Saturday, February 28, 2009

Corison Winery: Wines with a Sense of Self

There has been some talk lately (see Vinography) about winemakers who apparently make wines they do not like to drink but that will garner high ratings, praise from critics, and lofty prices from consumers. We have heard stories of this nature in the past week from winemakers themselves, in fact, telling tales of wine-making neighbors that practically abhor their own wines.

In the face of all this negativity, we thought we would focus on a winemaker who clearly makes wine that she herself likes to drink, and that bucks the trend of the high scoring, high alcohol, over-the-top bottles coming out of California (and plenty of the world’s other winemaking regions) today.

Corison Winery is located in St. Helena in Napa Valley, California. It is there that proprietor and winemaker, Cathy Corison, makes two Cabernet Sauvignons (Corison Cabernet and Corison Kronos Cabernet) from valley floor vineyards between St. Helena and Rutherford. The vineyards are organically farmed and Cathy’s winemaking practices are exceedingly traditional in nature. She is not a believer in interfering with the story her grapes wish to tell, refraining from gimmicks and manipulations that endeavor to make a wine taste a certain “modern” way. Cathy’s wines have always been known for their elegance and consistency and when she talks about them there is an unmistakable passion in her voice. Her wines keep alcohol in check; the 2004 Cabernet has a mere 13.6% alcohol and suffers from no lack of body or flavor in comparison to any 15% Cabernet we have experienced.

Robert Parker has not published ratings on her wines since 1995 and really never awarded them with scores above the low 90s anyway. Wine Spectator has rated the wines intermittently and scores from that publication average in the mid-80s. In fact, the 2004 Corison Cabernet, which we drank here at the store recently and absolutely adored, received an 83 (!) from the Spectator. We respectfully (well…) disagree. We found the wine (as we always find Cathy’s wines) to be elegant and refined, with plum, cherry, and currant fruit and charming floral notes. This particular wine does not come cheap at $68.99 but for a special bottle of California Cabernet it really can’t be beat. (Psst, it might just go on sale in March!)

Corison’s Kronos Cabernet (we carry the 2003 for $100) is a bit bigger and plusher in style, but still totes that fine line between power and elegance. We also stock the 1995 Corison Cabernet ($97.99), which was one of our very favorites when we tasted a mini-vertical of Cathy’s Cabs with her at the winery.

We carry a lot of great California Cabs in the store, but Cathy is the first winemaker that comes to mind when we think of someone who is dedicated to traditional winemaking, true to herself, and passionate about her wines.


  1. I’ve heard many glowing reviews of Cathy Corison’s Cabernet Sauvignons: classically styled, powerful yet elegant – these seemed to be wines worth seeking out. So when I had an opportunity to pick up a couple of bottles of the 1995 Napa Cabernet, I jumped at the chance; sure enough, the wine was amazing.

  2. Just ordered my first wines from Corison, the 2003, 2004 & 2005 Corison and the 2002, 2003 & 2004 Kronos. I am hoping they are everything i am expecting!