Tasting Cornerstone 2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
I moved to Silicon Valley in 1984 to work for Data General. It was an amazing time – the birth of both the technology age and the modern era of Californian wine. I spent my days making semiconductors and weekends visiting wineries and tasting wine with friends. The various wine producing areas of California were less well defined then. Appellations were a European thing. But certain areas were all ready recognized for their ability to produce grapes and wines of distinctive quality and character.
Howell Mountain was one of my favorite areas, and the fine wines produced by Ridge and Dunn from that region were among my favorite wines. So when Craig Camp of the The Wine Camp Blog asked if WineEnabler.com wanted to try Cornerstone’s 2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, I was thrilled.
Cornerstone was founded in 1991 by a couple of doctors from Tennessee, Michael Dragutsky and David Sloas. From the start, the two sought to produce premium California Cabs, and they have been rather successful at doing just that. Their wines routinely score in the mid-90s in Wine Spectator, and Cornerstone’s winemaker, Celia Masyczek, was named Food and Wine’s winemaker of the year in 2008.
Cornerstone produces limited quantities of two wines, a Napa Valley Cabernet and their flagship Howell Mountain designated Cabernet. The 2004 Howell Mountain is a decidedly New World wine. When we tasted the 2004, the wine was dark and foreboding on the nose when first opened. With a little air time, the wine showed red and dark berries, black licorice, and earth. In the mouth, the wine continues to show power and grace. Fine-grained tannin support a full array of fruit that goes on forever. This wine has a great mouth feel and enough acid to pair with food other than a grilled ribeye.
For my palate, many American wines go too far. Trying to make powerful wine, wineries often fall into the trap of putting too much of everything in their wine, producing a strong wine lacking grace or finesse. Celia Masyczek avoids this trap. The 2004 Howell Mountain is a powerful, complex wine with nuance and character. If you are a California Cab lover, this wine is one for you.
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