A Blind Tasting of TRB’s 2008 Cabs

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-14-2013

Thomas Rivers Brown.

It’s no secret that I love the wines of Thomas Rivers Brown. One of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had was tasting with Thomas in Calistoga a few years ago. And today, a full 10 percent of my cellar is comprised of wines from Rivers-Marie, his personal label. (The Summa “Old Vines” Pinot Noir is consistently amazing.)

Of course, just about everyone is a fan of his wines. In 2008, Brown made history as the youngest winemaker to receive a perfect 100-point score from Robert Parker — and he received two of them, for the 2006 Schrader “Old Sparky” and 2006 Schrader CCS Cabernet Sauvignons. The next vintage, with the same two wines, he again received two 100-point scores from Parker, and also received two 100-point scores from the Wine Spectator’s James Laube. And he was Food & Wine’s “Winemaker of the Year” in 2010.

So when a few friends started chatting about doing a blind tasting of TRB’s wines, I jumped at the chance. After all, everyone at Terroirist’s global headquarters loves blind tastings — sometimes, the results are shocking!

So this past Tuesday night, I gathered with five friends at Bourbon Steak DC to taste through six of TRB’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignons. The results were, indeed, surprising. My own ranking lined up with the group’s.

Full tasting notes and results below the fold. Notes and scores were written before wines were revealed. Huge thanks to Julian Mayor, David Metz, and the rest of the team at Bourbon Steak for sharing so many decanters and keeping the identity of each wine a secret!

Review: 2008 Maybach Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Materium
USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
Release price: $125. The nose opens with medicinal dark cherries — think sweet cherry Robitussin. That’s followed by more dark cherries, tobacco, graphite, and anise, along with a hint of spring flowers and some overripe black fruits. It’s reminiscent of an Amarone. The wine is a bit hollow in the mid-palate and the tannins are hardly noticeable. So it’s remarkably chuggable. (89 pts.)

Review: 2008 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon GIII Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard
USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
Release price: $165. A bright, beautiful nose of juicy raspberries, black cherries, and blackberries, forest floor, some dried red fruits, and crème de cassis. The fruit is backed by a nice floral lift of lavender and potpourri alongside Christmas spices and spicy oak. On the palate, the wine is dense and concentrated, but beautifully balanced and drinkable thanks to bright acid and great texture. An exceptional wine. (94 pts.)

Review: 2008 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon
USA, California, Napa Valley
Release price: $55. The nose, which opens with ripe red cherries and toasted oak, is surprisingly red and smoky. Beyond the cherries and smoke, one can find more red fruits, blackberry, some purple Powerade, cedar, and a hint of bittersweet chocolate and espresso. The tannins are fairly aggressive but very well structured. The weight is lighter than I’d expect and a hint of alcohol emerges at the finish. I’d love to revisit this in a few years to see if it gains concentration and integrates better in the bottle. (90 pts.)

Review: 2008 Outpost Cabernet Sauvignon True Vineyard
USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
Release price: $85. The nose is dark, dense, and brooding — and smells like a Napa Valley Cabernet you’d want to open at a steakhouse. Ripe blackberries and plums, juicy raspberries, and black currant, along with some fascinating notes of brown sugar, crushed graphite, and sweet baking spices. On the palate, the wine is perfectly balanced — considering the strength of the tannins, it’s surprisingly drinkable thanks to really energetic acidity. (95 pts.)

Review: 2008 Outpost Cabernet Sauvignon
USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
Release price: $65. A dark, hedonistic nose that includes every tasting note one wants from Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of blackberry, black currant, anise, and brambly raspberry are lifted by lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, and sage. These aromas are backed by dark chocolate and tobacco. The palate is equally impressive and seductive. And even though it’s dense and concentrated with huge tannins, the wine is extremely drinkable. (96 pts.)

Review: 2008 Two Hands Cabernet Sauvignon Charlie’s Patch
USA, California, Napa Valley
Release price: $130, but purchased for $40. A ripe, dark nose of sweet, green-tinged fruits — black currant, wild blackberries, maraschino cherries, and olives. In the background, one finds some overripe notes and oak, along with some brown sugar, cinnamon, medicinal notes. On the palate, the wine is surprisingly juicy and smooth, but finishes with an unpleasant shot of alcohol. (88 pts.)




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