Mon 25 Jun 2012
Stepping Stone is the second label of Napa Valley’s Cornerstone Cellars, founded in 1991 by two doctors and a couple of investors in Memphis. The motivation was to produce great cabernet sauvignon wines, and in that purpose the enterprise has flourished. (Here are my notes on the excellent Cornerstone Howell Mountain and Napa Valley cabernets from 2004 and 2005; I have not tasted subsequent vintages.) The Cornerstone wines are built to age, are limited in quantity and dear in cost (though not as expensive as many comparable Napa Valley cabernets), so Stepping Stone was created to offer drinkable products at more accessible prices. Winemaker for Cornerstone and Stepping Stone since 2010, and the company’s first full-time winemaker, is Jeff Keene.
The Stepping Stone Corallina Syrah Rosé 2011, Napa Valley, derives from the Boyd Family Vineyards in Napa’s Oak Knoll appellation. This rosé is made not by the saignée method of bleeding off some juice from the crushing of red grapes intended for another wine but by gently pressing whole clusters to obtain a pale juice that is then taken off the skins. The wine undergoes a long cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks and then, in an unusual process for a rosé, is aged five months in well-used French oak barrels. The result is a rosé that retains all the delicacy and elegance we associate with the best models but one just slightly more robust and structured. The color is indeed coral with a shimmer of copper-orange topaz; in other words, entrancing. Aromas of dried raspberries and red currants are highlighted by hints of orange zest, lilac and lime peel; within flavors of citrus modality notes of melon and raspberry make an appearance, all enlivened by brisk acidity and a scintillating element of limestone minerality. The wine is shapely, supple and spicy — there are touches of cloves and cinnamon — and altogether suited for a variety of Summer and early Fall dishes, from cold fried chicken and deviled eggs to rabbit terrine and veal blanquette. Serve chilled and drink through 2013. Production was 455 cases. Excellent. About $20.
A sample for review.