Home Varietals Cabernet Franc Stepping Stone Wines from Cornerstone Cellars

This past week I took part in a Taste Live event featuring Stepping Stone wines from Cornerstone Cellars.  Taste Live events are wine tastings where numerous wine bloggers and media from around the country all taste the same wines and share their thoughts via Twitter.

Cornerstone Cellars is a Napa Valley, California producer and is still relatively young—1991 was their first vintage.  It was founded by two Memphis physicians, who jumped into winemaking when they purchased left over grapes from another producer in Napa Valley.  The wine they created from those grapes was a hit and they’ve been at it ever since.

The wines we tasted were from the Stepping Stone line of wines, which is an effort from Cornerstone to produce good wines at affordable prices.  So, a “step” lower in price than other Cornerstone Cellar wines.  Get it?

Unlike most tastings we do, these wines were not tasted blind.  A few of them are within the price range of wines we typically review here, but a couple are more expensive than our typical wines.  All the wines were provided to us as samples.

Stepping Stone Sauvignon Blanc

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone
Napa Valley Cuveé Musqué Sauvignon Blanc

The aromas are nice, but I would not call them “intense.”  This is definitely a different style of Sauvignon Blanc that the explosively tropical ones from Chile or New Zealand.  This is more of a Loire Valley style, and it’s a nice wine.  The aromas are mostly melon and some soft tropical fruit — including a clear banana aroma.  Some wine aficionados might not peg this for a Sauvignon Blanc right off the bat, but I did get a touch of green bell pepper aroma — which makes it clear to me that this is Sauvignon Blanc.

The palate has a bit more intensity than the nose.  Up front, it gives a melon and apple flavor, and finishes with a touch of citrus acidity.  The acidity is adequate, but not nearly as crisp as I usually expect from a SB, but again, it’s a style difference.  It does have a creamy mouth feel, which is nice.  The mouth feel might make you think it went through a malolactic fermentation, but the winemaker says it’s from lees contact in neutral oak.  This is a good wine, but only for those who like this style of Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine: Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cuveé Musqué
Variety: Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage: 2009
Alcohol: 13.9%
Rating: 87
Price: $16.00

Stepping Stone Rosé

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone
Red Hills Lake County Rosé Corallina

The color of this Rosé isn’t bright pink, like many others, but rather it’s kind of a copper-pink.  I really like the color of it.  The nose is a little tight, but citrusy and slightly floral.  The palate has flavors of red apple peel and cranberry.  There’s a bit of cinnamon and a bit of heat to it too.  It’s a pleasant wine, but more of a rosé for food than for sipping.

Wine: Stepping Stone Red Hills Lake County Rosé Corallina
Variety: Grenache/Syrah Rosé
Vintage: 2009
Alcohol: 13.9%
Rating: 85
Price: $16.00

Stepping Stone Syrah

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone
Napa Valley Syrah

Wow! The nose is really fun and interesting, with a definite smokey quality, grilled meat, black cherry and black pepper aromas.  The palate has outstanding concentration in the fruit, with intense cherry and black raspberry flavors.  It has a little spice too, which makes it interesting.  The tannins are silky giving it a great mouth feel.  This is one of the best Syrahs I’ve tasted in a while.

Wine: Stepping Stone Napa Valley Syrah
Variety: Syrah
Vintage: 2008
Alcohol: 14.9%
Rating: 89
Price: $20.00

Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone
Napa Valley Cabernet Franc

This wine has a really nice purple-red color.  It has an herbal quality to the nose, which I would expect from a Cabernet Franc. I’d describe the aromas as tarragon, black currant and cherry.  The acidity is bright on the tongue, making this a great wine for fatty foods.  The flavor is mostly cherry, and it has outstanding concentration.  The tannins are also well-structured.  It’s a really nice wine.

Wine: Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc
Variety: Cabernet Franc
Vintage: 2008
Alcohol: 14.5%
Rating: 91
Price: $30.00

Stepping Stone Cabernet Sauvignon

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The nose is really pretty on this wine, although lacking some intensity.  It shows dusty blackberry, leather, cassis and vanilla.  The mouth feel is silky-smooth.  The flavors begin with rich, ripe, juicy blackberries, moves into a cassis flavor and adds some carmel notes on a lengthy finish. This is a luscious Cabernet.

Wine: Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage: 2008
Alcohol: 14.9%
Rating: 90
Price: $35.00

2 replies to this post
  1. I was looking at the Stepping Stone wines, and wondering about them. Good to know about them — I’ll keep them on my radar.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Heather. Be sure to check out the Stepping Stone wines. I have a hunch you’ll like them.

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