Wine of the Week: Barboursville Octagon 2001
By now it is not news that Octagon, the flagship wine of Barboursville Vineyards (a meritage-style blend dominated by merlot and cabernet franc) is recognized as one of Virginia’s top wines (so you would hope, by the $50 retail price).
Readers of Beyond Jefferson’s Vines will recall how, when I tasted the 2009 Linden “Hardscrabble”, the estate cabernet sauvignon-dominated blend, I heard J.S. Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto #5.” Despite this, and the entrance into the market of a number of other producers focused on top-quality red Bordeaux blends in Virginia, Barboursville’s Octagon has continued to maintain a top position; last year it got the coveted Governor’s Cup Award for the 2009 vintage, and the 2010 vintage got a gold medal in this year’s Governor’s Cup competition.
A decade ago I drank a bottle of the 2001 vintage Octagon with a special lady on a special occasion. At that time it was a very different wine, but still elegant, plush and poised. I had two bottles in my cellar so to celebrate the final arrival of spring this year (?!) I decided to open one after roasting a tri-tip cut of beef with trimmings.
Thirteen years is a long time for a merlot/cabernet franc-based blend to hold up, but 2001 was an excellent year, the wine was carefully cellared, and there was no yellowing in the color, which was gratifyingly deep.
I need to tell you that this wine was the most complex and deeply satisfying Virginia wine I have yet had the pleasure of drinking. Partly this is to inspire you to hold onto fine bottles of Virginia red wine for 5 or 10 years, in cool, dark cellar conditions, to see how they evolve and to celebrate the miraculous fact that what you once enjoyed as fresh and vibrant can later be enjoyed as complex, rich and deep (that’s the wine I mean). But partly this is to inspire envy that I still have a bottle. But maybe you have a case, or a magnum, or an even larger bottle. Can it last until 2021? You’ll have to invite me over to determine the matter. Meanwhile, check out my description of the wine in a regular 750 ml bottle at this point in time:
Nose: amazing depth and complexity. HUGE herbal components of lavender, sage, fennel and spice notes of nutmeg. Palate: smooooth and rich, well-knit round tannins with ripe black fruits and great tertiary flavors: tar, tobacco, garrigue, mocha, licorice, and cola. Rich and complex but wonderfully round and balanced. Acid is a bit low, but why complain after 13 years with everything else going on? An inspiration to others attempting a First Growth blend in Virginia (the petit verdot is the silver bullet). The wine reminds me of Mas de Daumas Gassac and also Licorella from Priorat (alcohol: 13.5%).