By about any measure, Cabernet Sauvignon has become Washington state’s signature grape.
The noble red grape of France’s Bordeaux region (and California’s Napa Valley) has emerged as Washington’s most important variety and leads to some of our most interesting wines. In each of the past two harvests, winemakers crushed more than 60,000 tons of Cab, by far the most in the state, accounting for about 25 percent of the total harvest.
Cab is proving its ability to grow well in several areas of the arid Columbia Valley. Here are seven examples from seven distinct regions of Washington, all of which won gold medals at this year’s Cascadia International Wine Competition. Ask for them at your favorite wine shop or contact the wineries directly.
Kiona Vineyards and Winery 2014 Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $75: Like a snapshot from harvest, this fragrant beauty shows off aromas of blackberry, currant, violets and plums, with just the right amount of a green note to keep it spicy. The palate is medium-bodied and delivers a full mouth feel of plums, blackberries, cassis, dark juicy cherries, some raspberry tea and the perfect kiss of barrel influence, rounding out the fruit with some mocha and vanilla. The Williams family handles its fruit with perfection, showing off the best of 2014.
Lady Hill Winery 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, $35: Willamette Valley winemaker Dan Duryee sources from the likes of Tapteil Vineyard on Red Mountain and Slide Mountain Vineyard in the Yakima Valley for his Cab program. Aromas of cherries, raspberry bramble, eucalyptus and fresh-turned earth are partnered with a palate that shows off the same. The body is medium, with soothing tannins and a lingering finish.
Barili Cellars 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rattlesnake Hills, $25: Spokane winemakers Russ Feist and Gary Hustad used fruit from the upper reaches of the Yakima Valley to build a wine with aromatics of cedary oak, dark cherries and dusty herbs. On the palate, it shows off rich black cherry and blueberry fruit, chocolate, a hint of cola and smooth tannins. It’s a well-built wine from front to back that’s perfect for a peppercorn-crusted steak.
Water from Wine 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $30: Pat Tucker created Water From Wine near Sandpiper Farms west of Plymouth, Wash., to help fund a nonprofit that aims to bring water to drought-plagued areas of the planet. The wine, produced with the help of acclaimed winemaker Charles Hoppes and his Wine Boss team in Richland, features rich aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackberry and blueberry, with a finish that includes blackcurrant, dark chocolate and abundant tannins.
Desert Wind Winery 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $18: This showpiece winery, tasting room and boutique hotel next door to the Clore Center in Prosser pulls its Cab from estate vines near Mattawa. Its theme of bright huckleberry, blackberry, mint and green olive picks up cherry and cassis notes. The drying tannins juxtapose the lushly fruit-forward palate in a very pleasing way.
Burnt Bridge Cellars 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $40: The team of Mark Mahan, Greg Wallace and Ben Stuart bring back fruit from the Walla Walla Valley into their urban winery and tasting room in downtown Vancouver, Wash. Nice oak handling shows in its aromas, with a touch of mint and black cherry. On the palate, blackberry and blueberry reinforce the black cherry, with firm tannins in its finish.
Cloudlift Cellars 2015 Halcyon Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $30: Halcyon is a fitting name for Seattle winemaker Tom Stangeland’s work with Cab. Toasty oak creates a nose of baking spice, black cherry and blackberry. That same fruit comes through as flavors with a bit of blueberry. Refined tannins usher in a finish of more dark cherries and juicy acidity at the end.
Find the judgings complete results at www.greatnorthwestwine.com
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company; www.greatnorthwestwine.com