Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2010 Stepping Stone White Rocks! (It does!)

After tasting the 2010 Stepping Stone Riesling, 2010 Stepping Stone Sauvignon Musque, and 2010 Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé, I feel like I'm getting to know the Stepping Stone wines a bit more. Granted, I wasn't a fan of the sauvignon blanc but I loved the riesling and rosé. Their combination of high quality and great price are proof positive that Cornerstone Napa Winery is doing it right with their second label.

For this, the 2010 Stepping Stone White Rocks!, we're exploring a blend of chardonnay and muscat, two grapes that can stand on their own quite well. When blended, I honestly have no clue what to expect here. Chardonnay runs the gamut from dry and steely to lush and oaked beyond all recognition, whereas muscat often becomes a sweet, light, perfumed wine that is surprisingly versatile. To blend them is certainly an exercise in daring, the risk here that I'll be tasting a washed out, overly sweet, flabby glass of liquid nastiness.

Then again I know the Cornerstone Cellars and Stepping Stone wines fairly well, so I have some faith that this will be an intellectually stimulating exercise at the very least. Or simply, this wine shouldn't suck.

As a mission statement for the Rocks! wines, the Cornerstone website says this: "Inspired by the blends of southern France, each vintage of Rocks! is a new creation weaving the characteristics of each vintage by interlacing the personalities of each variety selected. The style of our Rocks! wines will flow with the vintage as our goal is not to replicate a certain taste profile, but to make the most interesting wines possible each vintage."

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A nice golden straw color appears in my glass as if by magic, but it's really just me pouring a "taste". All in the name of research of course. As usual, this wine (and all other white wines) get to sit out and warm up a few degrees before I review it. The White Rocks! coloration reminds me of sauvignon blanc that's been aged in oak barrels. It's not dark yellow like a chardonnay or sweet riesling, yet there is more here than with a translucent pinot grigio.

The bouquet can best be described as a mish-mash of stone fruit, summer flowers, wet rocks, and green apples. Ripe peach and nectarine comprise the two most prominent aromas, but the light flower scents helped to balance out the sweetness of the fruit. There's a nice mineral element too, I kept imaging wet limestone or wet chalk. Again something to contrast the ripe peach/nectarine that seemed to dominate. And yes the green apples were awesome, cleaning up the entire bouquet and wrapping it in a neat package for me to ponder. It's obvious that the team at Cornerstone paid attention to detail when blending this white wine.

So how does it taste? Great! Clean fruit flavors and vibrant acidity make the 2010 White Rocks! a very enjoyable, refreshing wine. Think of a chardonnay stripped of the oak and malolactic fermentation, all apple and nectarines. That wine would have a certain lightness yet retain a nice sense of depth. Add in that muscat and there's a richness through the palate, part sweet and part soft, taming some of that acidity while allowing a nice balance to be struck. I guess I should point out something that did disappoint, though it's nitpicky. On the front-palate this wine does struggle a bit with it's identity. I got the sense that the juicy (in a lip smacking way) acid wanted to come first but the sweet muscat fruit flavors weren't letting that happen. Still, that's about all I could find wrong.

Cornerstone's 2010 Stepping Stone White Rocks! would pair well with a fresh summer salad of baby lettuce, spinach, candied cherries and crumbled feta. You could also work with a grilled, herb-marinated chicken dish to create a traditional southern California summer dinner.

At $15 suggested retail price, it's a QPR home run and for those of you looking for white wines that remain light and dry, yet come with a bit of sweet fruit, this is your wine! I give a B and a STRONG BUY recommendation. Check out the Cornerstone website for where to purchase this delicious wine.

This wine was a media sample generously provided by the winery.

Beau Carufel

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