The Northwest, particularly Washington, has distinguished itself in recent years as a prime region for the king of wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon is celebrated as the greatest of grapes, and the finest examples have traditionally come from France's Bordeaux region and California's Napa Valley. Thanks to a string of perfect scores from a winery near Everett and a stunning award for the state's largest producer, Washington has gained credence as a world-class region, too.
Quilceda Creek Vintners in Snohomish has earned multiple 100-point scores from The Wine Advocate since the release of its 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. And Wine Spectator, the world's largest and most important wine periodical, named Columbia Crest's 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon the No. 1 wine in the world in 2009.
But these two producers aren't the only ones making stellar Cabs. We recently blind tasted 139 examples from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The top wines ranged in price from $12 to $89. Here are a few we have selected for this column. To see the entire list, go to www.winepressnw.com.
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Milbrandt Vineyards 2010 Traditions Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: This wine was among the most expressive wines we tasted, showing aromas of brown sugar, poached plum, white pepper, blackberry and coffee, followed by elegant flavors of plum, chocolate and a dash of spice.
Lost River Winery 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $25: This small winery in Washington's Methow Valley has crafted a delicious red with aromas of Cocoa Puffs, black cherry, vanilla bean and cordial cherry, followed by delicious flavors of cherry and a flourless chocolate torte. It brings bright acidity chocolate tannins.
Glaze 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: This value Cab is made by Ross Andrew Winery in Woodinville, and is marketed by Precept Wine in Seattle. It's a youthful wine with aromas of purple plum, huckleberry, chocolate and mint, followed by fresh, fleshy flavors of cherry, blueberry, red currant and chocolate.
Woodward Canyon Winery 2009 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $89: Simply put, this is the standard bearer of Washington Cab, the wine by which others are measured. Owner Rick Small has been producing this Cab since he launched Woodward Canyon in 1981, and it is his most recognizable wine. This opens with aromas of black tea, black olive, black currant, blackberry and a whiff of hazelnut coffee. On the palate, it carries flavors of dark fruit, superb acidity, moderate tannin and a touch of spicy oak.
Columbia Crest 2010 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: Columbia Crest created this tier to showcase grapes coming from the Horse Heaven Hills. It opens with aromas of cocoa, cedar, new leather, black cherry and dark chocolate. On the palate, it features a rich entry of plum, black currant, white chocolate and dark cherry.
Sawtooth Estate Winery 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley, $25: Winemaker Bill Murray has crafted a wine with aromas of strawberry jam on toast, black pepper and cherry. On the palate, there are flavors of cherry, blueberry and rich chocolate among a full mouth feel with an easy approach and a lengthy finish.
Smasne Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $30: Robert Smasne has been hitting his stride the past couple of years, earning one rave review after another. This offers aromas of rich chocolate, minerality, brown sugar and ripe plum, followed by flavors of boysenberry, espresso and cherry. It's smooth on the midpalate and nicely balanced with moderate tannins.
Waterbrook Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $12: One of the Walla Walla Valley's oldest wineries also is one of its biggest. This bargain red opens with complex aromas of black olive, blueberry, cherry and vanilla, followed by succulent flavors of blue fruit, creamy vanilla, hibiscus tea and chocolaty tannins.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. For more information, go to www.greatnorthwestwine.com.