2008 Toolbox Wine Co. “THIRST” J.T. Snow Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Codename: Doing Well by Doing Good

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Infiltrate Toolbox Wine Company, whose spectacular 2008 THIRST Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon captivated Agent Red during a recent covert tasting. Procure an ample allocation for our well-deserving Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Toolbox Wine Company

Wine Subject: 2008 THIRST Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemakers: Katie Hamilton Shaffer & Nancy Otton

Backgrounder: Napa Cabernet Sauvignon continues to dominate as the leader in California red wine. For good reason, too, as Napa produces some of the richest and most delicious examples on the planet. The fruit from this wine hails from Maroon Vineyards (a Wine Spies Operative Favorite) in newly designated Coombsville AVA. The Coombsville region, just east of Napa City proper, is best known for producing exquisite Napa Valley Cabernet.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Beautiful dark ruby hues, with bold magenta at the edges. After swirling, the wine settles quickly, leaving behind short columns of skinny, wine-colored tears that move slowly down the glass.

Smell – Heady, sweet, lush and warm, with a bold rush of blueberry, blackberry and raspberry right up front. These are accompanied by sweet spice, fresh red rose petals, cigar box, Bing cherry, subtle leather and a hint of cured meats.

Feel – Soft and silky on the attack, lightweight across the mid-palate. After a moment, fine-grained tannins and balanced acids add a gradually encroaching complexity.

Taste – Juicy and ripe, with generous mixed blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and wild strawberry fruit in the lead. These flavors yield to braised black fig, supple leather, black and red flower petals, dark tobacco, flint, black pepper and softest brown spice.

Finish – Juicy and delicious with long-lingering red and black berry that fades to reveal flint, black pepper, leather and flower petals.

Conclusion – Beautiful! Our tasting panel is in love with this lovely, delicious, approachable, food-friendly gem of a wine. Today’s 2008 Toolbox Wine Co. THIRSTNapa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon gets our very hearty recommendation. This great Napa Cabernet has just the right amount complexity to make it a compelling wine, without sacrificing accessibility. In other words, this wine is interesting while also being easy-drinking. In fact, it is so easy to imbibe that we found ourselves taking big gulps of the wine, in order to enjoy the depth of flavors and lush feel. Pair this elegant, juicy wine as you would a classic Cali Cab. We enjoyed ours with a garlic and rock salt rubbed t-bone steak. The combination was sublime. Enjoy now, but cellar a few bottles for the next decade and beyond. When you’re done with the bottle, put it on your mantle. The metal label is something to marvel at!

Mission Report:

SUBJECT: Katie Hamilton Shaffer & partner Nancy Otton

WINE EDUCATION: School of Hard Knocks

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Chef, quality assurance manager, forklift queen, sweeper and chief bottler…

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Wine is THIRST for thought. Drink what you like, make what you like more.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Serious Wines. Playful Marketing”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: We launched our winery in 2009, releasing a few varietals. This 2008THIRST however is the first release of our reserve collectors “Signature Series” with J.T. Snow, having released just this past January…


AGENT RED: Greetings, Katie and Nancy! We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 THIRST Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

WINEMAKERS: Thanks for having me! Glad you were spying on me…

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

WINEMAKERS: I wanted to go to Culinary School but they didn’t have a soccer team ;o) Could you imagine that soccer team? I took a college soccer scholarship and after playing ball decided to fulfill my culinary/wine passion moving to Napa Valley – I worked as a private chef for a short time and fell in love with the craft of wine and all that surrounded it: bringing together friends, family and conversation while enhancing any great meal and the deepest expression of nature. It’s one of the only things in life I have the most control over, allowing me to produce something I not only like, but crafting to express who I am through the bottle… I still think that Culinary Soccer team would be a funnySNL skit!

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

WINEMAKERS: Steve Reynolds is a dear friend of mine and pioneer in the wine business. I look up to him because he also took his passion and hobby and made it happen…

RED: Who do you make wine for?

WINEMAKERS: Me, myself and I… My partner Nancy and I make what we like and hope everyone agrees!

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

WINEMAKERS: Toolbox is dedicated to crafting quality yet affordable wines, that give back. The mission forTHIRST is to allow our consumers to personally pay it forward and feel fulfilled not only through the glass, but beyond the bottle. We partnered with my friend J.T. Snow, former MLB player and 6-time golden glover. But MOST IMPORTANTLY San Francisco Giant! Sorry Dodger Fans…In 2010 J.T.’s niece Raquel was diagnosed with a rare disease – Wolfram syndrome. Dedicated to raising funds to support researchers at Washington University School of Medicine working to stop the progression of this disease, a portion of proceeds through “THIRST” is donated to the Jack and J.T. Snow Fund at Washington University in St. Louis. We wanted to craft a serious wine with a unique mission, but at a reasonable price. With each vintage,THIRST will change its label “texture” literally merging baseball memorabilia and wine. This “signature series” 2008 initial launch is a hand crafted antiqued pewter from France – we HAND LABEL every single bottle personally. Yes, no joke. I label each and every one. SO, if you buy multiple bottles I can guarantee that no bottle is the same. And don’t judge me if one is crooked – joking, well not really. 2009 will venture to the embossed wood of baseball bat. 2010, embossed brown leather of the baseball mitt, followed by 2011 the embossed leather of baseball with red stitches… a collector’s series indeed!

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

WINEMAKERS: FOOD. I’m not that stickler that tells you only a braised short rib or pork belly is the only pairing. Though that would rock! I think wine is all about the people that surround you, the conversation and your enjoyment of the story told within the glass. Hence our Toolbox tagline: “Serious Wines. Playful Marketing.” Drink what you like, life is too short to judge…

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Coombsville AVAsuch a special place for Cabernet Sauvignon?

WINEMAKERS: We sourced this fruit from Maroon Winery. At the time Coombsville was not a designatedAVA so we could only specify Napa Valley. However, now a designated appellation, Coombsville vintners production mirrors that of Napa Valley at large focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordelais varietals. With varied soil types and numerous meso-climates spread throughout its rolling landscape Coombsville wines can be recognized by their typically soft but significant tannins, which provide excellent structure and mouthfeel, along with underlying layers of earth and mineral flavors. We did add in a small amount of Zinfandel which brought out a brighter less tannic fruit to this vintage.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

WINEMAKERS: Building our new Toolbox brand/label along with having just launched THIRST in partnership with the SF Giants. Doing a lot of traveling/hosting pouring events with J.T. and just generally keeping my head above water (or wine)

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

WINEMAKERS: I don’t think our wine should be judged, simply appreciated for its quality and uniqueness.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

WINEMAKERS: How do you “THIRST it Forward” and give back?

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!


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