Napa Valley AVA
Site-driven wines that express the essence of the vineyard and region
Thirty years ago, noted Memphis physician Mike Dragutsky received a phone call from another doctor (David Sloas) about a potentially buy-able lot of grapes from Howell Mountain that he had found in Napa Valley. Dragutsky was keenly interested in the wine business and immediately took action. The pair purchased five tons of the prized fruit and Cornerstone Cellars became a reality. That was back in 1991 and the total production for the new entity was something under 300 cases.
Vault ahead to the present and Cornerstone Cellars is one of the paramount entities in the high-end wine world that is the Napa Valley. Its ownership has swelled to over fifty investors, many of whom are Dr. Mike Dragutsky’s close colleagues in the Memphis area. Such a business ownership model is most certainly unique in the wine industry and it has proven that their investment in Cornerstone Cellars has been rather rewarding.
One reason for the continued success of Cornerstone Cellars is the fact that the company has continued to use their original sources for grapes, mainly from the revered slopes of Howell Mountain. Long considered one of the pillars for vineyard success in Napa Valley, the area in Napa’s northeastern sector around the town of Angwin even boasts its own Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers Association and is the home to the likes of Dunn Vineyards, La Jota Vineyard and numerous other luminaries.
A significant part of Cornerstone Cellars' acclaim is their devotion to exemplary vineyard sources in some of the most recognized AVA's in Northern California including Howell Mountain, Oakville, Rutherford, Sonoma Mountain and Sta. Rita Hills. Today, Cornerstone Cellars produces about 7,000 cases from these regions and has reached a comfort level that it intends to maintain.
Making the wines for the brand for nearly two decades, Kari Auringer has been crafting wines of texture and authenticity. In addition to her work with Cornerstone Cellars, Kari has been credited as part of the team that produced the 100-Point star wines for Scarecrow Wines, Lindstrom Wines, Hollywood and Vine Cellars, and Keever Vineyards and Winery, and is considered among the most hands-on winemakers in California. Adding an additional palate and perspective, Cornerstone Cellars also works with Charles Thomas who has been labeled “one of California’s best winemakers” by the Wine Spectator’s James Laube and was formerly winemaker at the likes of Robert Mondavi Reserve, Opus One Winery, Rudd Oakville Estate, as well as launching Lokoya Wine and Verite Wines for the Jackson Family of Wines.
The company currently operates two tasting room facilities, one within the Village at Vista Collina Resort and one in downtown Napa Valley. Each location offers a warm, welcoming lounge setting for customers to enjoy Cornerstone Cellars’ small-production, award-winning wines.
Cornerstone Cellars is also profoundly interested in the wine/food experience and is currently involved with Oenotri, their Michelin-recommended Italian restaurant neighbor in Downtown Napa.
Cornerstone Cellars’ continuing dedication to quality (as well as the numerous accolades and awards it has garnered throughout its existence) make this 2014 "Benchlands" Cabernet Sauvignon a most intriguing selection for our Platinum Wine Club members. It is our pleasure to bring this remarkable wine to your attention. Cheers!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
I am Kari Auringer, the winemaker for Cornerstone Cellars and I am pleased to be sharing this beautiful wine with all of you.
Living and working in the Napa Valley gives us access to some of the best grapes in California, and possibly the world. Cornerstone Cellars has been sourcing Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain and producing award-winning wines since 1991.
The Benchlands Cabernet Sauvignon is my favorite Cornerstone wine to make. We select the best barrels from the best lots from our vineyards on the valley floor. We spend hours tasting and evaluating each barrel, taking notes and formulating blending plans. We set up a series of blend trials to determine which combinations of vineyards, blocks and individual barrels make the best wine. The 2014 Benchlands was created primarily from the St. Helena and the illustrious Oakville Station vineyards, located in the sweet spot of the Napa Valley.
I personally invite you to join us for a wine tasting in our tasting room located in Downtown Napa. Reservations can be made Online or by calling us at 707-945-0388 ext. 1.
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
It is our pleasure to introduce you to Cornerstone Cellars and the 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc Black Label.
Guided by early Napa luminaries like Randy Dunn and Philip Titus, Michael Dragutsky founded Cornerstone in 1991 to reveal the qualities ‘buried’ in select Napa Valley mountain and benchland vineyard sites - many in new or as-yet undesignated appellations. Starting with Howell Mountain, we have since expanded to include vineyards in Calistoga, St. Helena, Atlas Peak, Oakville, and Oak Knoll; most recently, we have begun to explore the two most exciting appellations, Coombsville and Pope Valley. Most of our production are ‘small lot’ wines, some as few as 75 to 100 cases.
Now in our 26th vintage, we have worked with talented (and celebrated) winemakers and growers from the start. Our current winemaking team - Kari Auringer and Charles Thomas - are inspired blenders, and we produce some delicate multiple-vineyard wines too. We experiment a little outside Napa - Mendocino, Willamette Valley, Santa Ynez Mountains, and Lodi for example - but these projects exist to support our focus on the Napa Valley, and single appellation, and in a few cases like the one offered, blended appellation wines, focused on a dominant grape variety.
Our 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc is sourced from three outstanding vineyards in Oakville, St. Helena and Coombsville. This wine showcases how spectacular and developed Cabernet Franc can be when grown in the Napa Valley.
We invite you to experience our portfolio of wines the next time you are in the Napa Valley. Please call to schedule your tasting experience at 707-945-0388, ext. 1.