The most interesting thing is that five very different wines were in the final consideration. There was a Rioja, a Chablis Grand Cru, a Napa Rutherford Cabernet, a Barolo and an Alsatian. While I don't publish scores on the blog I do have my own little system of ranking wine in my private notes and it ranges from "wow" at the top, and works it way down to "are you kidding me" at the bottom. 2008 was a good year because there were no "AYKM" wines, meaning there were no total duds. Of course one could make the argument that even a total dud has value because it can always be used as a bad example.
The wines that got the top ratings were (in vintage order):
1996 Staglin Family Vineyards estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa ValleyIt took some doing but in the end it came down to the Cabernet and the Barolo with the final difference being that while they both evolved nicely with some air one of them continued to perfume that air even when the decanter was swirled.
1997 Zind Humbrecht Pinos Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain
1998 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne
2000 Domaine La Roche Chablis Grand Cru Blanchots
2001 Bodegas Roda Rioja Roda I Riserva
The Sandrone Le Vigne was decanted, but tasted immediately and offered a very tight nose of sour cherries and some oak and not much more. The taste was dominated by the tannins but there was good fruit depth there as well.
It was then put aside for three hours while some beef braised in red wine, pancetta, and herbs. When dinner was ready the wine was poured into the glasses. The nose had opened to bright, tart cherries, a little cinnamon and vanilla and some flowers, primarily violets. Those cherries and just a hint of sweet red plums were in full force. There was great acid and while the tannins were still there they softened enough to be in total balance with the depth of the fruit. The finish just lingered for what seemed like a minute. Over the next hour or so the violets and cherries continued to force their way into the room and the wine continued to get better. It was a sad moment when the last drop was gone.
The best decision was that there was only one glass of any other wine early in the process so judgement wasn't compromised by excess. This was just a tremendous wine.
The best part is that there is one more bottle of the 1998 Le Vigne in the cellar, as there is for the Staglin and the Roda I. None will be consumed in 2009 as all three should continue to get better, but I can hear 2010 calling already.