Buehler: Best Buy on Napa Cab

I don’t usually jump up and shout when I find a good wine to write about, but that’s just what I did after trying the 2008 Buehler Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, a great-tasting bargain at less than $20 per bottle.

Buehler has been growing grapes for 36 years  in the hills below Howell Mountain (near St. Helena) and began producing red wines in 1978 when about 700 cases were made.

Production took off after the Buehler family hired now-famous winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett to add a professional touch to the process.

Barrett left in 1988 and was the celebrated winemaker for another Napa project, Screaming Eagle, which has since become one of the leading ultra-premium labels in the country commanding four-digit prices. She was part of the vanguard of ground-breaking female winemakers who blazed a trail through California’s mostly male-dominated  wine industry.

Buehler’s current winemaker, David Cronin, worked at several premium wineries in Napa (Far Niente and Joseph Phelps) before bringing his talents to Buehler in 1993.

I have been drinking Buehler’s cabernet and zinfandel since the 1980s and found the wines to good quality and fine values over the years.

The 2008 rises to another level that stands out from the crowd of great Napa cabs.

I didn’t fully realize what all the fuss was about until I got an e-mail from a wine retailer, The Wine Mine in Oakland, where the Buehler cab was selling at a ridiculously low price of $16 a bottle.Robert Parker, the dean of American wine writers, had given the wine his seal of approval with a 90-point rating, and that apparently ignited a firestorm of interest.

By the time I strolled into the Wine Mine for a tasting on Saturday, they’d sold all 60 cases that were available. In one week!

The winery has also sold out of this wine, but it is in distribution nationally and available at some retail locations around the state, including a rumored 20 or more cases at Adronico’s. No word yet on what the price will be, since Andronico’s hasn’t begun selling its cache yet.

When this blog was published, there were supplies available at K&L Wines in San Francisco and online at Wine.com — at prices below $20.

The wine is medium to full-bodied with a touch of cassis, finely integrated tannins and a sense of gravitas or weight that marks it as a serious wine.  It is a silky smooth red wine that would show well against Napa cabs that retail for triple its price, and I believe it could really give many more that go for $100 a run for their money.

It’s ready to drink now, but could use a bit of decanting. A taste from a bottle that had been open for three days revealed extraordinary flavors and freshness, so it should improve with age, if you can resist drinking it now.

This wine would make a great match for a holiday feast or as a holiday gift for someone special. Just be sure to keep a few bottles for yourself and let me know what you think of it.

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