What to Drink Now: 2008

Wineries all over the country are releasing their new vintages now, with many just now releasing their 2008 selections.  Early taste tests prove that grapes grown in difficult conditions can often produce the best wine.  2008 started as a challenging year for many vintners as the west coast dealt with frost around bud break making total grape yields smaller for vintners from the Central Coast of California up through Washington.  However, sometimes smaller yields can produce a more concentrated, well rounded and bold wine.  I have tried a few of these recent releases over the past few weeks to find many stand outs.  Some selections were sent for editorial consideration.

2008 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay from Napa Valley is a varietally correct representation of Chardonnay with the wine harvested at ultimate ripeness, fermented using wild yeast, aged for 16 months in French oak and bottled without filtration to ensure the freshest, truest flavors of the grape shine through.  Honey and orange blossom aromas lift from the glass followed by toasty hazelnuts and green apple, followed by flavors of ripe pear, sweet melon and apple layered with baking spice and butterscotch.  An elegant wine to be enjoyed on its own or with citrus and butter poached white fish or pasta with a cream sauce.

Villa Maria 2008 Reserve Caberenet Sauvignon/Merlot Gimblett Gravels in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand is a bold, rich and relatively low alcohol blend (13.5%).  Grown in free-draining, gravel soils producing consistently low crops, leading to deeply concentrated wines.  Aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum mix with leather, tobacco and thyme.  Flavors of black cherry and cassis are enhanced with nutmeg and vanilla.

2008 St. Francis Sonoma County Old Vines Zinfandel blends 89% Zinfandel with Alicante Bouschet, Mourvedre, Carignane, Syrah and Petit Sirah for an earthy, yet fruit forward Zin produced from vineyards throughout Sonoma that range in age from 55 years old to over 100.  Pepper, spice, ripe black berry and raspberry fill the wine, finishing with rich chocolate notes and a long finish.

2008 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon from the Calistoga area of Napa Valley focused on updated winemaking practices creating an elegant, refined and very drinkable wine.  Very aromatic with licorice, mocha, cedar and black fruit aromas followed by ripe black fruit and spice flavors with balanced acidity and tannin finishing with a long, luscious finish.  A wine to drink and enjoy now, or hold on to for a few years.

2008 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon brings grapes from vineyards throughout the valley together creating a powerful, full bodied Cabernet blended with a touch of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah to round out the palate.  Deep garnet colored with aromas of black cherry, berry, caramel and cigar box with just a touch of violet and wild flower notes.  A nicely balanced wine with big fruit flavors and a velvety finish.

Mount Veeder 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon really felt the effects of the difficult start of the growing season and low rainfall throughout the summer, creating a small, but very high quality crop.  Highly concentrated with great character this wine is filled with dark chocolate, blackberry, espresso and tobacco with a silky, lengthy finish.

Louis M. Martini has been making Napa Valley Cabernet highlighting the distinct flavors and characteristics of the varietal since 1933.  Today, 3rd generation winemaker, Mike Martini, follows his grandfather, Louis M. Martini, and father, Louis P. Martini’s tradition of producing high quality wine from the best grapes sourced throughout the valley.  The 2008 Lot 1 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced fromhand-picked, mountaintop vineyards throughout the valley, predominantly whole berry fermented and aged  22 months in 100% new French oak barrels creating a hearty, bold and incredibly complex wine filled with blueberry, blackberry and black cherry just layers of anise, leather, smoke and spice.  A wine that can be enjoyed now, but will age nicely over the next decade, softening the tannins a bit and enhancing its silky finish.

Most Trinchero wines are single vineyard, estate wines.  The 2008 Meritage brings the best lots from their estate vineyards together in a classic Bordeaux style blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, using “all the crayons in the box, to paint the prettiest picture” from the best grapes, as described by winemaker, Mario Monticelli.  Expressive and interesting, a wine with personality, filled with licorice, plum, cassis and spice with sage, thyme and eucalyptus.

Many of these wines will be available for tasting at the inaugural Flavor! Napa Valley Appelation Trail tasting event on November 18th.  Tickets are going fast, and are available via their website.

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