Cathy Corison of Corison Winery Talks Wine with Joseph & Curtis
She gained extensive experience from her work at Chappellet Vineyard, Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards, and Long Meadow Ranch, where she was constantly honing her skills. Cathy’s husband built the barn where there vineyard sits and they have been making wine ever since. They make about 3500 cases of wine and I can personally tell you it’s some of the best juice out there.
How did you get into the wine business?
I took a wine appreciation class on a complete whim when I was a sophomore studying Biology at Pomona College over 40 years ago. Wine grabbed me by the neck and ran with me and I’ve never looked back. Wine is a collaboration between many living systems, so I’m still studying Biology!
Was it harder being a woman?
It’s certainly been a ride. There have been obstacles, but I think woman have had a higher profile in the wine business, for better or worse.
What was Napa like in the “early days?”
When I arrived in Napa 41 years ago this month (!), it was rural and depressed, just starting to claw its way back from Prohibition. It was even a little redneck around the edges. There were only 30 wineries then (now there are around 500!) It’s been exciting to have an inside seat to watch it all.
Tell us about how you were able to acquire your vineyard.
Pulling on my bootstraps as hard as I could (and still am). Land priced were much lower in the ’70s and ’80s. When I got my job as the winemaker at Chappellet Vineyard, it came with housing and a professional salary so I bought a house in St. Helena. That real estate was the best thing I ever did. After a while I started buying grapes and barrels instead of cars and houses as a young adult. I did all the work and used other winery’s excess capacity for many years. After a while my husband and I were able to buy Kronos Vineyard. After some more time we built a winery barn – a winemaking home at last!
What is the “Corison style” for wine making?
My goal is to make Cabernet that is both powerful and elegant, speaks of place, graces the table and enjoys a long, interesting life in the bottle.
What are the 3 most important characteristics for a successful winemaker?
Attention to detail, patience, creativity.
Please tell us about Kronos.
Kronos is the estate vineyard and surrounds the winery on all four sides. It is one of the last old Cabernet vineyards in the Napa Valley. Planted in 1971 on St. George rootstock, the wise old vines produce miserly crops of tiny, delicious berries on scraggly clusters. Though it’s a disaster as a business, Kronos is a gift as a winemaker. I’m so fortunate to have these old vines to work with. The vineyard ripens slowly so the wines are juicy, concentrated and complex at very moderate alcohols. Good snappy acidity gives them life.
Too numerous to count. I look for restaurants with good sommeliers. They are such a help.
I know each year is different just like children but what are some of your favorites?
How nice is it to wake up in Napa everyday?
It’s a little slice of heaven. I just need to remember to look up every so often.
Where can our collectors purchase Corison and some of your special library bottles?
We can be found in small, fine wine shops and also sell wine online at www.corison.com. I have always held back nice libraries of older wines to re-release when they’re in a pretty spot.