Washington 2008: Keep
A short growing season and long, slow ripening has produced medium-bodied wines that are fresh, elegant and have good definition.
Washington’s wet and cool (record-breaking) spring brought the same delayed start to Cabernet Sauvignon’s growing season as to the State’s Merlot. Despite Cabernet’s more tardy nature, the chilly weather lasted right through March and April and all grape varieties were affected.
Temperatures remained modest for much of summer. There was neither undue rain nor particularly hot weather, and the Cabernet Sauvignon followed a rather long, slow road to maturity – so slow that some growers reduced yields to encourage ripening and intensity in the remaining berries.
Fine weather in September did little to hasten the ripening process; grapes just weren’t ready, struggling to accumulate enough sugars and flavours. October’s perfect harvest weather – warm days and cool nights – provided much cheer, though picking was delayed as long as possible, well into November.
The main problem for growers in 2008 was Cabernet’s struggle to achieve full ripeness, particularly in cooler sites like Puget Sound on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.
Fortunately, though, the gloriously long Indian summer meant winemakers could delay picking to the very last moment. While wines won’t be the massive block-busters of recent vintages, they will have complexity and a good sense of definition.
For some, a return to a more classic style of Cabernet – medium-bodied with more subtle qualities – is to be welcomed. Where growers did achieve good ripeness the wines will indeed be bright, balanced and elegant.
Early tastings highlight Chateau Ste Michelle (Columbia Valley), Ecole 41 (Walla Walla Valley) and Woodward Canyon (Walla Walla Valley).
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