By Guest Blogger Craig Camp, Managing Partner of Cornerstone Cellars
The Napa Valley is one of the few perfect places on earth to grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is one of the few perfect places on earth to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. One thing I know for sure is that if you have a Cabernet vineyard next to a Pinot vineyard, one or both of them are in the wrong place.
So although we had been in the Napa Valley for two decades when we decided to make Pinot Noir we knew we had to look somewhere other than our home. After all, it is more important where the vine puts down roots than where we had put down our roots. Our vision is to go where the variety loves to be, not to force the variety to grow in a place just because we were there. After all, nothing is more important to a wine than the soil that gave life to the vines. That essence flows from the soil through the roots to be mixed with sunshine to create wine.
Cellar Angels’ CEO Martin Cody catches up with Craig Camp of Cornerstone Cellars in Napa Valley
Cabernet and Pinot need just the opposite things, as for that matter do Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon is a slow ripener you need to speed up and Pinot Noir is a fast ripener you need to slow down. The Napa Valley is just not a great place to grow Pinot Noir and the Willamette Valley is no place to try to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cornerstone Cellars is famous for our distinctive Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine of great longevity and breed, and I wanted our Pinot Noir to be equally distinctive. That goal could only lead us to Oregon. In Oregon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have found a home as regal as their home in Burgundy, just as Bordeaux’s Cabernets, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc brought their blue blood to the Napa Valley.
Then there was Tony Rynders. How could I pass up the opportunity to work with one of the most dynamic winemakers anywhere? Tony’s talents led Domaine Serene to fame during his decade as winemaker there and before that he made his mark as red winemaker at Hogue Cellars in Washington. When Tony left Domaine Serene to strike out on his own I knew the time was right for Cornerstone to follow our dream to make Pinot Noir.
We make three wines at Cornerstone Oregon. Our Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay is a lean, mean fighting machine type of Chardonnay. No sweet oaky fruit bombs for me. If you love classic Chablis, you’ll love our Oregon Chardonnay. The Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is a classic, ageable Pinot Noir with great structure, depth and breed. Our newest Cornerstone Oregon wine is the Stepping Stone Pinot Noir by Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley. As we taste through the barrels each vintage, certain ones just seem so pretty and drinkable right now so we figured why resist them? Our Stepping Stone Pinot Noir is a barrel selection of those charming wines, while our Cornerstone Oregon Pinot Noir is a barrel selection of wines destined for greatness. One is pure charm and the other a true aristocrat.
Now as we approach our seventh vintage in Oregon our roots have grown deep in both the soils of the Napa and Willamette Valleys where, with each vintage, they get deeper every year. Soon they will be as deep as our roots on Howell Mountain. Great wine comes from deep roots.