2008 Nota Bene Conner Lee Vineyard (BDX Blend

Hello friends. I like my job. But in the Pantheon of Ridiculously Awesome Gigs, the Chief Grape Procurement Officer for the Boeing Employee’s Wine and Beermaking Club probably tops it.

That was Tim Narby’s role at one point, and it afforded him access to incredible vineyards. When he launched Nota Bene, those vineyard contacts served him well. And they continue to serve him well today:

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “($30); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 18.5/20pts.”

As you can see, we’ve been able to negotiate a strong tariff today compared to the wine’s normal $30 tag, another example of the paradoxical nature of wine sales, where discounts happen right as the wine is entering peak drinking.

2008 is an oft-overlooked gem of a vintage in Washington. Flanked by the warmer 2007 and 2009 harvests, it was considered a cool year until 2010 and 2011 came along and showed everyone what a real “cool year” looks like. From the beginning, 2008 was a terrific white-wine vintage. Because it wasn’t as openly fleshy as 07 and 09, the reds were met with a collective shrug by many on release, but wow are they coming into their own now.

This bottle is a fine example. As usual with Nota Bene, it’s micro-production: a mere three French barrels (75 cases), one of them new. All three barrels come from Conner Lee Vineyard, a fascinating site that is still in the greater Columbia Valley. As you can see by its location, it is east of the Wahluke Slope and south of the Royal Slope. I suspect this slope might have its own name, but I don’t know it (paging Kevin Pogue; Dr. Pogue?). Outside of Tim’s bottling, other well-loved wines from Conner Lee include versions from Buty and from Guardian Cellars (Gun Metal).

Here Tim blends two barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon (from the 1987-planted block) and one barrel of Merlot (1992-planted). The aromas are decidedly expressive: crème de cassis, violet, black cherry, and nutty barrel top-notes of marzipan. Really luscious in the mouth, this presents layer upon layer of fruit: cassis, raspberry, cherry, plum, and even venturing into stone- and tropical-fruit territory with peach and guava. There’s plenty of power here (evidenced by the integrating, fine-grained tannins and the listed alc of 15.1%) and concentration, but it’s contained in this classy textural package, all suppleness and silk. This is not a Washington wine playing at being old-world. It’s proudly new-world, rich and delicious and a bringer of unapologetic pleasure.

It delivers way more class and intensity than we have any right to expect at a $20 tariff. There’s no secret formula: it’s a confident winemaker working with a high-comfort-level vineyard. After two years in barrel and another three in bottle, this wine is ready to rock and roll. First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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