Cornerstone Cellars was established in California some 20 years ago but just several years ago it extended into Oregon. It is here that Craig Camp began to work with Tony Rynders who had worked at Domaine Serene and Hogue. This post features the two Oregon Pinot Noirs which have been recently released. The Stepping Stone, Pinot Noir is a barrel selection of drinkable wine whereas the Cornerstone Cellars, Pinot Noir is meant to age. The Stepping Stone is the more approachable of the two but I believe it will benefit from a few years in the cellar. The Cornerstone Cellars has noticeably more depth and texture along with the need for more age. So stash a few bottles away in your cellar. These wines were provided by Cornerstone Cellars.
2010 Stepping Stone, Pinot Noir, Willamette – $30
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from 45% Yamhill-Carlton, 33% Eola-Amity, 15% Chehalem Mountain, 5% McMinnville, 1% Ribbon Ridge, and 1% Dundee Hills. It was aged for 13 months in 35% new French oak. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light to medium cherry. The nose was light to medium in strength with Pinot aromas which were a little ripe. With air nuts, herbs, and tobacco came out. Tasted over two nights it started with a little ripe red cherry fruit with some underlying black fruit flavors. There were hints of midpalate structure along with tart and juicy acidity. It put on some weight as cranberry flavors came out in the finish. There were some sweet spices in the aftertaste along with a minerally coating of the lips. With air the flavors became drier and the tannins more apparent. ** 2014-2019.
2010 Cornerstone Cellars, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – $50
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from 68% Yamhill-Carlton, 10% Chehalem Mountain, 8% Eola-Amity, 6% McMinnvile, 5% Ribbon Ridge, and 3% Dundee Hills. It was aged for 15 months in 62% new French oak. Alcohol 13.5%. The light nose revealed darker berries along with scented cherry and raspberry. In the mouth the tart, fresh fruit had a pebbly texture, a bit of lift, and a wood note. There was some roast and lots of berries with air. It shows some grip and integrated acidity with a good finish and length of aftertaste. There are certainly some fine flavors but this wine requires aging. **(*) 2016-2022.
We decided to treat ourselves to mature wines having been spared any damage from Hurricane Sandy. Made curious by some recent Cornerstone Cellars wines we had tasted I decided to open this older pair. Both wines were double-decanted to remove sediment. The 2002 drank well from the start since the 2003 was initially tight. Within an hour the 2003 hit its stride showing the full extent of its weight. I enjoyed both of these wines. The 2002 is more elegant and complex whereas the 2003 is more concentrated and weighty with rugged tannins. I recommend both, just pick the one to match your mood or food. Both of these are drinking well right now but should continue to do so for a number of years. The pricing is quite good for ten year old Napa Cab. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2002 Cornerstone Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $35
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Sweetwater Ranch, Neal Family Vineyards on Howell Mountain, and J.J. Cohn Estate in Rutherford. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was medium garnet. The medium strength nose started with fresh eucalyptus but in retrospect was more finely scented bell pepper and with air, aromas of cedar. In the mouth this medium bodied wine was savory with red fruit, cedar box, and mature notes. With air it developed strawberry candy flavors with plenty of acidity to keep it lithe. It was fresh in the finish with spices then flavors that became textured in the aftertaste. *** Now-2019.
2003 Cornerstone Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $33
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was medium garnet with a dark, roast core. The medium strength nose was of red fruit then red candy. In the mouth the wine started with tight red fruit. But after a little air it developed nicely showing a core of almost minty, fresh blue fruit. It built a racy weight with air which matched the drying, ripe-ish tannins. There is still concentration to the ripe fruit and spices. In the aftertaste there was a little spicy note to the rugged tannins. *** Now-2022.
I heard from Sophie Autran of Domaine de Piaugier this week in response to some questions. She reported that the 2012 vintage seems to be one of the best since 2001. For her estate there were “Small quantities but nice grapes, good acidity and concentration.” She kindly provided some recent pictures for all to enjoy.
