Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cornerstone's Stepping Stone Sauvignon Blanc, With a Twist!

I know I've fallen behind on posting reviews, but it's summer time so perhaps you'll cut me some slack. Between planning a trip to Spain, researching jobs in Portland, Oregon, Becky visiting me, and my paying job (not wine blogging, sheesh!), I just haven't had time or energy to write a lot of blogs. That does not mean I haven't been busily tasting and evaluating wines though, far from it! I'm reaching the end of a notebook I started in March of this year, and we're only in July. So there you go, not much blogging of late, still lots of tasting and note-taking.

Rewind a few weeks ago and I got a case of samples from the wonderful folks at Cornerstone Cellars in Napa Valley. Who is Cornerstone, you ask? A premium producer of Napa Valley and Oregon wines, I answer. In Napa Valley they make two bottlings of cabernet sauvignon and one of sauvignon blanc. In the Willamette Valley, Cornerstone produces a pinot noir. In the case was selection from their Stepping Stone line, which is priced as a daily-drinker versus the higher price points on the Cornerstone wines.

Their head honcho, a delightful chap named Craig Camp, is big into social media and supports bloggers. I suspect he's probably one of the most active tweeters when it comes to wine and social media fusion. He also makes some stunningly awesome wines, I've had the privilege of tasting Cornerstone cabernet sauvignon multiple times and am always left with a huge, silly grin on my face and an empty glass. Since my introduction to them (and to Craig) at last year's Wine Blogger's Conference, the Cornerstone wines have shot to the upper echelons of "Kick-Ass California Cab Producers" in my blogger brain.

Since not many of us drink $60+ cabernet on a daily basis (but I say congrats if you do!), Cornerstone makes a second line, priced around $20 and called Stepping Stone. Within the Stepping Stone line are bottlings of: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, syrah, sauvignon blanc, riesling, a white blend, a red blend, and a rosé. Quite a lineup, one I suspect is meant to offer something to nearly every palate out there. In the following blogs I'll explore each wine and try to get a sense of what Craig and winemaker Jeff Keene are trying to do.

This will be my first blog about the Stepping Stone wines, with the 2010 Stepping Stone Sauvignon Blanc Cuveé Musque leading off.

Sauvignon blanc has it's share of clones, the same way pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and basically all the other popular varietals do. Over the past ten years, one clone, a particularly aromatic one, has become very popular in Napa Valley. This is called the "sauvignon musque" clone. The "musque" part referring to the aromatic qualities, in this case, greater than those of the original grape. Call it an oddball mutation that had a great result.

Cornerstone released their 2010 Stepping Stone Sauvignon Blanc Cuvee Musque just a few short months ago, after a September harvest and March bottling. I am happy to sample it and share my impressions with you. The tasting procedure is by now a familiar one, the Stepping Stone bottle being pulled from the refrigerator an hour before and opened about 20 minutes prior to tasting.

This sauvignon blanc (or sauvignon musque for our purposes) poured a pale yellow-green into my glass. As I held it to the light, the colors alternately went towards one side or the other, yellow or green. The aromatics were beautiful, fresh sliced pear, a touch of cut grass, mandarin orange, and pineapple. I kept shoving my nose into the glass as deep as I could, to get as much of the amazing bouquet as possible. Since so much of what I glean from a wine comes from how it smells, I was excited to start tasting the Stepping Stone sauvignon blanc.

When I tasted it, I wrote the following, unedited notes: "Little bit boozy..grapefruit, lush through the mid-palate..didn't seem to have a lot of dimension on the finish..tastes a bit manipulated..really enjoyed the initial burst of acid, faded away too quickly though.. NEEDS FOOD"

There you have it. I think the 13.5% alcohol showed a bit, lending some weight and flabby tones to the wine, but that bright burst of acidity right away was so compelling! I honestly felt like this was two different wines, not really sure which one was going to come out on top. However, if this was paired with a meal, that added weight would undoubtedly help the Stepping Stone stand up to some heartier fare, grilled fish or chicken perhaps.

Did I like this wine? No, not really, to be honest. Is there anything wrong with it? Besides what I consider a bit too much alcohol, no there isn't. If I could go back in time, I'd taste this wine after it had been in an ice bucket for about 40 minutes, to see how the chill would help out with that boozy weight.

So who then would like the 2010 Stepping Stone sauvignon blanc? If you do like your sauvignon blanc's dry, yet with some weight, a lushness, then this is definitely for you. It's at the more luxurious, softer side of the sauvignon blanc spectrum, which isn't to say it's a soft, buttery wine, just that compared to a lot of California sauvignon blancs I've had, it's got more heft and softness.

 At $18, it's right in line with other California, or  specifically Napa Valley examples of the varietal. B- from me. Just not my thing, but in no way does it cause me to lose faith in one of my favorite producers.

Follow Cornerstone Napa on Twitter and Facebook, and seek out their wines wherever you live! If you're having trouble, tweet or email Craig and his team and they'll do their best to help you out.

This wine was a media sample for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

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