Tasting Report

June 15th, 2011

The Balance of 2008 California Cabernet

James Suckling

Just about everybody into top-end California Cabernet Sauvignon believes the 2007 vintage is clearly superior to the state’s most recent on the market: 2008. But I argue otherwise. The 2008 vintage produced some glorious Cabs with bright and evocative perfumes, and beautiful fruity and balanced palates that show a lovely interplay of polished tannins with fresh acidity.

Some winemakers say that 2008 produced more terrior-driven Cabs that show their provenance better than 2007. In other words, the slightly longer and cooler grape growing season in 2008 produced less fruit-dominated character in the wines. I have to agree, particularly in my favorite areas such as Oakville, Pritchard Hill and Knights Valley.

This said, I was still surprised with the number of supercharged, alchoholic Cabs I tasted. I couldn’t give 90 points or more to wines that burned my palate, especially on the finish. I will post brief tasting notes on them next week.

For now, below are my top scorers from tastings a few weeks ago in California. The 2008 is not overall at the same quality level as 2007, but it’s an excellent vintage with some exceptional wines.


Country: United States
Sub Region: California
Vintage: 2008
Score: 99


Like listening to cool mellow rock ‘n’ roll. Extraordinary aromas of violets and dark fruits such as blueberries and currants. I can’t get over the aromas here. Then it goes to minerals with just a hint of bay leaf. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins with a beautiful softness and beautifulness. I love the balance and harmony to this with bright acidity. I would drink this before the 2007. Just under 1,000 cases of 12 but all sold in threes. Reminds me of Leoville Las Cases but with Napa brightness. Enjoy or hold for a long time. $$