We have been drinking a lot of the 2010 Domaine de Piaugier, La Grange de Piaugier. You may read about it here. While that is appropriate for consumption over the next several years the 2010 Gigondas requires several years of age. This seems to be in line with the vintage and Gigondas in general. So stick a few bottles away and drink the La Grange in the mean time. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2010 Domaine de Piaugier, Gigondas – $23
Imported by DS Trading. This wine is a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, and 15% Syrah. The grapes were destemmed then fermented for one month in cement tank followed by maturation over two winters in 33% cement tank, 33% in one year old barrels, and 33% in new foudre. Alcohol 14.5%. The color is a youthful, grapey purple ruby. The nose is light but complex with concentrated orange, red berry juice, and pineapple. In the mouth there is focused red fruit which has the density for aging along with the fine tannins. There is a mild weight. With air lavender and black tea notes come out before the wine hardens in the finish. There are very fine, drying tannins which are clearly young and a little spicy. The acidity is tangy. **(*) 2017-2027.
I rarely drink at lunch but with our Hurricane Sandy preparations complete there was nothing left to do but wait out the storm. I had actually opened this bottle of Kruger-Rumpf a few days earlier but it remained tight. It finally opened up yesterday to show primary fruit with thoroughly enjoyable texture and plenty of balanced acidity. The low alcohol meant my glass had no effect on my ability to clear out water soaked leaves downed by Sandy. While it was great fun to work the wine in my mouth I would strongly recommend cellaring it for several more years. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2010 Kruger-Rumpf, Scheurebe, Spatlese, Nahe – $22
A Terry Theise selection. This wine is 100% Scheurebe. Alcohol 8.0%. The color is a very light, straw yellow. The nose offers up grapefruit and some sweet fruit. In the mouth there was ripe, sweet white fruit which is delivered with a rich, racy mouthfeel. The sweet floral fruit takes on minerals and drier flavors in the finish. The finish also reveals more citrus flavors along with a fine texture. There is a tangy aftertaste which sees the return of the grapefruit acidity. *** 2016-2024.
I am often confused by the Southern Rhone Tardieu-Laurent wines for they seem suspended in youth. This characteristic does make me willing to try any older vintages because even the simplest of cuvees will drink well. This Cuvee Coteaux from Cornas is still youthful but is taking on some maturity. This bottle showed attractive spices and wood notes, making for a good Fall drink. I always wondered why these wines see 100% new oak. Perhaps the Northern Rhone Syrah reacts well to the wood regime. I finally found the answer in “The Wines of the Northern Rhone” by John Livingstone-Learmonth. According to Michel Tardieu the new wood is a good anti-oxidant which allows him to work without sulphur. This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2000 Tardieu-Laurent, Cuvee Coteaux, Cornas –
Imported by Bacchus Importers. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from parcels in Chaillot owned by two or three suppliers. These parcels were planted in the 1950s. It was aged for at leat 15 months in 100% new oak then bottled with very little sulphur. Alcohol 13%. The color was a medium garnet showing some age. The light to medium strength nose is taking on mature aromas but still has a young core. With air polished wood scents come out. In the mouth this medium bodied wine has tart blue fruit, lots of spices, and a ripe surrounding of red fruit. The finish leaves sweet spice on the tongue and some meaty flavors. There is an attractive softness to this wine. *** Now-2018.
I recently joined Phil and his tasting group for one of their periodic tastings. The theme was kept secret by Phil though he admitted there was a ringer. After we tasted through the wines people began to offer their guesses as to what we were tasting. I believe a consensus of Bordeaux or Bodeaux-blend was quickly achieved. Our attempts to narrow it down further resulted in a slew of vintages and other guesses. The ringer, however, was singled our for being something else. I was personally surprised and pleased to find out we had been drinking the 2000 vintage! As we were about to tuck into gigantic lamb-shanks with a white-bean puree Phil opened the Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot. Except for the Billecart-Salmon and Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot all of the wines were double-decanted one hour before tasting. The majority of the wines came from Phil’s wine cellar. The other wines, those with prices, were recently purchased from MacArthur Beverages. My notes are presented in the order the wines were tasted.
