The 2008 vintage posed a number of major challenges to winemakers in Sonoma County in 2008. First came unexpected and highly varied late-season frosts that crippled a number of Russian River Valley vineyards. Second, wildfires in Mendocino County crept into the Sonoma Coast, ravaging some vineyards with smoke taint. Frost will decimate a vineyard's crop yields that year, also dulling the fruit as if it has been run through the most character-stripping filtration. It can take the vines two years or more to recover fully. Smoke taint gives the grapes a true smoked quality, rendering it essentially undrinkable (or perhaps evoking enormous amounts of new oak).
In 2008, however, Adam Lee at Siduri Wines (and their non-Pinot Noir branch, Novy Family Wines) avoided these two potentially disastrous tricks from Mother Nature. The 2008 Sonoma County blend is a testament to the constant drive Adam, his wife Dianna, and the Siduri crew have for making better wine every year. The 2008 edition may well surpass the terrific 2005 and 2007, which were the product of much kinder growing seasons. Expect plenty of black cherry fruit, spice, and a bit more earthiness out of the 2008 Sonoma County. The kicker: It goes for only $19.50 on the mailing list, plus tax and shipping. There is pretty good distribution of Siduri wines in Houston, although this wine isn't on the shelf at Spec's. It's versatile, with good acidity that makes it excellent for pairing with a variety of foods, from pizza to roast chicken to pan-seared steak.
Full disclosure: Adam and the gang at Siduri are good friends. Adam and Dianna are also native Texans, creating inherent bias, right? But their wines are without question some of the best and most consistently good in California and Oregon. All my tasting notes, on Siduri and other wineries, are available here.