by Fred McMillin
for November 30, 1999


Cathy's Caper



Author James Halliday calls them Warehouse Wineries. He's talking about operations with purchased grapes converted to wine in a rented warehouse or winery, run by "singularly talented winemakers."

The Rest of the Story

Corison Cabernet Sauvignon  
She had a Biology degree from Pomona and an Enology graduate degree from U.C. Davis (1978). She had nearly a decade of Napa Valley winemaking experience. When she took over as winemaker at Chappellet Vineyard, critic James Laube recalls she was "adding more richness to the Cabernet Sauvignon, giving them more flavor as well as a more supple texture."

With that background, in 1987 Cathy Corison created her own label. She makes only Cabernet Sauvignon with 100% French oak, 50% new.

The critics praise it. Halliday: The fruit is sufficiently rich to swallow up the oak, producing a truly excellent Cab, full-blown and concentrated. Prof. John Baxevanis: Immense flavor, majestic fruit.

The source of the majestic fruit? She knows the best Rutherford areas for classic Cabs, and has the connections to purchase them. However, Prof. Baxevanis says Cathy is too modest, giving so much credit to the grapes. His reasoning..."there are simply too many wines made from similar plots only a few feet away that do not match the complexity, richness, and ripe configuration of Cathy's superb Cabernet."

I have a note from Cathy written Feb. 8, 1996, discussing her 1992 vintage. My panel loved it. This 1996 is equally dazzling.

1996 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation—Napa Valley (from several vineyards along the western benchland in the Rutherford area)
Annual Production—About 2,000 cases
Contact—Susan Achtman, (707) 963-0826, FAX (707) 963-4906
Suggestion—Marvelous Christmas gift; I find my friends are ecstatic to receive a wine that's more expensive than the bottles they normally purchase.
Price—$45 range


A strong case can be made that organized winemaking began in the southern Caucasus at least seven millennia ago. Some wine jars from that time were adorned with symbols of seeds and rain. Those symbols also adorn the Corison label.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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