There were some fine wines this evening. The Billecart-Salmon was a great way to start the evening and was consumed as everyone settled down for the tasting. My favorite wine was the Chateau Giscours for its charisma and confidence. It is balanced and perfectly drinkable but will develop for some time. I suspect many others enjoyed this bottle as it kept “disappearing.” I rather liked the Chateau Monbousquet as well. It showed young with firmer flavors and structure in the finish. The Chateau La Louviere was quite nice as well and kept developing over the two hours I was there. If you try it now give it three hours of air before drinking. The Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot had primary fruit which was quite drinkable. My tasting note was taken within the first hour of being open so bear that in mind.
The Chateau Reignac was a good wine which continued to develop over the evening, perhaps a solid wine. I am curious to hear how this fared over the rest of the evening. The Chateau Potensac was awkward, at first giving the impression that it will develop with age then shutting down upon revisit. The Chateau Haut-Bergey was at its peak during my first glass so perhaps this is best to drink over the next several years. The Pine Ridge stood out when first tasted. Upon revisiting the wine I drank it while eating my lamb and it was completely satisfying. (In retrospect this is too strong of a statement. I meant that drunk with food it was not distracting.)
Many thanks to Phil for inviting me over to his house, as well as to the rest of the group who, for the second time, made me feel welcome.
NV Billecart-Salmon, Brut Rose, Champagne
This wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir vinified as a red wine. Alcohol 12%. This bottle had been in Phil’s cellar for 2-3 years. The color was a light, clear salmon rose. The light nose was yeasty and of delicate red fruit. In the mouth the flavors were very light with initial fruit then yeasty apple which mixed with dry, red fruit flavors. It became a bit grippy and racy in the finish. There was good acidity and a textured aftertaste with an earthy note. The bubbles were delicate and integrated. Very harmonious from age and quite satisfying to drink. **** Now.
2000 Chateau Potensac, Medoc – $50
Imported by Vignobles LVDH. This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc sourced from 30-year-old vines. It was fermented 15-18 days then aged 12-16 months in 10-15% new oak barrels. Alcohol 13%. The color was medium garnet, showing some age. The medium nose was aromatic with a little green house note. In the mouth there were tight black fruit, wooden structure then a touch of red fruit. It was a little rough in the middle with a drying finish and fine tannins in the aftertaste. It could still use more than an hour of air. Upon revisiting it seemed tighter with a developing wood note. **(*) 2016-2022.
2000 Chateau Reignac, Bordeaux Superieur
Imported by W.J. Deutsch & Sons. This wine is a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon which was fermented in both stainless steel and oak tanks. It underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 12 months new oak barrels. Alcohol 13%. The color of medium garnet was lighter than the Potensac. The medium strength nose showed some roasted earth. In the mouth the dryer red fruit was supported by structure. The flavors become more tart in the middle where slightly riper, spicy tannins came up. The wine caused one to pucker a bit in the finish. Upon revisiting the nose was more aromatic and the flavors were expanding. *** Now-2022.
2000 Pine Ridge, Onyx, Napa Valley
This wine is a blend of 60% Malbec, 24% Tannat, and 16% Merlot which was aged for 17 months in French oak barrels.. Alcohol 14.1%. The color was light to medium garnet with a dark cherry core. The nose was light with sweet notes and butter. In the mouth there was cherry red fruit, which was tart and showed some focus. The flavors became overripe towards the finish as a little mineral and blue fruit flavors came out. There were a light amount of fine tannins. Upon revisiting there was still some sweet fruit. I do not see this developing further but then I suspect it will drink fine for some time. ** Now-2018.
2000 Chateau Haut-Bergey, Pessac-Leognan – $70
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot sourced from 30-year-old vines. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel then aged 16-18 months in 50% new oak barrels. The color was a medium cherry garnet with a dark core. The light to medium strength nose was concentrated with dark aromas and a little eucalyptus. In the mouth there was tart fruit at first which expanded quickly then thinned out in the finish. There was a gentle vein of black fruit and minerals throughout. The flavors turned tart in the finish. There were still wood tannins. Upon revisiting there were more red and blue fruit but I preferred my first glass. *** Now-2020.
