Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (White Label): Retail $65. Initially a bit green pepper on the nose, but after a minute or two, tons of spice with cassis and dark berry fruit. On the palate, the fruit is certainly present, but well-balanced and by no means overbearing. There is no question that this wine gets at least one “whoa” but it is still really young—it might eventually get two. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain: Retail $80. On the nose, mocha dominates. OK, “dominate” is too strong since there is also black pepper and blueberry. When compared to the Cornerstone Napa Cab, this wine seems more sophisticated particularly due to the impressive finish. As impressive as this is on the palate, I could stick my nose in this for days—the multi-layered aromas were captivating. This is a jump up a bit on the “whoa” meter, with two solid “whoas”, Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2011 Cornerstone Cellars The Cornerstone: Retail $150. Surprisingly a bit greener when compared to the Howell Mountain. A bit of black pepper but really reserved. The nose remains shy even after two hours in the decanter. The palate slowly reveals a bit of what is underneath, but not too much. Imagine if you were dating back in the 1950’s when women were less revealing and men were much more closed off (OK, maybe only women have changed since the ’50’s). Like those relationships from several decades ago, this wine requires some time and patience to reveal its full potential, but what potential! Outstanding now. 91-93 Points, but 93-95 potential.
- Illinois State University
I was born and raised in Harvard, Illinois, a land of Manhattans, Pabst beer and Friday-night fish fries — wine was unknown. However, during a college semester spent studying in Europe I discovered wine and fine food, and there was no going back.
After graduating from Illinois State University, I worked as a photojournalist and food and wine writer for four years before my passion for food and wine overwhelmed my sense of reality and I entered the wine business
In 1980, I joined Sam Leavitt as a partner in Direct Import Wine Company which grew to be recognized as offering the most elite portfolio of estate wines in the Chicago market. In the early 80’s we began importing the Italian selection of Neil and Maria Empson and the French wines of Rebecca Wasserman and Christopher Cannan. These people influenced me deeply and the many, many hours I spent with them in the vineyards shaped and developed my palate. I will be ever grateful to them for this extraordinary education.
In 1996 our company was devoured by Paterno Imports (who later fed it to Southern Wine and Spirits), but I remained at Direct as president until 1999. In a fit of sanity, prompted by an outburst of ethics, I left the corporate world of the Terlato Wine Group to return to the area of the wine industry that fueled my passion for wines to begin with: small estates making distinctive wines with a personality reflecting the vision of the people that created them.
Following a brief crash-and-burn as an importer, I spent several wonderful years in Italy, writing and doing a total immersion experience in Italian winemaking. This led to my creating VinoCibo.com to share these experiences and engage in an exchange of ideas with other like-minded “terroirists”. When I returned to the USA VinoCibo was replaced by The Wine Camp Blog as I wanted my focus to go beyond the wines of Italy. During those years I was also a site manager and host of the Italian and Wine Forums on eGullet.org.
After three years working with Oregon pinot noir and guiding the former Chateau Benoit into its new incarnation as Anne Amie Vineyards I have moved south and taken up residence in the heart of the American wine industry, the Napa Valley. Today I am managing partner of Cornerstone Cellars where I have the privilege of working with some of America’s most dynamic winemakers: our winemaker Jeff Keene in the Napa Valley and Tony Rynders at Cornerstone Oregon in the Willamette Valley. So my winemaking odyssey continues starting with nebbiolo, continues with pinot noir and chardonnay in Oregon and includes cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah and sauvignon blanc in the Napa Valley.
- Cornerstone Cellars, NapaManaging Partner, 2007 - present
- The Wine Camp BlogPublisher, 2003 - present
- Anne Amie VineyardsPresident, 2004 - 2007
- Direct Import Wine CompanyPresident, 1979 - 2001
1475 Kubil Rd., Grants Pass OR 97527
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