2008 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino
Expert Rating
RP 92+ points
(Read the full review below)
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Caparzo Estate The Last Mug of Sumatra at Tim's Cafe

When you log the miles we've been logging over the last several years and you finish up another transatlantic adventure with a nine-hour flight from Rome to Newark, you can't wait to get home, to return to your daily rituals, to take the dog out for a late-night walk in Central Park, to sleep on your ultra-firm mattress, absent the pillowtop fluff that makes for crooked pelvises and too many Advil mornings.

This morning we awoke at 6:30 a.m. We put on old jeans and T-shirts and a beaten-up pair of Converse sneaks. Then we stuffed our MacBook Airs into backpacks and headed uptown to Tim's Café for one of those hand-dripped mugs of Sumatra coffee.

After an exhausting five-day trip to Tuscany and the hills of Montalcino, punctuated by a riveting three-hour tasting at world-class Caparzo, we couldn't wait to plop ourselves down in Tim's matching black-leather armchairs. The Sumatra was thick and dark, browned by a splash of fresh cream. Our friend Alabama John, the Columbia Business School professor, was holding court in the corner, already talking baseball a month before the first pitch will be thrown. Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" — the acoustic version, from Disc 1 of the concert bootlegged as the "Royal Albert Hall" set in the mid-'60s — filled the coffeehouse like a jet-lagged New Yorker's lullaby.

We were home. At least for the next few glorious days, each one beginning with a mug of Sumatra at Tim's Café. Or so we thought before the officer served Tim with the eviction papers.

If today's offer seems a bit off-kilter, it's not without cause. A half-hour into this story, an officer entered the café and told all of us that we needed to vacate the premises. Alabama John, in the midst of a C.C. Sabathia tirade, protested to no avail. We gulped down our last mug of Sumatra, then with the others solemnly filed outside where the landlord stood with his attorney. Five minutes later, the locksmith had done his job.

All this traveling must finally be getting to us. Home just doesn't seem like home any more.

"Serious" 2008 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino
In 2011, we arrived in Montalcino loaded for bear. The 2006 Brunellos were on full display. With the American economy still in the doldrums and Europe teetering on edge of the financial abyss, we figured we'd lock into a pile of bargain Brunelli from one of the most stunning vintages in decades. We negotiated like tough guys, thinking we were holding all the cards. When proprietors wouldn't budge off their jaw-dropping release prices, we called their bluffs. Then we watched as every bottle from each top-notch cellar vanished at full boat!

In 2012, we returned to this ancient Tuscan town but with far different marching orders. After being largely shut out in 2006, the Powers That Be sent us to Milano with fat wallets, ordering us to "pay whatever it takes" to secure the finest 2007s for WineAccess. We grimaced as we made commitments to the likes of Fuligni, Costanti, Caparzo and Poggio Antico. But the strategy paid off in spades as the WineAccess membership snatched up every 2007 at record pace.

As we prepared for our Tuscan tour of 2013, we huddled around the boardroom at HQ, devising our strategy for the 2008s. On one hand, the economy was far better. High-end wine sales were picking up steam. Marea, Babbo, Il Mulino and Del Posto were packed to the gills on Monday nights, as if the Wall Streeters had all but forgotten the fiscal tightrope of 2008-2011. But on the other, the summer of 2008 featured the first truly cool growing season since 2005. Quality was irregular. The best wines were said to be superb, offering plenty of richness and superb length, bottles that would age gracefully for two decades. The lesser wines had been damaged by a flash hail storm in August. These were lighter, pleasant Sangioveses, but without the muscle of 2007 and 2006.

Additionally, the 2009s and, even more so, the 2010s were receiving rave reviews from barrel tasters. 2008 appeared to be a "tweener" vintage. Should we buy whatever the top houses offered us as we'd done the year before, or should we again play our cards close to the vest and call Montalcino's bluff?

What do you think?

The winter of 2007-2008 was rainy though fairly mild. The spring continued wet, accompanied by strong winds that hampered the set. In May, it was clear that this would be a small harvest, as the Sangiovese bunches were not only carrying fewer berries than normal, but the berry size was small.

But July ushered in gorgeous weather with plenty of sunshine. While daytime highs were warm, there were no significant heat spikes, allowing the vines to regroup and catch up. For some, that August hail storm ravaged what was beginning to look like a marvelous harvest. But world-class Caparzo dodged that bullet, and when the blue skies returned right up until the October harvest, this storied estate turned out one of the finest Brunellos of the 2008 campaign.

As we were reminded last week in Montalcino during that three-hour tasting at Caparzo, this world-class estate's 2008 isn't just "good" Brunello. It's SERIOUS Brunello — and unquestionably the greatest bargain of the superb 2008 vintage.

Deep ruby to the rim, infused with a gorgeous, Burgundian mix of crushed red fruits, licorice and wild cherry, the attack is rich, firm and compact. After two hours of air, the fireworks really begin as this finely muscled Sangiovese opens, showing off a luscious core of black raspberry vibrancy braced by superb, cool-vintage tannin backbone.

P.S. One last word: We'll miss you, Tim — and all those hand-dripped cups of rich Sumatra.

Tasting Notes

2008 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino
"Caparzo's 2008 Brunello di Montalcino is impressive. It boasts serious depth, nuance and complexity. Smoke, licorice, spices, black cherries and plums all develop in the glass, supported by firm, beautifully integrated tannins. This is a solid Brunello with plenty of upside for the next decade, if not longer. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2028."
92+ points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate


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