2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
California: Napa Valley
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Mission Codename: Eric Lucius Quintus Martius Mutius Phillip Titus
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Titus Vineyards, at the northern end of Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail. Procure as many cases as possible of their limited-availability 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – for our deserving Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Titus Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Phillip Titus
Backgrounder: We’ve had the great fortune to showcase prior vintages of today’s superb wine, from our good friends at Titus Vineyards. Today’s exceptional example from Titus Vineyards is very worthy of your attention. Titus Vineyards is based in the Saint Helena AVA, which was established in 1995. Titus’ history in the region dates back to 1967, when Titus began producing world-class fruit for the likes of Charles Krug, Beaulieu Vineyards, Quail Ridge, and Pine Ridge Vineyards/
Some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the world come from Napa Valley. A delicious and elegant example of the varietal, today’s wine is a Classic Napa Cabernet. Approachable, darkly flavorful and robust, this wine shows off the winemaking skills of Philip Titus – at a price that is difficult to resist. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and winemaker interview to learn more about this fantastic Napa Cab
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deepest ruby red, with even coloration, from the dark heart of the wine, right out to the edge of the glass. After a swirl, tall, skinny columns of fast moving legs start high up on the glass.
Smell – Heady, lush and full, bursting with ripe blackberry, candied blueberry, wild strawberry, raspberry and Bing cherry. As the wine opens up, it reveals sweet spice, dried dark flowers, sweetwood, toasty oak and a hint of fresh lavender.
Feel – Soft and very round on entry. Then, the wine settles onto the entire palate, slowly introducing a soft dryness that radiates outward from the center of the palate, eventually drying the lips and cheeks. Fine-grained tannins and a soft acidity frame the delicious flavors of the wine.
Taste – Darkly juicy and delicious, leading with softly spiced black cherry, blackberry, wild strawberry and red currant. After the wine breathes for a little while, additional flavors emerge, including sweet tobacco, sweet brown spice, leather and a hint of savory sage.
Finish – Long, flavorful and very elegant, with red and black fruit slowly giving way to earthy tobacco, spice, leather and savory sage. At the tail end, a hint of slate and black pepper provide a lovely conclusion.
Conclusion – Juicy, elegant, balanced and very delicious, out tasting panel was very impressed with this latest offering from Titus Vineyards. Their 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet is richly aromatic and packed with flavor. This wine has an elegant balance to it, which is a lovely departure from some of the overpowering Napa Cabs that are out there. This is an approachable wine, but don’t let that be assured, there is plenty of character and complexity to it. This is the sort of Cabernet that one could enjoy all on its own, but we’d recommend pairing it with an herb-rubbed rotisserie chicken or a grilled steak with black pepper and garlic. Stock up on this wonderful wine, dear Operative, 2008 vintage wines are in short supply – and this is a great one. Drink now, or hold for another several years.
WINEGROWER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Eric Titus
WINE EDUCATION: Non-degree coursework and lots of time and experience in the industry.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Vineyard manager and winemaker for Titus Vineyards for twenty years.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Striving to optimize the quality that expresses the terroir and sense of place of Titus Vineyards, a family owned operation in the St. Helena AVA with a long presence as a grower and vintner.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1993 (1990 Vintage)
AGENT RED: Greetings, Eric. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
ERIC TITUS: It is our pleasure to back with you on another covert mission, today!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
ERIC: My love of wine is a composite of experiences and imagery that includes the omnipresence of wine in the lives and families of my Italian relatives both in San Francisco and the old country, the presence of old producing vineyards in my hometown of Sonoma, the old boxcars that rumbles through Sonoma carrying wine shipments, the local historic role of wine that was always celebrated locally. My interest grew as I studied biology and became fascinates with science behind and the fermentation and aging process. Finally as I grew to understand what makes the world turn, I became equally fascinated with the role wine (and alcoholic beverages in general) plays in our society, culture and local commerce.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
ERIC: The turning point in developing our style, like many Napa producers, was probably the 1997 vintage, where rich we discovered the possibilities in making rich, concentrated wines with balance and intense flavors. We had already experimenting with Bordeaux-style blending (Malbec, Petite Verdot) and continued to develop that in the ensuing vintages.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
ERIC: Fortunately there seems to be a convergence of preference in our style for all of the above. However our wines all have the pass the preference test put forth by our family and the Titus Vineyards staff.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
ERIC: The 2008 CS comes from our vineyards in St. Helena where we have lived and farmed since buying the property in 1969. My brother Eric grows the grapes and I make the wine so it is really a family affair. We have planted the vineyards to all 5 Bordeaux varietals so we have lots to work with every vintage. We blend the different lots of CS and other varietals for style, complexity and quality.
With our location in the warmer part of Napa Valley we rarely have a problem achieving full ripeness and maturity. The wine is very dark and shows lots of concentrated berry and spice. Tannins give structure but it is supple and drinking very well now.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Napa Valley region so special for Cabernet Sauvignon?
ERIC: It has taken me a long time to realize just how incredibly lucky we are to be making wine in Napa Valley. Due to the climate and soils that work with we have the ideal conditions for making many different types of wine but it is especially great for Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. Most other appellations are either too cool or too warm or they don’t have the fog that comes in to moderate our nights and mornings. In Napa there is a high level of expertise when it comes to growing grapes and making wine. We all share in this knowledge and it makes us all better winemakers. Lots of great wine, food and people-what could be better?
