So What Was the Deal with 2008?
Extreme weather that included frost, cold temperatures early in the season, heat spikes in August and even the smoke from fire. It was a season that challenged even the finest winemakers. Of course, it’s in a vintage like 2008 that one gets to see who those “finest” winemakers are. Whether they have a resource advantage or a simple knack for making wine, the stars that shone in 2008 are all worth following.
For great insight on the vintage, I recommend downloading the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission’s Harvest Report, which is loaded with details regarding the vintage as well as comments from the growers and producers themselves. Comments that I would take with a grain of salt (of course they have a vested interest here), but which do help round out one’s impressions.
I found that the wines offered the typical range of styles and quality levels, though in general there was a somewhat less flamboyant character to many of the wines than in previous vintages. Balance and ripeness seem to have, thankfully in my opinion, taken their place!
Photo courtesy Wilson Loo via Flickr/CC
2008 Dry Creek Vineyard Beeson Ranch Zinfandel
This is noticeably oaky on the nose, but that seems to be because the fruit is very dark and black hole-like at this stage of the game. It takes some time for the super ripe yet exceptionally fresh black fruit to show up. When it does, it is laced with wonderful minty, almost floral notes and lots of black tea. This is loaded, I mean packed, with fruit that is powerful and mouth filling though exceptionally well balanced. There really is wonderful purity to the fruit here, it’s deep and fresh, totally black berry, with lovely earthy, almost iron tinged spice notes that lead to a firm finish rich with ripe tannins. My only beef with this today is that it’s a touch short, but some time to allow the tannins to mellow will fix that. 93pts
2008 Sausal Century Vines Zinfandel Alexander Valley
This shows almost a red currant freshness on the nose, with wonderfully expressive notes of sage, toasty spices, pink peppercorns and a hint of wild cherry preserves. Rich and round in the mouth, this is silky with super fine tannins adding a fullness on the palate. Packed with sappy red fruits, this shows a relatively modest oak influence with gentle base notes of earth and spice that give this a slightly Pinot Noir-esque character. The finish is lightly peppery, juicy,and rich, with excellent persistence to the Gummi bear wild cherry fruit. 92pts
2008 Talty Zinfandel Dwight Vineyard Dry Creek Valley
Darkly fruited on the nose, with hints of flowers, black pepper and juniper adding detail and a little oaky gingerbread popping out. Bright and clear on the palate, with real purity to the wild raspberry fruit tones that are gently edged with notes of white chocolate. The finish is long and well supported with fresh tannins and well-integrated acids lend a nice wild cherry note. Really long and pure fruit here that shows remarkable power and definition without the weight and extraction one might think more typical of Zinfandel. 92pts
2008 Dashe Florence Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 14%
This smells intense out of the bottle, with a smoky twang, dried bay leaf, chamomile, and subtly integrated oak all wrapped in gauzy strawberry fruit. A touch soft in the mouth, this is nonetheless very smooth and clear with classic briary, brambly black berry and black raspberry fruit that is really juicy tasting. The back end lightens considerably and shows the pretty side of this wine, all clear red fruits and well judged oak with great fruit persistence. The finish is almost citrussy with its show of acidity, so this must just have so much stuffing. Perhaps a hint of RS that it only appears to be soft. Nicely done though. 91pts
2008 Bella Lily Hill Estate Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 14.3%
Low key on the nose, with notes of oak and muddy earth, in a good way, accented with wood smoke and dried black currant fruit. Nicely round with a restrained sense of richness in the mouth, this has lovely structure with juicy acids and fine grained if slightly dry tannins helping to prop up clear, fresh yet not terrible complex black berry fruit. Shows a nice mineral edge on the mid-palate that helps focus the wine on the relatively long juicy and yet drying finish. This has fabulous balance and I love the mouth feel. 91pts