Octagon is a Bordeaux style blend known in this country as Meritage. These wines use the 5 standard Bordeaux grapes – Cabernet Sauvingnon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. There is a 6th Bordeaux grape, Carmenere, that was considered ‘lost’ for years until it was discovered to have been planted in South America amongst the Merlot also brought from France in the 19th Century. I tasted the 2008 Octagon vintage a few weeks ago and while I liked it, I felt it needed a few more years of aging before it would be ideal. Interestingly enough, the winery had the 2010 Octagon available for tasting as part of the vertical tasting despite the fact that it’s not yet bottled and not expected to be released for at least another 2 years. I found it highly drinkable now and in fact, next to the outstanding 2007 vintage, was my favorite of all the Octagons. Patience not being one of my virtues, I’m more than a little bummed I have to wait to bring home what I thought was one of the more superior vintages.
Among the other Octagons we tasted (2008, 2007, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2001 and 1999), I found the 2006 in need of further aging, while the 2005 was luscious now. (That’s the tasting note I wrote down btw – luscious). The lightest of the bunch was the 1999, which is not what one would expect from a wine that’s aged for 13 years.
I’ve tasted the same varietal from different wineries, but this was the first time I had ever sampled the same varietal from the same winery and winemaker over a series of years. To me, one of the most fascinating things about wine is how fruit from a plant can be so different from place to place, wine maker to wine maker, year to year. It was quite fun and if you like wine, I recommend trying a vertical tasting if you get a chance. (Virginia Wineworks has just announced a vertical tasting of Michael Shaps wines on December 1. I wasn’t able to find any information on their website this morning, but it is on their Facebook page. Reservations are required.)
Of the other wines we sampled, I found I preferred the 2004 Cabernet Sauvingon Reserve as well as the Nebbiolo Reserve to any other vintages of that varietal. (Confession – I found some vintages of the Nebbiolo undrinkable, which says something, because I find just about any wine drinkable.) I liked the Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007 vintage the best of that category, although the last few vintages, the 2008-2010, were also quite nice. I wasn’t as impressed with some of the older vintages, but we hit that group last and admittedly, some of them started tasting the same no matter how much palate clearing we did.
As we mingled around tasting, we found ourselves striking up conversations with fellow wine drinkers. While we often found ourselves in agreement with those we spoke to about what vintages we liked best, we didn’t always. There was one young man at the Cabernet Franc table who insisted that the 2004 and 2006 versions were hands down the best. Personally, I found at least one of them smacking of green pepper, not a flavor I care for in my wine (or in my food). It seems that just like terroir, one’s palate also makes a significant difference in your wine experience.
We came home and eased our way back from sampling $75 a bottle wine to something more in my budget ($10 a bottle) before cracking open the boxed wine. For while it’s lovely to explore fine wines, I also just like to drink wine of any type. I’m really not that picky for a wine geek.