Cathy Corison – SF Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year 2011
on 04/01/12 at 11:16 amWine
In 1972, wanting to use her skills from the diving team, a Pomona College undergrad named Cathy Corison offered an extracurricular trampoline course. The signup sheet next to hers was for a wine class taught by John Haeger, then a professor and now a Bay Area writer. On a lark, she wrote her name at the top.
Soon Corison was squeezing wine appreciation in between her studies. Within days of graduating in 1975, she landed in Napa.
She’s been there ever since. And for the past quarter century, she has been bottling Cabernet under her own name – wines that stand out for a memorable consistency of flavor and nuance.
“There was a wine inside me I needed to get out,” she says.
Corison, 58, insists her wines are simply the end product of her tastes. But her track record reveals something greater: Almost like clockwork, her two Cabernets – one a blend from sites along a narrow strip near Rutherford, the other from the postage-stamp Kronos vineyard behind her winery – arrive each year with pronounced depth, refreshing fruit flavors, velvet-like tannins and a modest alcohol level in the 13 percent range.
In an era when the most humble Napa Cab lands somewhere in the low 14s, Corison finds a way to deliver power with a porcelain touch.
“I feel kind of like the Lone Ranger,” Corison says. “If I hadn’t made wine for myself, I wouldn’t have been able to be so stubborn about maintaining my style. But I believe that a house needs to stand for something.”
For better or worse, this philosophy has made Corison into Napa Valley’s unofficial voice of restraint. But, Corison’s 25 vintages prove that her style is no fluke. After three decades of making wine, she shows that it’s still possible to make a complex, restrained Cabernet that honors California’s best traditions. That extraordinary track record is why Cathy Corison is The Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year.