Bright, airy, and elegant, with Carrera marble tables and wine bar, and a black and white checkered floor, the new tasting room at Cornerstone Cellars in Yountville, California, was a welcoming respite from a busy workday. Kari Auringer, winemaker for well over a decade at Cornerstone, greeted the hosts with beautifully appointed tasting flights, featured as their signature wine tasting experience.
We settled into the luxurious, gray velvet armchairs to hear Kari’s latest news. (The tasting room only recently held its soft opening, with food service still to come with final permitting.) “You’re going to get to taste some of our best,” Kari intoned. You would never know from the room’s modern appointments we were sitting in an historic former train station, complete with beadboard walls and the old, sashed ticket window behind us, overlooking their outdoor seating area.
We couldn’t wait—not with five wine glasses, each with a generous pour ready for us to enjoy, sitting in front of us. Hence, we jumped right into Cornerstone’s offerings for guests. First up was the Sauvignon Blanc from Farina Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain. The color of straw with aromas ranging from tropical to citrus and a bit of apple, it was the perfect wine to kick off our conversation. (We last spoke with Kari a few months ago about another wine venture of hers. Playback that show here.)
Tune in to learn how Kari sources from the best vineyards in Napa Valley, Sonoma and beyond, seeking out the best grapes grown for of each varietal wine she makes. We were a bit surprised (because the hosts are NOT winemakers) to learn it’s gotten a lot harder to find fabulous Sauvignon Blanc in Napa Valley.
Next, our conversation took a sideways turn. (No, not the movie, although it did come up later when we tasted Kari’s amazing Merlot, in part two of our show). The sideways turned out to be our impromptu wine and nut pairing. You’ll have to listen in for the longer version of the story, but the short version is that Cornerstone is currently pairing its wines during tasting experiences with a variety of nuts. You’ll be surprised to learn how well each of the wines pairs with specific tree nuts, given their unique flavor profiles.
The Corallina Rosé of Pinot Noir added yet another beautiful color to the palette on the table—pale salmon pink. Its classic, rose petal aromas gave way to the floral and fruity notes of a Provence-styled rosé. Layers upon layers of different flavor notes revealed themselves while we debated which Thanksgiving dishes it may pair best with. (Answer: There are no wrong answers if you like the pairing. But if you want to know how Kari pairs it, tune up the volume.…)
Did we mention Kari’s cooking show? Or, as she puts it, she talks about the wine while her husband, Jeff, does the cooking. Right now, you can catch Kari’s latest episode, Roasted Winter Vegetables for the Holidays, on Cornerstone’s YouTube channel. (Prepared for Cornerstone’s club members, the winery makes episodes available to the public soon after their club debut.)
Pinot Noir is the perennial favorite wine to be paired with Thanksgiving dishes. But as you’ll hear on the show, we all had much to say about their classic, Pinot Noir, sourced from Fiddlestix Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The color. The aromas. The mouthfeel. And the combination of all of them put together. Kari’s leading comment, “It’s a fickle grape to grow and a fickle wine to make.” (This is why it takes an expert to handle this, um, “fickle” variety for best results.) We’d never know from tasting this wine that it might be a bit challenging at times for Kari…
She mentioned that there are a number of women winemakers and female up ‘n’ comers who work at the custom crush facility Cornerstone uses in Napa Valley. She noted how eager to learn the younger ones are about techniques, their variations (and when to apply them), and methodologies. She truly enjoys the camaraderie of being invited to taste another’s efforts, sharing reactions and suggestions, as it all helps everyone improve their work.
While you’ll have to wait another week for part two of our show with Kari to come out, we don’t want you to wait a minute to visit Cornerstone’s newest tasting room. With plentiful parking only steps away from the “station” door, not to mention a gracious hospitality team (following all COVID-19 safety protocols), they’re more than delighted to give guests the full Taste of Cornerstone experience. Bring friends! (And tune in next week for part two!)
Show date: November 12, 2021
Photo credits: Lisa Adams Walter