Comparative 2008 Napa Cabernet Tasting
By Featured Writer Jascha Baraness
Vertical Restaurant, 100 King Street West, (416) 214-2252
The comparative/competitive tasting event was hosted by Merryvale winery of Napa Valley, California. An assembly of 30 Sommeliers sat down to a blind tasting split into two flights. We were to rank our favoured wines from most to least.
The first blind flight consisted of five Napa Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2008 vintage, all from houses of great repute.
Before I continue, I’d like to mention that I started out by taking detailed tasting notes (sight, nose, taste, finish and overall impressions) but that after the 4th wine, I realized that the differences in the notes were so minute. It became abundantly clear that notes were going to be futile in helping me pick my favourites.
All the wines were very young, taught, with firm tannins and could certainly use another ten years in bottle. I’d like to also let you know that my red wine preference tends to lean towards the old world. I look for high acidity, austerity and fruit as secondary, so, although I could appreciate the quality of the winemaking, I wouldn’t take any of them to a desert island. This was an afternoon that tested even the most discerning of palates.
The wines of the first flight were: (listed in my order of most to least favourite – retail prices attached)
- Duckhorn ($80)
- Merryvale ($90)
- Caymus ($80)
- Cakebread ($99)
- Joseph Phelps ($75)
The second flight consisted of six prestige cuvées, all from great Napa houses. Once the wines were revealed, I was pleased to find out that my palate had not let me down, and that the Napa prestige cuvées that I’ve always felt an affinity for, were the ones that came out on top of my list.
- Profile, Merryvale ($180)
- Dominus ($150)
- Insignia ($199)
- Quintessa ($120)
- Opus One ($365?!)
- Caymus Special Selection ($120)
It was an enlightening tasting that showed similarities, yet subtle differences in wine making techniques. Like all great Napa wines, there were no issues with grape ripeness, however the challenge remains balancing fruit and acidity and the better examples were able to negotiate that tightrope seemingly with ease.
It was a purple-toothed farewell as I thanked the organizers and made my way home.
Thanks Jascha, good to go!