For a couple of years, I avoided buying Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s not because I don’t like Napa Cabs, it’s just that with price points starting at around $50, I just couldn’t afford them. And –truth be told– I found that many I tasted were way too similar: big, bold, cocksure wines that were certainly tasty, but not particularly distinct.
So it was with great and welcome surprise that I found my way to Cathy Corison’s namesake winery. Cathy settled down in Napa after completing a masters program in Enology at U.C. Davis in the 1970s. After building a great reputation by working at some top-notch spots, Cathy started Corison Winery, and released her first wines under that label in 1987.
I was fortunate enough to meet Cathy during my visit a few weeks ago, and it was an absolute treat. She has a very calm, self-assured, and warm manner. Cathy speaks with great reverence for the “Rutherford Dust” – the distinct soil of this part of Napa that she wants to ensure comes through in her wines. Indeed, Cathy is well recognized for her terroir-driven, artisanal wines, and she exudes a quiet confidence and passion as she talks about her role of shepherding grapes through the winemaking process.
Cathy’s wines are an extension of her personality: elegant, balanced, and confident without being boastful. The aromatics are beautiful and complex — floral, spice, and fruit notes that will stay with you even hours after you’ve finished the last glass. And once you take a sip, you’re in for a real surprise: these wines have the power and structure to hold up with any Napa “big boys” but are also vibrant and lively. Cathy strives to create wines that are both “powerful and elegant” and she certainly hits the mark with these beautifully balanced Cabs.
Tucked away behind the winery is the Kronos Vineyard, an organically farmed plot of land with gnarly 40-year old vines, interlaced with mustard plants. These are distinguished looking vines that stretch and wind their way out of the soil. After harvest, the grapes from this vineyard will find their way into Cathy’s single vineyard Cabernet.
The tasting room experience at Corison also stands out. Unlike many of the Disney-fied castles that dot Highway 29, Corison’s Victorian-barn structure (designed by Cathy’s husband) hearkens back to Napa’s agrarian roots.
This was a memorable visit and put an end to my Napa Cab buying drought. I hope you’ll stop by during your next trip up Highway 29.
Here are the wines I tasted during my visit:
- 2007 Corazón Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer
- 2007 Corazón Napa Cabernet Rosé
- 206 Helios Napa Cab Franc
- 2007 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2006 Corison Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2001 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
For more information on Corison Winery, check out the following:
- Wine Spectator Video of Cathy Corison
- Letter from Cathy Corison to Alice Feiring regarding her approach to wine making
- Vinography’s 2009 Review of Corison wines
- NY Times Knowledge Network Course on Napa Cabs with Cathy Corison
987 St. Helena Highway
St. Helena, CA 94574
Tastings by Appointment
$10 Tasting Fee