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
ERIC: These days we are bottling and trying to get the winery ready for harvest. There is lots of adrenaline going around now since the weather has been warm and the grapes are turning darker by the day. In the vineyard we are making our last thinning passes and dropping any green fruit. Sauvignon Blanc will be ready to pick in a few weeks but the Cabernet will have to wait until October. Right now we just want nice warm weather and no rain until we are all done with harvest. Not too much to ask for is it?
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
ERIC: In a sense wine approaches people more than the other way around. People are usually introduced to wines by others, i.e. not of their own choosing. One should start to establish a reference point of what they like and build a preference matrix as they try more wines.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Titus Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
The 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has a shimmering, deep purple and ruby color. The nose is alluring and complex with aromas of black cherry, strawberry, lavender, dark currant, red apple, rubbed sage and notes of brown sugar and oak spice. The mouth-feel is soft, full-bodied, and rich with well integrated, fine grain tannins give way to lush, juicy flavors of blackberry, sweet pomegranate, goji berry, ripe plum accompanied by chocolate, and anise. The finish is long and elegant with spiced rhubarb, sweet cigar tobacco and pencil shavings. Recommended drinking time is five to ten years from vintage. Maximum suggested aging is fifteen years from vintage.
About The Vintage
The memorable 2008 growing season began on the heels of a long, dry winter. At bud break the Napa Valley was ravaged by the coldest and longest frost season since 1972. While many hillside vineyards fell victim to frost damage, Titus Vineyards was not heavily impacted but we still needed to fire up our wind machines on a few nights. The unseasonable lows changed almost overnight into unseasonably hot weather that was accompanied by gusty winds during fruit set. The vines were already challenged by drought conditions and record cold, and this continual odd spring weather pattern caused the fruit to not set as evenly as it would under normal growing conditions. Add to this the summer fire season that resulted in several local wild fires making it a smoky, hazy July. Remarkably, harvest developed on a normal schedule running from August 22nd through October 16th. What ultimately manifested at the end of the topsy-turvy weather was an overall fruit yield reduction of nearly 50%. However, the quality of the fruit harvested was extremely high and will result in wines of great depth and concentration.
About The Winery:
When the Titus story began, life in Napa Valley was simpler than it is today, and California’s wine industry had yet to achieve its enormous potential. The vineyard Lee and Ruth Titus acquired in 1967 was planted to Mondeuce, Burger, and Golden Chasselas, varietals all but forgotten today, but prevalent before the emphasis in Napa Valley evolved from quantity to quality and from generic to varietal wines. Also grown were ringers like Pinot Noir, poorly suited to our warm, up-valley microclimate.
Now that we have over thirty years experience working the land, our vineyard is supported with disease resistant rootstock, planted to clones and varietals tuned to fit our vineyards’ terrior, and farmed with a single purpose: to produce excellent quality wines rivaling the best in the world. Lee loved what was happening in Bordeaux at the time and decided those were the grape varieties he wanted to plant. And so it began, with Lee holding a book on Bordeaux in one hand and planting grapevines with the other saying, “you boys are going to need this some day.” At that time, planting Malbec and Petit Verdot for example, was relatively unheard of and probably considered risky. Now, Phillip and Eric absolutely appreciate their father’s foresight.
Lee Titus and his family came to California from Minnesota during the Depression. After graduating from Fresno State and serving in World War II, Lee attended medical school and became a radiologist. Meanwhile, Ruth Traverso grew up in San Francisco’s North Beach, where her parents, immigrants from the Piemonte region of Italy, were involved in the family bakery business. During family vacations in Calistoga, Ruth helped friends harvest their grapes, giving her a love for Napa Valley and a kinship with grape farming.
Years later, having fallen in love, married and settled in the town of Sonoma with their four sons, Lee and Ruth began acquiring fifty acres in three separate parcels just north of St. Helena along the valley floor. Although they hoped one day to build a family operated winery, it would be more than twenty years before they crushed fruit for production of Titus Vineyards wines. Lee and Ruth spent those years raising their sons and producing grapes for other wineries, including Charles Krug, Beaulieu Vineyards, Quail Ridge, and Pine Ridge.
Ultimately, Lee and Ruth left the creation of Titus Vineyards wines up to their sons: Phillip works as winemaker for Titus Vineyards, while Eric manages the business and vineyards. Peter and Paul are now pursuing careers in horticulture and anthropology, respectively.
About The Vineyard:
Our family vineyard, located on the valley floor just north of St. Helena on the Silverado Trail, possesses well-drained, sandy, alluvial soils and is characterized by its ability to produce complex wines with well-defined fruit flavors, gentle acids and naturally balanced tannins. Further north, our Ehlers Lane Vineyard consists of a stony, dry streambed and a knoll composed of thin gravelly soil over hard volcanic ash. Planted entirely to Cabernet Sauvignon these infertile soils produce low yields of grapes with concentrated flavors.
Following harvest, the grapes were de-stemmed but not crushed, allowing increased control over tannin extraction by minimizing the possibility of broken skins and split seeds. Following a 48-hour cold soak to extract color and flavor, the grapes underwent a warm, short fermentation, with pump-overs occurring twice daily. The free-run juice was transferred to oak barrels, where it underwent malolactic fermentation.
Vineyard Manager: Eric Titus
Winemaker: Phillip Titus
Appellation: Napa Valley
Blend: 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 8% Malbec
Harvest Dates: 9/30/08 – 10/8/08
Barrel Aging: 22 months – 80% French Oak, 20% American Oak (40% new barrels)
Bottled: July 2010
Cases Produced: 2,800
Total Acidity: .57 grams/100ml
Release Date: January 17, 2010