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Tasted: 13 High-End 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Wines

I attended the “Best of 2008 California Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting” at KL Wines in Redwood City on Friday. It wasn't a controlled, lab-like environment, but the overall tasting conditions were good and certainly sufficient for gaining reliable quick impressions of the wines.

dominusAll of the wines were good. Some were truly outstanding. Every wine showed typical characteristics of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon including some type of black fruit, chocolate and oak flavors. Retail prices ranged from $74.99 up to $249.99.

Despite their similarities, there were many distinctive nuances on the nose and palate. The most striking differentiators were texture and perceived levels of alcohol. Tannins were prominent in all of the wines but ranged from silky powder to chalk to grainy. Stated alcohol levels ranged from 14.1% up to 15.1%, but I believe some vintners made thorough use of the 1.5% fudge factor allowed by TTB regulations.

My overall impressions of the 2008 vintage in Napa Valley have not changed from other recent tastings. Upon my first sampling of 2008’s early in the year, many wines were brash and robustly structured. They didn’t show a lot of nuance. However, within the past four months or so, most have resolved enough of their tannins to allow many more flavors to blossom. Most of those I’ve tasted can be enjoyed now, but all will reward time in the cellar.

The following wines are listed in their tasting order, which was set by K & L.

2008 Ramey “Pededgral” Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville
A bold wine with plenty of black currant, black cherry and oak flavors complemented by spice and touches of dried coconut and dark chocolate powder. It is full-bodied with fine powdery tannins. Drink now through 2021. 15% alcohol, $149.99. Highly Recommended.

2008 Quintessa Napa Valley
Pale pigmented legs foreshadow this wine’s relatively disciplined black cherry and chocolate nose. Flavors of oak and cherry are framed by lightly drying medium-plus tannins. The palate starts out round but sharpens leading to a somewhat tart finish. Drink now through 2020. 14.2% alcohol, $129.00. Recommended.

2008 Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Relatively closed on the nose with hints of eucalyptus herb and sour cherry. In contrast, the palate is round with sweet cherry and chocolate flavors and medium-plus grainy tannins. Warming finish. 14.8% alcohol, $74.99. Drink now through 2016. Recommended.

2008 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford
Full-bodied and distinctive with aromas of tobacco, oak and black cherry. A powerful wine with plenty of chalky tannins balanced by deep flavors of black cherry, chocolate, oak and spice. 14.9% alcohol, $175.00. Drink now through 2024. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 Opus One Napa Valley
Very dark ruby in the glass, the 2008 Opus One has bold aromas of deeply toasted oak, black cherry and dusty earth plus an interesting note of peppery leather. The palate shows good balance between alcohol, depth of fruit and acidity. The chalky, drying tannins stick out slightly but will fall into step after two or three years in the cellar. The very attractive flavors include black cherry, powdery dark chocolate, dusty wood and coconut. 14.5% alcohol, $199.00. Best from 2013 through 2026. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 BV Georges de Latour Napa Valley
Reticent aromas of oak, cherry and chocolate. Flavors echo the nose but have greater intensity while adding cocoa nib and charred wood. Medium-plus body with very drying light-grained tannins. Of all the wines at the tasting, this one struck me as the one most in need to cellar time. 15.1% alcohol, $79.99. Best from 2016 to 20201. Highly Recommended.

2008 Phillip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2008 Togni offers considerable complexity and ripeness. Baked black cherry, tobacco, raisin, blackberry, carob and earthy spice are found on the nose and in the palate. The wine is full-bodied with chalky, grainy tannins and considerable warmth. Alcohol not declared, $84.99. Drink now through 2026. Highly Recommended.

2008 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer To-Kalon, Napa Valley
The 2008 Paul Hobbs with fruit from the acclaimed Beckstoffer To-Kalon vineyard is a powerhouse. The nose is sweet oak, coconut, vanilla, red cherry and black currant. The palate follows through on those flavors while rich, powdery tannins provide structure and carry the wine on to a very long finish. Warming. 14.9% alcohol, $249.99. Best 2014 through 2030. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain
O’Shaughnessy’s 2008 effort is a Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that does not demand extensive cellar time or decanting. Charming blackberry, dark spice and sweet oak aromas are followed by delightfully balanced acidity, intensity of fruit, alcohol and structure on the full-bodied palate. The tannins are powdery and, like the wine overall, graceful. A thoroughly yummy wine and easily the day’s best value. 14.8% alcohol, $74.99. Now through 2028. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 Cliff Lede “Poetry” Cabernet Sauvignon Stag’s Leap District
The 2008 Poetry from Cliff Lede is opaque ruby with black currant and blackberry set against a background of oak. It’s full-bodied with robust chalky tannins. The attack is nice with black fruit, woody spice and oak. Barrel notes strengthen into the long, warming finish. 14.9%, $144.99. Now through 2020. Highly Recommended.

2008 Merryvale “Profile” Napa Valley
An engaging nose of gamey spice, roast beef and black fruit. The full-bodied palate features integrated black fruit flavors, carried by tannins that evolve slowly from velvet to chalk. A delicious wine now that will be even better with a little time to unwind. 14.8% alcohol, $139.99. Best 2013 through 2019. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 Dominus Napa Valley
A tremendous wine. The 2008 Dominus is more immediately accessible than some recent vintages I’ve tasted upon release, yet is built to last. The nose is classic Cabernet Sauvignon with black currant, currant leaf, spice and fig. The palate achieves nearly perfect balance. Rich, powdery tannins offer rough silk texture and flavors that match the nose but persist through a very long finish. 14.1% alcohol, $179.00. Drink now through 2031+. Highest Recommendation.

2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley
Deeply-colored ruby in the glass with a striking nose of dark chocolate, toasted brown spice, oak and blackberry. The full-bodied palate reveals black fruit, dark chocolate, cedar and spice on chalky tannins. A rich and textured wine of great balance with an extremely long finish. 14.% alcohol, $159.99. Drink now through 2026. Very Highly Recommended.


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