2008 Vine Cliff Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Estate

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Cassis, black currant and sweet black cherry, combine with honeysuckle, tobacco and the spicy nutmeg of the oak. Rich, full and bright, with currant and blackberry leading the way. Hints of dark chocolate and licorice add complexity to the intense black fruits and lead to a long, lingering finish. The very definition of grace and elegance. Winery Information: It took close to 85 years before Vine Cliff, like the phoenix in its seal, rose from the ashes. Chuck and Nell Sweeney, along with their son Rob are tireless hosts with an appetite for hard work, long hours, good food and great wine. Their love of fine wines turned them into zealous collectors, and they became familiar and generous faces at the Napa Valley Wine Auction. In 1985, the Sweeneys’ hobby turned serious when they bought a rugged, 100-acre parcel in the eastern hills of Napa Valley along the Silverado Trail. Vine Cliff Winery was borne out of the Sweeneys' love and dedication to the production of fine wines. The labor of love continues. The original winery was resurrected in 1990 and 1991 with the construction of barrel chais. In 1995 the gravity fed production facility was completed and is considered one of the top production facilities in California. Additional vineyards were purchased in Calistoga, Carneros and Howell Mountain. Today, Vine Cliff has over 40 acres of estate vineyards. In 2000, the construction of 15,000 square feet of caves for barrel aging of the red wines was completed. The Vine Cliff Estate of today is an exquisite mountainside property located on land which was once part of the original George C. Yount estate. Noteworthy locals George Burrage and Thomas Tucker purchased the site for Vine Cliff Winery from the Yount Estate in 1871 (five years after Yount’s death). Burrage and Tucker built Vine Cliff into what appears to be the largest winery in the Napa Valley. After the deaths of Burrage and Tucker, wealthy San Franciscan John Fry bought the property and immediately set out to achieve his vision for the winery, which he did by the 1890’s. Fry had made a fortune in Nevada silver and invested heavily in San Francisco real estate. He served on the board of directors of a dozen major companies, including the Bank of California and the Napa Valley Wine Company. A half-dozen wineries were affiliated with the Napa Valley Wine Company, the leaders of which wanted to build name recognition for the company by setting a quality standard with its wines, unmatched in California. In 1886 the company began building a huge wine cellar at Vine Cliff - 60 by 150 feet - which was to be the principal cellar for the allied producers of wine. Vine Cliff wines were considered the reserve wines of the Napa Valley Wine Company. As Vine Cliff Winery prospered, it attracted the social set of San Francisco. Prominent San Franciscans visiting Vine Cliff included William Ralston, the founder of the Bank of California. Amazingly, the early history of Vine Cliff is contained within a short thirty years. Phylloxera destroyed the vineyards and supporting wine production by about 1900. It would seem that after Fry’s death in 1901, most of the winery structure disappeared in a matter of a few years, with the exception of the stone first floor and tunnels. The Sweeney Family continues the vision of Vine Cliff founders Burrage and Tucker, and that of Col. Fry - to produce outstanding and distinctive wines and to create a landmark where the incredible beauty of this historic hillside setting is to be enjoyed and where the legacy of Vine Cliff lives on into its third century. The Oakville Estate vineyard consists of a total of twenty-two acres of vines on the one hundred acre estate. This is also the location of the Winery, Caves and Sweeney family home that is featured on the Vine Cliff wine label. Situated about three hundred and fifty feet above the Silverado Trail on the East side of the Napa Valley is a plateau called the Oakville Bench. On this portion of the estate is eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. The balance of the estate’s vines are planted on terraces starting just above and East of the Trail, both to the North and South of the main drive. These are also planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, between the two lower Cabernet blocks, close to the North side of the drive, two acres of Merlot are planted. The Oakville Estate vineyard, originally planted in the 1870s, but destroyed by Phylloxera in the 1890’s, was replanted by The Sweeney Family in 1985-1987 with AXR-1 rootstock vines. These unfortunately became infested with Phylloxera, and replanting with certified resistant rootstock began in 1990, at a density of about 1,340 vines per acre, on nine vineyard lots. This replanting enabled the old vines to be replaced with exactly suited varietals, clones, rootstocks, and trellising and irrigation systems. Vine Cliff has three other vineyards in addition to the Oakville bench property. The Carneros Vineyard consists of twenty-acres located on Carneros Creek. It was planted with 13 acres of Chardonnay in May of 1999. It will ultimately have about eighteen acres of the twenty total planted with Chardonnay. The Calistoga Vineyard is located a few miles south of Calistoga, on the east side of the Silverado Trail, about fifteen miles north of the winery. It is adjacent to the famous Eisele Vineyard and is planted to five acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and one of Cabernet Franc. Situated on hilly terrain, some of the vineyard is terraced, while the rest is sloping. And finally the Howell Mountain Vineyard latest vineyard project is a choice site on the higher elevations of Howell Mountain. During the growing season, this vineyard will often be above the fog that can envelop the valley floor. With its south facing slopes and excellent exposure, this vineyard is perfectly suited to Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varieties. The deep iron-red volcanic soils will allow Vine Cliff to ultimately dry farm the vineyard. Protecting this unique environment will also be a main focus of Rob Sweeney's plans for this vineyard. Wines from the Howell Mountain Appellation have long been acclaimed as being very powerful and concentrated, and this great region will round out our estate vineyard program. Since 1990 all of Vine Cliff’s vineyards have been managed according to the principles and practices of Sustainable Viticulture. This has meant that, where possible, no pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizer have been used on the vines for almost a decade. Additionally, ten tons of plant materials are returned to the soil as compost annually. The vineyards have native species of grasses planted as ground cover between the rows of vines. These are never plowed under but only cut; allowed to naturally compost and further enrich the soil. The most ecologically complex and diverse biosystem has been established over the years resulting in natural control of plant pests and diseases. California has seen a bevy of outstanding vintages lately and the 2008 looks like it could be the best thus far in this new millennium. Here is what the foremost critic of California wine Robert Parker Jr. has to say about the 2008 vintage. “With respect to the 2008 vintage, the year of the horrific California wildfires, many wines from the Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, and Mendocino are smoke-tainted, and have been completely declassified by conscientious producers. Other wines were put through multiple filtrations in an attempt to remove any evidence of smoke, and consequently, taste dull and charmless. This is also a year where spring frosts cut yields significantly in many vineyards, ranging from high elevation Cabernet vineyards to Sonoma Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah vineyards. Tasting through the 2008 Napas, I was struck by how forward the wines are, and I saw no evidence of smoke in the Bordeaux varietals or Chardonnays. The wines appear to possess lots of concentration and what looks to be an up-front, richly fruity style. This was also a year with serious heat spikes, and at this early stage, it looks to be a very good vintage that will have to live in the shadow of 2007. However, the 2008s do seem to be better balanced, at least for the Bordeaux varietals, than the 2006s, which can display issues with hard as well as rustic tannin.†The Wine Advocate


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