Tasting Report: 2008 California Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Samples

Tasting Report: 2008 California Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Samples


What!? We’re writing about 2008 wines when many wineries are still tricking out their 2006 vintages!? That’s right: Barrel sampling season is underway for the 2008 vintage of California Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines have been in oak for a few months now and are starting to show their true colors.

I spent several hours tasting my way through 49 samples of 2008 Cabernets drawn from the barrel and found a lot to like. While it’s impossible to judge exactly how these wines will turn out after many more months in oak and time in the bottle, I found at least a few wines which I would happily drink today.

On the whole, 2008 looks a pretty good year, with plenty of fresh fruit in the wines. Sure, there are some enormous tannin bombs in the mix — they may need years in the bottle before they’re ready for consumption — but on the whole most of these wines feel like they’ll be close to ready to drink on release.

Ratings for the wines I sampled are below. Unless noted, the wine tasted was the winery’s standard bottling, or one at least which did not designate a reserve or special vineyard source. Remember of course that all these ratings are loose and subject to amendment (possibly wildly so) after the wines are released… in 2011 or thereabouts.

Alas, I barely made it through a little over half of the 90 wines available before my palate was so crusted with tannin I had to call it quits — apologies to the wineries whose products I didn’t get to try. Complete ratings and selected notes follow.

2008 California Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Samples

Arns / B+
Arrowood / A-
Atlas Peak / A-
Barnett / A / outstanding – could drink this today
Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve / B+ / odd menthol notes
Bell Wine Cellars / B-
Buoncristiani / B-
Cain Five / C+ / textbook, barnyardy Cain
Carter Cellars / A-
Chalk Hill / A-
Chimney Rock Ganymede Vineyard / B
Clark-Claudon / B-
Cliff Lede / B-
Clos Pegase / B-
Corison / A- / wonderful cocoa notes
Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill / A- / huge wine, tannic, chocolate infused
Diamond Terrace / A- / silky
EMH Vineyards / B+
Frias Family Vineyard / A- / intriguing jamminess
Guilliams Vineyards / A-
Hendry Ranch Winery / B+
Hidden Ridge / B
Jordan / B+
Justin / B- / absurdly fruity
Kuleto Estate / A-
Martin Estate / B-
Merryvale / B+
Mi Sueño / B+
O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery / A- / inky dark
Owl Ridge Wines Passalacqua Vineyard / B-
Piña Firehouse Vineyard / A / awesome wine, great balance
Robert Craig / B
Robert Mondavi / B+
Sequum / B- / another with a crazy amount of sweet fruit
Sherwin Family Vineyards / B+
Silver Oak Jump Rock Vineyard / B+
Sojourn Cellars / B
Spring Mountain / B+
St. Supery / B-
Star Lane / B
Sullivan Vineyards / A-
Terlato Family Vineyards / B+ / very curious chocolate raisin character
Titus Vineyards / A-
Trinchero / B-
Viader / A / richly tannic, has years in it
Volker Eisele / C+
Whitehall Lane Reserve / B- / odd skunky notes
Yates Family Vineyard / A-
ZD Wines / B+

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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