Corison Winery was founded and is owned by Cathy Corison. She first caught the wine bug when she was studying Biology at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. She took an elective course on viticulture and was hooked! As a result she ended up going to UC Davis and graduated with a Enology degree. She had many years experience making wines for other high end well-known Napa wineries (Chappellet Vineyard, Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch) before she opened the physical winery in 2000. However, her wines date back to 1987 when she first started making wines under the Corison label (custom crushing). In 1995 she was able to purchase her own estate vineyards which now surround the physical winery although she still sources from select vineyards. She works very closely with the growers to ensure the vineyards are managed to her specifications. The estate contains some of the older Cabernet Vineyards on the valley floor as they were planted in the early 1970's. The initial choice of rootstock was important as they are all on St. George therefore they survived through the Phylloxera years which tormented many growers in the valley.
The winery is easy to find as its located right next to the St. Helena Highway on the west side, just north of neighboring Milat Winery. Corison's specialty is Cabernet Sauvignon and is the varietal they are most known for; yes there are many Cabernet Sauvignon producers in the valley but there are several items that separate Corison's wines from the rest. One is style which as of press time all her wines are under 14% alcohol; they are elegant both in bouquet and on the palate, have good structure and are very food friendly. All her wines are 100% varietal - no multi varietal blends. In addition not many wineries have previous vintages available for sale and you can choose from a number of older vintages especially in the larger format bottles. Nothing like letting the winery do the proper aging so you can drink these at the time of purchase!
Cathy creates her wines to have a perfect integration between the fruit flavors and the new French Oak that she uses for her barrel aging. The actual tasting is conducted at a table inside the barrel room next to the main winery entrance through one of the large doors. This is a well designed building which blocks out sound as it is located fairly close to Highway 29. We have been here several times and have never heard the nearby traffic from inside. The tasting is casual and informative. Corison has several labels - the Corazon or "heart" in Spanish, is merely limited production lighter style wines. The Gewurztraminer under this label is from older grapes grown in Mendocino County's Anderson Valley. Not many Napa wineries make a Gewurztraminer (its not grown in Napa) and its a treat when we find one. The 2005 is dry, made in the Alsatian style and is a perfect complement to food, especially seafood. The nose has some notes of pear and citrus followed by a palate that is moderately fruit driven with notes of crisp apple and pineapple. It has a great mouth feel with a creamy viscous finish. The 2007 Rose is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and is made using the French saignée method in which juice is "bled" out of the red wine during an early stage in fermentation (rather than merely letting the juice sit on the skins for a set amount of time). This pale salmon colored wine has mild flavors of wild strawberry and peach. A great patio and pool sipper!
Helios is a second label featuring just 100-200 case lots. The "heart" of Corison's production is the Cabernet Sauvignons. Both Cabernet's are grown on western valley bench land which contain alluvial stony type soils...perfect for growing Cabernet. The yields from the older estate vineyards are extremely low, usually around 1.5 tons. The Napa Cabernet is by far their most produced wine; we tried the 2004 vintage. This is a wine that is sourced from multiple vineyards and best represents the varietal characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon. Soft tannins anchor a juicy mouth watering palate with plum, cherry and even some spicy notes towards the finish. The Kronos Cabernet Sauvignon represents the best of their estate vineyard (the CCOF organic certification process has been started on this vineyard). This is a wine that can be described as rich and soft at the same time. It is rich with a generous depth in flavor (plums, blackberry and a number of interesting spices) with a very smooth soft mouth feel anchored by supple tannins. This modern architecturally pleasing winery was designed by Cathy's husband. All visits require appointments - consider taking advantage of their personalized Friday morning tour and sit down tasting of their Library wines.