Fun and Uncommon White From a Napa Valley Legend

Today’s Story: Corison Winery

Corison Winery is a relatively small, family-run winery established in 1987 by winemaker Cathy Corison and her husband William Martin. Cathy fell into winemaking somewhat by chance, thanks to a wine course she stumbled into while studying Biology at Pomona College. After graduation she moved to the Napa Valley and later received her Enology degree with UC Davis before working harvest at Freemark Abbey in 1978. Throughout the 1980s Cathy worked in winemaking at Chappellet Vineyard, ultimately starting Corison Winery through custom crush in 1987. William, on the other hand, worked as an architect before meeting Cathy in 1990 and moving to the Napa Valley. He spearheaded the purchase of the Kronos Vineyard in 1995, and designed the winery which broke ground there in 1999. Today William helps with IT and accounting while Cathy runs winemaking, however both are heavily involved in all aspects of the winery (especially during harvest).

Corison Winery at its core is a Cabernet Sauvignon house. However, Cathy’s wines are not entirely common relative to her neighbors in that she focuses on producing restained, elegant, and “old school” wines. Cathy’s fruit is generally harvested earlier to preserve some natural acidity and to avoid over-ripeness, resulting in Cabernet that is relatively lower in alcohol and built for the long haul. A step further, Cathy’s winemaking is largely non-interventionist which allows the wines to showcase its fruit with a sense of place. Corison produces three main wines, including the Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Sunbasket Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, and an appellation wine labelled Corison Cabernet Sauvignon. She later started making a Helios Cabernet Franc from the Sunbasket Vineyard, and produces a rosé and Gewürztraminer under her second label called Corazón.

I previously reviewed the 2008 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Corazón Gewürztraminer

100% Gewürztraminer; 13.3% ABV

The 2020 Corazón Gewürztraminer is pale straw yellow in color and completely transparent. Aromas are rather delicate and of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lychee, grapefruit, lime zest, pear, ginger, rose petal, and wax. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, and the somewhat spicy palate displays notes of ginger, lychee, pear, grapefruit zest, lemon pith, white pepper, and white florals. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish.

Price: $40. While the quality level here is good and it’s fun to try a California Gewürztraminer, I struggle to call this a strong value given many of the options coming out of Germany and Alsace, France. This is fun to try at the estate during the tasting, but Corison’s magic truly comes with the Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings.

Complex Anderson Valley Pinot Noir in a Traditional Style

Today’s Story: Radio-Coteau

I wrote about Radio-Coteau a short six days ago, however I was so pleasantly taken aback by the 2011 Las Colinas Syrah I ventured out to pick up a bottle of their Pinot Noir. If you read the backstory on Radio-Coteau in my last post, feel free to skip the next paragraph and jump right into today’s tasting notes.

Radio-Coteau is somewhat of a cult winery (though not in the sense many people use the term nowadays) established by winemaker Eric Sussman in 2002. Though the winery is situated in Sebastopol and Eric owns a ridgetop estate vineyard above the town of Occidental, he also sources fruit from vineyards throughout the cooler climates of the northern coast within western Sonoma County and Anderson Valley. Eric brings his impressive history with wine to Radio-Coteau, one that includes stints in Washington’s Yakima Valley, the 1995 vintage in Pauillac on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, and the 1996 vintage in Burgundy at Domaine Comte Armand of Pommard and Domaine Jacques Prieur of Meursault. It was in France when Eric first heard the term “radio-coteau,” which means “word of mouth” or literally “broadcasting from the hillside.” Coupled with his flair for Old World style wines, Eric named his winery after this phrase to signify both a tight-knit community mindset as well as his wines being a true representation of the terroir. Working extensively with organic and biodynamic viticulture in well-drained marine soils, Eric produces refined examples of Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel.

Once again, I do recommend a visit to the winery’s interactive website here.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Savoy Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.1% ABV

The 2010 Savoy Pinot Noir is medium to deep garnet in color. Given 45 minutes or so to blossom in the glass, this showcases pronounced intensity with aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, stemmy wild strawberry, red rose petal, black olive, leather, forest floor/wet leaves, dried green herbs, mint, clove, and cinnamon. Meanwhile on the palate I get equally complex flavors with pronounced intensity, with notes of black cherry, plum, pomegranate, red rose, tobacco, forest floor, earthy mushroom, grilled herbs, cracked green peppercorn, clove, and charred oak. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. This is very Burgundian but the ripeness of the California fruit does shine through. While the alcohol doesn’t show heat per se, the body is certainly boosted by it. 462 cases produced.

Price: $75. This is getting up there in price for Cali Pinot, however I think it does deserve to fight up alongside the “big boys” of cult Pinot Noirs that sell for $100-125. While there are no doubt better value plays closer to $50, I would buy this again.