2008 Powers Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Chrish Peel on 11/12/2011 to Wine Reviews (All)
What I especially like about this is that Powers takes this tip-top fancy Cabernet fruit and then treats it gently – even humbly, to make a good, honest, easy-to-drink wine. It’s aged entirely in neutral French oak, for instance, and only for a year. (Versus the 34 months in 100% new French oak Powers gave its epic 2008 Reserves.) In other words, Powers crafts this to be a relatively drinkable, not-too-pretentious Cabernet, the sort you’d expect at this price. And it delivers on that promise – it’s absolutely delicious, soft, rich and approachable already. But what you don’t expect is how much more it delivers.

The fact is: this just doesn’t taste like an inexpensive Cabernet…and I would never guess this to be less than $25 or $30. Nor would any of the customers who’ve tasted it – and been amazed by it – in our store. I have always (like many critics) felt this was one of America’s best and truest under-$20 Cabernets, but this 2008 simply has another dimension – another gear – which leaves all those previous Powers Cabernets in the dust. Great vineyards make great wines. Yes they do.

Now 2008 (the Wine Spectator’s top Washington vintage ever, by the way) is the first Powers regular Cabernet to be based on Sheridan and Champoux fruit. But even with the lesser material it had before, this wine has a proven track record for both extended aging and punching well above its weight. Certainly, now that it’s made from such great grapes – and in such a great vintage to boot – it not only tastes terrific, but will undoubtedly age even better, too. Leave a case or two of this in the cellar for a decade and I suspect you’ll be amazed.

Or enjoy it now for what it is now: a wonderfully flavorful Cabernet Sauvignon, with that little extra quality and class – that little extra oomph - only the finest vineyards can convey.

It does the $15 Cabernet thing quite well…but it may do the $30 Cabernet thing even better!

[Two additional observations: Cabernet is often something of a “donut wine” – strongest in the attack and finish, but leaner and weaker in the middle. Petit Verdot is now California’s most expensive grape because it’s the best at filling in this hole. But of all their “Columbia Valley” wines, this 2008 Powers Cabernet has the most mid-palate flavor and texture…the most sheer volume. That said, it really is in the finish that the Champoux component asserts itself. Champoux has the best structure, and the most distinctive soil tones of any Washington vineyard. And on the finish, this wine seems to almost become a pure Champoux Cabernet – with the length, palpable structure and nobility only Champoux can confer. It really is a remarkable transition, and one well worth experiencing.]

Of course, the 2008 Powers Reserve Cabernets – some of America’s finest and truest at any price, are even more amazing. The Sheridan is in fact a Parker 94 (his top American Cabernet for the money) and a steal at only $24.99. (It’s actually the exact same fruit as Sheridan’s 98-point and $100 “Block 1” Cabernet, made almost exactly the same way – but aged in 100% new oak even longer! And in our view, it’s every bit as special.) And the 2008 Champoux Reserve – a wine which British Master of Wine Julia Harding (a brilliant critic) has rated not only equal to the Parker 100-point and $300 Quilceda Creek Cabernet as the number one wine of the entire Pacific Northwest, but also above such Napa Cabernet icons as Caymus Special Selection, Opus One, Phelps Insignia and Shafer Hillside! Yet it’s only $27.99 by the case.

[Parker actually rated the 2007 Powers Champoux equal to the 2007 Caymus Special Selection, Araujo Eisele and Stag’s Leap Cask 23, and Powers feels this 2008 is even better…in fact, the best they’ve ever made! Which is why for the first time in years they’ve raised the price. But it’s still the best bargain going in what is clearly one of America’s elite Cabernets.]

They’re both tiny-production wines (400 and 600 cases), and we bought all we could. (Powers was in fact extremely generous in its allocation.) But they won’t last long.

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