Drink and Yelp

She was nasty; complaining and putting us down. No matter, it's only your life's work; better get a thicker skin. But then I thought better of it, when someone's full of it you should stand up for yourself.

Of course I'm talking about a Yelp review. I can't really complain as, after over 122 reviews, Cornerstone Cellars has a four and half star rating. Honestly you can't do any better than that. Indeed it's an accomplishment of which I am extremely proud.

At a winery tasting room, odds are pretty good that that outlier one star review was by someone who had too much to drink and was refused anything more to drink. Nothing pisses off a drunk more than cutting them off.

So I have decided to stick up for myself and, contrary to Yelp's recommendation, take on the that rare dissatisfied customer. Now, obviously if you're getting bad review after bad review you'd better do some soul searching, but in our case nothing could be further from reality.

For Cornerstone Cellars, out of the last twenty-five Yelp reviews eighteen have five stars and four have four stars or better. Take a look here and be sure to read the one star review. Perhaps they were not feeling so great when they woke up the next day and wrote them.

Yelp is powerful and for us, for the most part, a great thing. The only real issue I have with Yelp is that they don't take into account that usually the people that write bad reviews for winery tasting rooms are the ones that have indulged in a bit too much fruit of the vine. They need to find away to take that into account and banish such wine induced rants.

In Sideways Miles drank and dialed, the equivalent of drinking and Yelping. We do not recommend either.

Harvest 2015 Rhone Rangers 9/9 9/10 2015

Kari checking on Corallina fresh from the press

Kari checking on Corallina fresh from the press

Today and yesterday we’ve been Rhone Rangers as on Wednesday we brought in our first marsanne and rousanne from the David Girard Vineyard in El Dorado. As exciting as that was, today is always a special day for us as we harvested our Crane Vineyard Syrah for what has became a very special wine for us - Corallina Syrah Rosé.

In what as become a rather innocuous wine category as rosé became more popular, I’m very proud that Cornerstone Cellars is known for making a rosé with true character. I’m glad the media agrees with us making Corallina Syrah Rosé the top ranked rosé in California http://cl.ly/d3uE

Gorgeous Corallina juice

Gorgeous Corallina juice

The only problem with the 2015 Corallina Syrah Rosé will be there won’t be very much of it. Due to poor fruit set we are looking at about a 40% drop in production. No worries, we’ll be sure our friends get their Corallina first! As always we seek to make Corallina better every year and this will be the first vintage that is 100% barrel fermented. This will make the wine even deeper and more complex. The juice this year is particularly deeply flavored and colored and I expect the 2015 to be a dramatic rosé.

The marsanne and rousanne are part of our new expanded “Wine Dance” series of wines made from classic Rhone Valley varieties. Joining Corallina Syrah Rosé will be this rousanne/marsanne blend, a viognier, a grenache and a mourvedre from El Dorado and an old vine syrah from Mendocino. These are our “Rhone Rangers” and you’ll be introduced to these new releases in 2016. The style is ultra-traditional with no new oak used to maximize the bright, fresh fruit flavors of these wines.

Munching on marsanne

Munching on marsanne

We co-fermented the rousanne and marsanne and the juice had this glorious, rich honeyed character that is sure make an expressive and delicious wine.

Tomorrow will be a very long day. We’re hitting the vineyards at 5:30 a.m. and will be picking two merlot and one cabernet franc site here in the Napa Valley. I’m sure the sun will be down before we get everything in the fermenters.

A New Cabernet for Cornerstone Cellars: Michael’s Cuvée

Essentially all wines are cuvée blends to one degree or the other. Unless a wine comes from a single barrel or tank that passed from fermenter to bottle with no additions all wines are are blends. They’re either blends of barrels or vineyards or varieties or all of the above. The important thing is why you make a cuvée. Like so many wine terms, reserve for example, there is no legal restrictions in their use so it is only the integrity of the producer that gives these terms their meaning.

We have the privilege of working with some of the finest vineyards in the Napa Valley, which means some of the finest vineyards anywhere in the world. They are so exceptional that we have decided to bottle them in small single vineyard lots in order to let their beautiful personalities clearly sing in their own voice. The first of these single vineyard wines will be released this fall.

However, sometimes even the finest singers love to sing with others finding a new harmony and complexity in blending the textures of their voices. It’s the same for winemakers, we can’t help but explore the new layers and personalities that can be created by blending.

It is in this spirit that our Cornerstone Cellars Michael’s Cuvée was born. A selection from our finest vineyards and varieties, Michael’s Cuvée is a unique expression of the best of each vintage brought together in a new and distinctive harmony. Such an important wine could not have just any name and so we chose a name deeply and emotionally tied to the entire history of Cornerstone Cellars. Michael’s Cuvée is named for founder Dr. Michael Dragutsky, whose spirit and passion have fueled Cornerstone Cellars since our founding in 1991.

As befitting the first release of such an important wine, the 2012 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Michael’s Cuvée is a true statement wine. Combining some exceptional vineyards with an extraordinary vintage we have crafted a memorable wine that will evolve for many years to come. The 2012 Michael’s Cuvée is 91% cabernet sauvignon with 9% merlot. The blend was selected from the Oakville Station Vineyard (To Kalon) 57%, 28% Kairos Vineyard in Oak Knoll and 9% Ink Grade Vineyard on Howell Mountain. Less than 250 cases were produced.

The 2012 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Michael's Cuvée is a classic, powerful, but elegantly structured Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Deeply colored with rich, cassis laden aromatics, it is youthful and concentrated at this point and will develop even more complexity and elegance as it ages over the next decade or more. While voluptuous and richly textured it is still bright and fresh with a long, smooth finish.

Giving Thanks: Napa Cab, Willamette Pinot

November in Oregon's Willamette Valley

November in Oregon's Willamette Valley

Just in time for Thanksgiving I’m excited to share my new Cornerstone Oregon releases with you. Certainly there is no better match for the traditional cuisine of this American holiday than wines from America’s premiere pinot noir and chardonnay region: Oregon. With the 2014 vintage I passed my first decade making wine in Oregon and I am more convinced than ever that it is here in the United States that pinot and chardonnay can best show their true personality.

For this reason at Cornerstone Cellars we do not make any chardonnay or pinot in California as, while there are a few examples of wines that are true to these varieties, the vast majority of wines produced in California from pinot and chardonnay speak far more of winemaking than terroir. I believe in pinot and chardonnay grown in the Willamette Valley just as fervently as I do in cabernets, merlot, syrah and sauvignon blanc grown in the Napa Valley.

Very soon Cornerstone Oregon will be at the same production level as Cornerstone Cellars in the Napa Valley (about 5,000 cases each) and so these wines are of the highest priority to me.

As from the beginning of Cornerstone Oregon in 2007, our wines are a collaboration between myself and my friend and the Northwest’s premiere winemaker, Tony Rynders. The style of Cornerstone Oregon reflects my over three decade immersion in the wines of Burgundy and Tony’s two decades in the Northwest, which includes stints as the red wine winemaker at Hogue and a decade as winemaker at Domaine Serene. The wines of Cornerstone Oregon are a synthesis of our perspectives and together we are crafting wines with a classic structure intertwined with a vibrant New World personality. As always, all of the wines of Cornerstone Oregon are grown, produced and bottled in Oregon.

This Thanksgiving I am giving thanks for the privlege of making cabernet in the Napa Valley and pinot noir and chardonnay in the Willamette Valley. Certainly this is having the best of both worlds.