Sunday, February 1, 2009

A first look at the 2008 vintage.

Hello Wine Lovers!

After two months in new French oak barrels, the 2008 Vellum is ready for its first review and trial blending session. Karl and I were very excited to try these four different wines, all of which will comprise our 2008 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our fruit comes from four rock-star vineyards in Napa - each expressing their own personality and style. Two of the vineyards produce Cabernet Sauvignon and the other two produce small amounts of Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon closely mirrors wines found in the Bordeaux region of France. Our focus is balance, elegance, bright acidity and moderate alcohol.

The 2008 vintage did not disappoint!

Our Merlot lot is strikingly red in the glass. Bright and polished, with a magenta rim...this wine is very youthful. It has hints of red berries and graphite on the nose. And it tastes just like a young wine should - fresh and fruity with balanced acid. This Merlot will do well with more structure....the oak barrels will add the tannins and concentration to make this a great addition to our blend.

The first Cabernet Sauvignon lot we tasted was from the hills just east of the Napa Valley. The vines are old, mature and giving consistently beautiful fruit-clusters at harvest. And clearly, this Cabernet steals the show. My first impression of the nose was like walking into a candy store. Images of block chocolate and cherry-tootsie-rolls washed over me, then a bit of freshly brewed coffee. After sitting open for a while, the wine took on other scents...of perfume and musk. I could taste dark fruits, balanced alcohol and acidity, with tannins that fell mid-palate (like the 2007s). This Cabernet is a real powerhouse, and yet it remains light and elegant on the palate. The finish is superb...long and mouthwatering.

Next up - our Cabernet Sauvignon from the south end of the Napa Valley. A lower yield this year brought lots of concentration and complexity to the fruit. When I first lifted my glass, even at arms length, I smelled fresh blackberries. After a swirl or two, chocolate covered cherries and cherry tart came wafting out. Absolutely joyous! On the palate, the wine was fatter than the previous Cabernet...but just as youthful. Raspberries and warmly blanketing tannins coated my mouth. The acid kept my mouth watering as I gave this wine plenty of time to open up. It's funny, Karl and I remarked that this wine could easily be sold as a finished wine at this point in its lifespan. But we feel that another year or so of oak aging will add the structure and framework needed to make this a wine for the ages.

Finally, we tasted the Petit Verdot. Wow - what a great nose. This deep, dark, purple wine smelled earthy and funky - in a good way! Dark berries and floral notes penetrated my senses. Violets and roses also came to mind. And a big smile quickly followed. On the palate the wine showed a classic dark cassis flavor. Cassis is usually a Cabernet flavor, but it dominated my tastbuds in this Petit Verdot. The finish was a good length and left me looking for the sample bottle to refill my glass.

Karl and I could not be happier with our 2008 vintage.

The wine is shaping up to be what we think Cabernet Sauvignon ought to be - SERIOUS, BROODING, INTELLECTUAL, and with a STRONG LIFE FORCE.

And yet, the overall balance of these wines creates an elegance that is usually only found in fine Bordeaux.

And if we weren't breaking the Napa mold enough...the 2008 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon will have an alcohol level around 13.85 !!!!

We can't wait to see how it develops over the next year...

Jeff Mathy

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