2000 Chateau La Louviere, Pessac-Leognan
Imported by USA Wine Import. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot sourced from 20-year-old vines. It was fermented 21 days in stainless steel vats then aged for 12 months in 50-75% new oak barrels. Alcohol 13%. The color was a medium+ dark cherry garnet. The young nose revealed focused fruit and eucalyptus. This wine was youthful in the mouth with lift from the acidity and a fine tannic structure. The youngest thus far it left appealing dry, sticky tannins on the lips. Upon revisiting it revealed more concentrated fruit which was youthful. Good potential here. ***(*) Now-2025.
2000 Chateau Moulin Riche, Saint-Julien
Imported by A.H.D. Vintners. The second wine of Leoville Pyferre this is a bled of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc sourced from 20-year-old vines. Alcohol 13%. The color was light to medium. The nose was a little earthy. The flavors were of bright red fruit, a little wood note, and a general feeling of being old. Upon revisiting the red fruit showing citrus-backing with some juicy acidity. This is drinking at its best right now. ** Now.
2000 Chateau Giscours, Margaux – $100
Imported by The Stacole Co. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc sourced from 30-year-old vines. It was fermented 15-20 days in stainless steel then aged for 18 months in 33% new oak barrels. Alcohol 13%. The medium strength nose revealed good concentration of fruit and a cedar note. In the mouth the flavors had fine concentration, good blue fruit, along with acidity and tannins that were perfectly balanced. Still youthful. Immediately charming. Upon revisiting the nose took on sweaty leather and the mouth showed more spices. A lovely bottle starting to hit its stride. **** Now-2027.
2000 Chateau Monbousquet, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – $60
Imported by Bacchus Importers. This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 40-year-old vines. It underwent fermentation for 28-35 days in stainless steel tanks then was aged for 18-22 months in new oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a medium+ roasted and garnet with a dark core. The fine nose was scented with cedar. In the mouth this fine wine had gentle, sweetly spiced fruit then filled the mouth with black fruit. It firmed up a bit in the finish where the flavors were drier. There were drying ripe tannins which were a little spicy. Upon revisiting the good nose revealed ripe fruit. There continued to be nice fruit in the mouth which left the impression of many years of developing ahead. Almost at the level of the Giscours. **** Now-2027.
2000 Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Imported by Glazer’s. This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 35-year-old vines. It was fermented 28-30 days in stainless steel tanks then underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 18 months in new oak barrels. Alcohol 13%. The color was medium+. In the mouth there was finely texture blue fruit that morphed into primary black and red fruit. There was a gentle texture, cool spiced fruit, and a little bit of spicy tannins. A very drinkable, young wine that needs some age. ***(*) Now-2022.
I recently asked Mark for a pair of affordable Bordeaux recommendations because I was curious to drink pre-2009 vintages. This post features two of the four wines he recommended. I was familiar with Chateau Daugay as I had tasted the 2009 back in February. You may read my tasting note here. The 2006 is still fresh (it does not seem to have any mature notes yet) and provides for attractive drinking after a few hours of air. The Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande has interesting components but remained decidedly tight over two nights. I would cellar this wine several more years before trying again. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2006 Chateau Daugay, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – $28
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This is a blend of approximately equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 35-year-old vines. Alcohol 13.5%. The light nose reveals berries. In the mouth it took some time but it eventually put on good weight and concentration. The flavors are fresh, almost minty, with blue fruit and an attractive, approachable structure. It remained fresh over two nights, was a little chewy, and had elegant concentration. There were very fine tannins and acidity throughout which kept it on its feet. *** Now-2019.
2008 Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande, Saint-Estephe – $34
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 50% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 13% Petit Verdot sourced from 25-year-old vines. Alcohol 13.5%. The light and focused nose remained tight with a little black cherry aroma. In the mouth the flavors remained tight with blue and red fruit, tight low-lying black fruit and a little spice. The flavors were lifted in the finish where minerally black fruit came out. There was wood box spice and ripe tannins which gently coated the teeth and lips. A fine texture overall. Needs a few years. **(*) 2016-2024.