2009 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
 
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Howell Mountain Cornerstone on Howell Mountain

In the 2007 vintage, the brilliant Celia Welch authored two unforgettable Napa Valley Cabernets. The first, made for Scarecrow, would earn a perfect 100-point score from Parker's Wine Advocate. The second, crafted for Craig Camp's Cornerstone, set the WineAccess scoreboard off like a pinball machine.

While the 2007 Scarecrow (now $750/bottle on the auction market!) was rich, jammy and fleshy, packed with blackberry preserves, braced with soft tannin suppleness, Welch cut her 2007 Cornerstone from quite different cloth. About 40 percent of the Cornerstone was drawn from a rocky Oakville site, just a couple miles from Scarecrow in Rutherford. But the bulk of that 2007 powerhouse came from the famed Ink Grade Vineyard high up Howell Mountain Road. In sharp contrast to Scarecrow's soft plushness, one of the most gifted winemakers in the valley infused the 2007 Cornerstone with the briery density of the mountain, buttressing the immense concentration of the vintage with chewy Howell Mountain tannins.

Now, almost two years after most in the valley released and sold their stunning 2009s, Craig Camp is just releasing a 2009 Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that clearly outpoints Welch's monumental 2007 effort.

"Up until the second week of October," Camp told us at Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Yountville, "2009 was much like 2007. Both summers were mild and very dry. Berry size was small. But in two respects I'd give the nod to 2009. First, yields were much smaller in 2009, down as much as 30 percent up at Ink Grade. Second, there was far less desiccation. Seeds browned beautifully. Up on Howell Mountain, tannins were riper."

But unlike 2007, which remained storm-free right through the October harvest, the 2009 growing season was punctuated by a climatic event that would define the vintage. As we explained over two years ago, and as Robert Parker subsequently described in his exhaustive vintage report, on October 12, 2009, the rain began to fall. Vineyards not farmed meticulously had yet to reach full maturity, and growers were obliged to let the fruit hang and dry out, often not picking until the last week of the month. All paid the piper.

But the top wineries in the valley never batted an eye. Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle, Bryant Family, Colgin and Scarecrow put out phenomenal Cabernets, all drawn from vineyards harvested a week before the storm. At Cornerstone, the call to harvest in Oakville and on the nosebleed slopes of Ink Grade Vineyard came on October 4 — making for one of the flashiest Cabernets in winery history.

Make no mistake about it: This is an absolute powerhouse that lives up to the high standards set by Cornerstone and Celia Welch in 2007. Brilliant purple/black to the rim with voluptuous aromas of crushed black fruits, sweet herbs, tar and tobacco. The attack is massive, a teeth-staining confection of blackberry and mountain blueberry jam, at once dense, plush and chewy, bracketed by textbook Howell Mountain backbone. Drink now, but only if you're impatient. Far better to lay this behemoth down for a decade or two.


Tasting Notes

2009 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
"Brilliant purple/black to the rim with voluptuous aromas of crushed black fruits, sweet herbs, tar and tobacco. The attack is massive, a teeth-staining confection of blackberry and mountain blueberry jam, at once dense, plush and chewy, all the 2009 opulence bracketed by textbook Howell Mountain backbone. Drink now, but only if you're impatient. Far better to lay this behemoth down for a decade or two."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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