Women Winemakers: Kari Auringer
I'm very excited to introduce you to these wines because they are without a doubt among the best Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that I've tasted. Cornerstone Cellars is a winery with locations in Willamette Valley, Oregon and Napa Valley. Napa winemaker Kari Auringer didn't start out in the wine industry, but began her career in graphic design in the Midwest. Once her interest in wine was sparked, she began to make wine at home and returned to school to study enology while simultaneously working with winemakers in California. Kari worked at Cornerstone Cellars as assistant winemaker to Celia Welch (another woman, huzzah!) from 2000 to 2007 and later returned to become the head winemaker. She also works as a consultant for premium, small production wines and has been noted as a rising star in winemaking. She attributes her success to hard work, dedication, and working with a great team of people.
The wine industry is often seen as glamorous, and while it certainly has its perks, the truth is that it's just a lot of hard work done by people with a lot of passion and Kari is no exception to this! She is very involved with each step of the winemaking process and happily spends time working in the vineyard, hand sorting the grapes, mastering the balance of art and science when she creates her blends, and the myriad of important steps in between. Her goal is to make wines that are a reflection of the vineyard, vintage, and grape variety.
I tasted two wines from Cornerstone: Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2013 ($95) and Cabernet Sauvignon Block 4 Kairos Vineyard 2013 ($90). At these price points, I expected nothing less than stellar and the wines did not disappoint. They were both fruit forward with an excellent balance of flavor intensity, acidity, and body.
The Howell Mountain Cabernet showed beautiful notes of black cherry, blackcurrant, dark chocolate, pepper, and tobacco. The finish was long and complex and a developing leathery note popped in near the end, which was a delicious surprise. I'm sure the leather notes will become more apparent as it ages as well. Translation: totally cellar worthy. It's elegant and overall a superb wine.
The Block 4 Kairos Vineyard Cabernet in comparison was rich and showed darker and more intense fruit notes. I found that it expressed notes of blackberry, black cherry, plum, sweet baking spices, vanilla, and cigar with silky tannins. It's a deep, dramatic wine and it has a very different profile from the Howell Mountain Cabernet, although equally delicious, and it will also age quite nicely.
These wines are two wonderfully different expressions of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and honestly, asking me to choose between them is like saying "which of these two luxury sports cars do you prefer?". Kari has mastered this grape and I absolutely see why she is considered a rising star. If you have the means, add these wines to your cellar to save for a special occasion....or you know, just a Wednesday. Because even tucked away in your wine fridge, they will be a little hard to forget about.
Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2013: $95
Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Block 4 Kairos Vineyard 2013: $90