In September of 2016, I headed to Napa to meet a few new wineries. My visit took me to the busy “HWY” side of Napa Valley as opposed to the (Silverado) “Trail” side. The HWY side is generally busier and more crowded and I don’t like crowds nor busy when tasting. However, I have learned to trust my wine tasting motto, “You never know what you’re gonna get.” My visit to Corison makes me want to laser cut that motto into a big piece of rusty, sheet of metal, hang it over my wine cooler and act like I coined it hundreds of years ago. If only Forrest Gump brought wine to Jenny instead of chocolate.
Pulling into Corison offers a few hints about the what’s important to the Corisons. Their small private driveway enters an equally small parking lot. There’s no expansive parking lot and they passed on the landscape architect lauded in Sunset Magazine. Instead, you pass a small farm house right on the driveway and pull into one of only a few parking spaces available. The parking area is directly adjacent AG sheds, piles of clippings and palettes from some recent delivery. It’s clear that farmers live here. Those expecting the Disney type wine tasting experience may be disappointed by this first impression. I was encouraged. The view in the parking lot indicates that the farm culture is alive at Corison and that is always a good sign at a winery. In my experience, there are a few things you can usually expect from the farm culture. Simplicity, generosity, kindness and a deep care for what grows. That means good fruit and gracious people sharing their craft.
Facing HWY 29, you’ll approach a gorgeous, sea green barn that is as inviting as if it were built from the drawings in a children’s book. I haven’t met the Corison’s yet but assume they wouldn’t have it any other way. A short, curved pathway leads you to the large yet approachable white barn doors that opens into the cavernous, wood filled barrel and tasting room. You are greeted instantly as you walk in by both the tasting room staff and the indulgent smell of new French oak. I love that sort of welcome.
Corison Winery is the brain child of Cathy Corison and her husband. While it’s easy to be impressed with her credentials, that is not what peaked my interest about her. Cathy’s “cred” in the valley is not the same as her impressive C.V. Much of the respect she has garnered comes from her insistence on being present, harvest after harvest, year after year, in the vineyard, on the crush pad and in the winery. Farmers live here. Cathy Corison believes in farming first and letting the fruit speak true. Her wine is the absolute testament to that vision. I hope to have the opportunity to meet Cathy in the future. Hopefully I won’t wine “fanboy” too much and scare her with my novice wine geek questions.
No sooner than we entered the Corison barn, we were greeted for our 1pm appointment with smiles and a couple of glasses of chilled Gewürztraminer. Kei Terauchi, the Tasting Room Manager, introduced herself as our host for the day and she swept us off to explore the property like members of the family. If you haven’t had the experience of touring a winery and vineyard with a glass of wine, its as awesome as it sounds. A sipping great wine while strolling through barrels, vines and tanks while soaking in the culture of the winery while staring at Mt. Veeder in the distance. This is the life.
Our tour led us through the tank room and back into the barrel room. Kei sat us at a quaint table for two and offered us three Cabernet Sauvignons to enjoy. Corison is know for their smaller lots, elegant style and lower alcohol content wines. We were offered their 1999 & 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet as well as their 2012 Kronos Cabernet.
I have not been trained to rate or review wine but it seems people are regularly asking me to do it. These days, I try to save my reviews for wineries but occasionally, a wine speaks to me and I can’t resist singing its praises. The 2012 Kronos Vineyard Cab is “just more” according to Cathy Corison. Boy was that an accurate statement. Once you get it on your palate it begins to make sense. It’s more of everything. More structure, more depth, more balance… just more. Such a wonderfully floral nose which I can’t comprehend. It seems almost out of place but yet perfect in its place. There must be a splash of Petit Verdot or something in there right? Nope 100% Cabernet and it is delightfully regal. Delicate yet bold and so well balanced that you are almost waiting for something to happen as if it supposed to have a bump in the road. I have a few extra “bumps” in my wine cooler from Corison. Wow… Kronos… very well done.
The next time you are driving North on HWY 29 in Napa Valley, don’t forget to stop by and visit the big, sea green barn. Corison is a real treat!
Cheers my friends!
987 St. Helena Highway
Saint Helena, CA 94574
How to get there:
Head to Napa Valley and make your way up HWY 29 North. From Napa head towards Calistoga. As you make your way farther up the valley, use the wine train as a reference. Once the tracks end on your left, not far beyond Grgich Hills Estates, look for Zinfandel Lane one of the valleys crossroads. Just beyond Zinfandel on the left, is the small driveway taking you into Corison’s property.