08 XLD: TIME MEETS TERROIR
“There are no shortcuts or substitutes for time; both in life and in sparkling winemaking. Nothing is guaranteed, but with diligence, patience and optimism, great things can happen — and I’m very proud to release 08 XLD after all these years.”
—Nicole Hitchcock, Winemaker
Spending 13 years en tirage, this incomparable ultra-small-lot 2008 Extra Late Disgorged Brut reveals a new dimension of Russian River Valley sparkling wine — demonstrating the nuance and complexity that can develop in the bottle when a wine is allowed to reach its pinnacle.
To develop the 08 XLD, Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock drew from her extensive experience, knowledge and intuition to create a wine that showcases the flourishing golden years in the long life of a meticulously-produced Russian River Valley sparkling wine.
Nicole’s excitement and passion for pushing the boundaries in winemaking — characteristics instrumental in the creation of 08 XLD — were officially recognized with her recent award of Winemaker of the Year from Wine Enthusiast.
“Being awarded as Winemaker of the Year was an honor I will never forget. It served as an acknowledgment that all the time, energy and love that we put into our winemaking is recognized and admired.”
Read on to learn more about the inspiration, process and creation of 08 XLD in Nicole’s own words.
IT STARTED WITH A SIP
The idea of bringing the XLD into the world began several years ago and was reinforced through subsequent tastings of older J sparkling wines from our library. Our team was truly impressed with the quality of the 2008 vintage when it was first released; however, it wasn’t until we were tasting through dosage trials of the 2008 Late Disgorged back in 2016 that we seriously considered extended aging.
Even after seven years of aging on the lees, the wine showed incredible dimension, freshness and youthfulness. We decided to cellar a small number of cases and monitor its evolution, with the ultimate hope of releasing a stellar sparkling that had indulged in significantly more aging than other California sparkling wines. Today, with its time-earned maturity, the wine has evolved into an elevated version of its former self.
UNAPOLOGETICALLY CALIFORNIAN SPARKLING
The 2008 growing season was a bit of a roller coaster, with frosts in April and a warm summer. The sparkling harvest got underway at J in early August, yielding low yields of perfectly ripened fruit.
The 2008 stood out as a sparkling vintage from very early on. Now that it’s matured on the lees, characteristics that were once expressed as floral, fresh pear and Meyer lemon have developed into dried fruits, candied citrus peel, honeycomb and toasted nuts.
I like to describe our sparkling wines at J as “unapologetically Californian,” given the wines’ signature bright, fresh fruity notes born from the California sunshine. The 2008 XLD has undertones of these qualities — but what truly stands out are baked candied, luscious fruit notes supported by an every-vibrant backbone of lingering acidity. This wine is relishing in its golden years.
THE RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY SPARKLES IN 08 XLD
One of our missions at J is to highlight the best of what’s possible from the Russian River Valley, letting the region and its nuances lead the way.
The Russian River Valley is most influenced by two significant elements – weather and geology. The fog that rolls in from the Pacific provides optimal temperatures for growing, and the sandy, loamy and clay alluvial soil deposits allow grapes to grow exceedingly well.
Called Goldridge, this classic Russian River soil imparts extraordinary purity, nuance and delicacy to our wines, and the 08 XLD is no exception. At J, we use traditional Champagne grapes – both red (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and white (Chardonnay). We handle the grapes as gently as possible, including night-harvesting into small bins and whole cluster pressing using our Coquard press to ensure the highest quality outcome. Russian River Valley sparkling wines can compete with the best in the world and the 08 XLD gives us an opportunity to showcase the heights we can reach.
TIME AS A TOOL
With 08 XLD, we were venturing into the unknown, in a sense. We had insight into the longevity of our library wines, but wines that have already been disgorged have a different aging trajectory than those still on the lees. Through regular tasting and evaluation, we were able to journey alongside the 08 XLD, allowing us to better anticipate when it would be ready to release to the world.
The initial release doesn’t come without risk. In the U.S., we’re accustomed to enjoying wines that are more youthful in nature. The 08 XLD defies the notion that we must enjoy our wines while they’re young; it has a strong contrarian point of view in that respect.
A FEAST FOR THE SENSES
When tasting the 08 XLD, I’m first struck by its faint golden hue and elegant bubbles shining throughout the wine’s crystalline clarity — a deceptively simplistic look for a wine that contains multitudes. Delicate aromatics akin to honeycomb, baked apple and spiced fruit chutney on the introduction develop into notes of fresh sourdough and toasted almond. Hints of mandarin, black truffle and dried quince create a lift and fullness on the palate, contrasted by the more dominant notes of praline, sea spray and slate. The creamy mousse lends mid-palate richness that is countered by a crisp, lingering finish.
PAIR 08 XLD
The 08 XLD adds even more layers to an already vibrant and complex flavor profile of the 2008 Late Disgorged Brut. Extended lees aging leads to creamy, toasty, honeyed and dried fruit notes and refined aromas that lend themselves well to a multitude of delicious complements. Estate Chef Forest Kellogg provides his recommendations — and full recipes — for pairing inspiration.