Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2008 Vintage: A Look Forward

We just put the finishing touches on our first serious taste through all the lots of the 2008 vintage Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot). We tasted 14 distinct lots comprised of 118 separate barrels and while 2008 is not as round a vintage as 2007 at this point, there are a number of potentially outstanding wines aging away gracefully in the cellar.

2008 was a significantly smaller harvest for us than 2007. Yields in some of our Cabernet blocks (including clone 191 and clone 4) were down by more than 20% compared to the previous year.

At this point in time, my general observation is that 2008 will be seen as a more structured vintage than 2007; it reminds me of the 2000 vintage in which fruit did not show overtly, but there was great depth and "blackness" to the aromatics and flavors. 2008 has that same depth of dark fruit and an austerity in mid-palate structure where exuberance was the calling card for 2007.

The wines are very young, and too many times I have been fooled into thinking that a wine would be less than what it turned out to be. During this 10 days of tasting (we'll revisit the wines in about 3 months), clone 337 from the Ghielmetti Vineyard is the clear Cabernet star (the adjectives: black fruit, tobacco, big tannin, dark chocolate, chewy tannin, good length came up repeatedly in my blind tasting notes). In the past I have loved this clone for its grapey, dark fruit aspects, and it is even more expressly tannic than it was in 2007. This head-turning wine is a front runner for Premier Cabernet Collection status.

Consistent favorites: clones 4, 30, and 191 are also showing very well though they seem to be a bit behind in their development compared to the last vintage.

A new clone of Petit Verdot - The Forman clone - which was grafted over from Sauvignon Blanc in 2006, is showing beautifully. Dense dark plum and floral notes abound and the mid-palate silkiness portends a wonderfully complex drinking experience in 2011.

For those who can't wait to get their hands and palates around a new Cabernet, the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - Home Ranch is now available. Long a favorite of Steven Kent Cab fans, this gorgeous wine expresses the mint/chocolate/dark fruit matrix of our home site better than any wine since 2003. Only 120 cases were produced. Get it before it's gone.

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