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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Corison Cabernet has my corazon

Friday, April 12, 2013

I’d been wanting to stop by for a tasting at Corison Winery ever since I first heard rave reviews about the Cabernet famed for it’s affinity for pairing beautifully with foods.  While I’m typically one to call ahead before tasting, I more or less stumbled into the timeless Victorian-style barn that is Corison winery on a weekend during the “off season” in Napa without a tasting reservation and was elated when Hardy, running the tasting room, graciously agreed to let us taste.  The winery has an unpretentious and modest interior, contrasting to its reputation for first in class California Cabernets.  The winery is ideally situated off of Highway 29 in St Helena in the heart of Cathy Corison's beloved Kronos Vineyard. With eight acres planted exclusively to St. Georges rootstock, Kronos is a historic treasure with old vines that are 42 years old. As one of the last old Cabernet Vineyards in the Napa Valley, it is one of the few vineyards to have produced world class fruit continuously for more than four decades and because of the age of the vines, the berries are smaller and the skins thicker which leads to a great concentration and refined tannin in the Kronos Cabernet.
What makes Corison Winery worth a visit? Cathy Corison has been producing Cabernet for 26 vintages and they are noted for their consistency and impeccable balance, making them a sommelier’s dream to pair with foods.  The wines are powerful yet elegant with great acidity and balance and grow even finer with age. Cathy sources her grapes from famed vineyards that lie between Rutherford and St. Helena, including the Kronos vineyard.  While Cathy Corison is famous for and makes primarily Cabernets, she makes a limited amount of Gewurztraminer (under the label Corazon - a plan on words) and Cabernet Franc (under the label Helios).  These wines don’t bear the Corison label as it’s reserved exclusively for her Cabernets.  The Gewurtztraminer vineyard was planted in Anderson Valley during a time when Cathy was hosting a lot of winemaker dinners and she needed a good versatile white wine to pair with the first course for her dinners which is typically too light to pair with Cabernet.  The Cab Franc comes from a very small plot in the Shafer vineyard that Cathy purchased in 2004.  Rather than replant it, she kindheartedly decided to leave the Cab Franc vines in tact and produces just 2 barrels it which is quite good, but only distributed at her tasting room.
In Corison Cabernets, you’ll find beauty and balance.  Grapes are sourced from some of the best vineyards in the heart of Napa Valley and aged in French oak barrels sourced from several forests to add complexity to the wine.  Cathy believes in the integrity of the vineyards and terroir and lets her wines speak of their origin.  Cathy is herself intriguing - one of Napa’s most famous female winemakers, she originally studied biology at Pomona in Claremont, CA before going on to receive her Master’s in Enology from U.C. Davis in the ‘70s.  She started her path to winemaking working for other famed vineyards such as Chappalett, Long Meadow Creek and Staglin Family Vineyard.  Cathy made her first vintage of Corison Cabernet in 1987.  Today, Cathy takes a hands off approach to winemaking letting the vineyards speak for themselves.  I like what they’re saying.  
My tasting notes below:

2009 Gewurtraminer

Mouthwatering apple, pear, and great acidity and minerality. Notes of rosepetal and honey and a dry finish cleanses the palate.

2001 Corison Cabernet
A complex palate with ripples of flavor, from dark black berry to light red plum and hints of black pepper, and minerality.

2009 Corison Cabernet

Plummy, tight and a bit dusky from the famed Rutherford dust, this is a wine with nuance and refinement. Mineral notes of pencil lead and tobacco add complexity.

2000 Kronos Cabernet
Deeply concentrated fruit, baked prunes and golden raisins, grilled figs and blackberry cobbler dominate the palate. The wine finished with soft tannins, vanilla and hints of pepper.

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