A Battle for the Ages

*Disclaimer: I received these wines as a sample from Cornerstone Cellars.

A face off or showdown if you will between two vintages of Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.  In corner one we have the 2004 Howell Mountain and in corner two we have the 2005 Napa Valley.  Who will prevail?  The ’04 came out swinging early, getting in some good punches and showing up the ’05 in the mouth.  But the ’05 just needed some time to warm up and bring out the big guns: a nose the made you want to jump right into the glass.  The outcome? Read through the rest of the rounds to find out who got the knockout in the final round.

In honor of these two boutique wines, I pulled out the big guns and made steaks over 3 cheese risotto with a raspberry wine sauce topped over both.  And some green beans on the side.  We don’t eat a lot of steak, but these two wines just screamed for a nice more on the rare side of medium rare steak.  Definitely a fabulous match.  As a side note, I killed both of these wines way earlier than I ever should have….these babies are for cellaring….think about opening them maybe, maybe in 5 years, but you’d probably do well to keep them both for at least 10.

2004 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernent Sauvignon: 14.9% alcohol by volume, real cork closure, retails from the winery for $100.  On the nose, black currents, earth, leather, and plums lead.  Following close behind comes anise, chocolate, and slight red berries.  Hours into the wine, this baby still stayed tightly wound, eventually revealing black currants, black cherries, and smoky meat.  Let this one breathe, you will be rewarded, I promise.  In the mouth I found plum, blackberries, licorice, black cherries, bittersweet chocolate, pepper, spice, and extremely dark fruit.  Big and bold, but with an intriguing nose and mouth, this one is built to age and age and age.

2005 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: 14.8% alcohol by volume, real cork closure, and it retails for $65.  The nose on this one wooed me early on.  I found bright blackberries, vanilla, cream, plum, black currants, mint, herbs, dusty baking chocolate, the slightest hint of a barnyard, and underlying red fruit.  The mint and the herbs really drew me in.  Mint, herbs, and a little bit of barnyard are things I love about a good Cab.  In the mouth I got plum, sweet cherries, earth, smoke, herbs, blackberries, pepper, and some red fruit notes.  Elegant and refined in the mouth with an intriguing nose.

In the end, Matt and I spent a good bit of time debating back and forth over which one would take the title in the showdown.  The match proved to be extrememly close, with the 2004 showing as a bit bolder and more in your face, while the 2005 danced around with grace and polish.  The wines competed well, but ultimately I give the title in this go around to the 2005.  But try them side-by-side in 5-10 years and see who wins then.


6 Responses

  1. That raspberry wine sauce looks delicious.
    I think I would have chosen the 2005 too!

  2. We’re thrilled you enjoyed our wines. Without a doubt, we make our wines for aging. Our goal is Napa cabernet with acidity. I have to make that steak recipe!

  3. Quite a spread!

    But you must be insane if Napa fruit beat out Howell Mountain fruit.

    NOT. Possible.


  4. 1WineDude – Our Napa Cabernet is 1/3 Howell Mountain with the balance coming from two prime vineyards in Rutherford and Oakville, both of those vineyards are west of 29 on prime benchland. Howell Mountain is special indeed, but sometimes when the wines are very young like this the Napa is more open and ready to drink than the Howell Mountain.

  5. That’s why I said try it again in a few years Joe! The Napa was just ready to drink, though normally I would agree as I love Howell Mountain fruit!

    Randy, the steak sauce is divine!

    Thanks Craig!

  6. I just stumbled onto your blog! I’m looking forward to reading more reviews! ~Amanda B.

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