral. Both of these wines stood up to a national championship celebration! War Eagle!