With the emergence of Cabernet Sauvignon as the Washington wine industry’s signature grape, we’ve also seen the evolution of red blends.
In France’s Bordeaux region, blends are the rule. Some of the world’s most famous wines - Château Lafite Rothschild, Château LaTour and Château Margaux, for example - are all are made primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon.
You might hear about “Left Bank” and “Right Bank” wines. These are part of the style of Bordeaux. Left Bank styles tend to lead with Cab, while Right Bank blends tend to be Merlot dominant. Fortunately in Washington, we can enjoy both styles. They often represent some of the winemaker’s best work and showcase top vineyards.
Consumers might occasionally see “meritage” on a label. This is a California invention, and the word rhymes with “heritage.” These blends can include any of the six traditional Bordeaux red grapes and do not need to follow the Right Bank or Left Bank styles.
Here are several Cab-based red blends, all of which earned gold medals at this spring’s Cascadia International Wine Competition. Ask for these wines at your favorite wine merchant or purchase directly from the wineries.
Browne Family Vineyard 2015 Tribute Red, Columbia Valley, $30: Fresh aromas and flavors of cherry, black pepper, sandalwood and plum mingle together, supported by well-managed tannins, delivering a medium-bodied blend suited perfectly for sipping before and during dinner. The creative use of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Syrah gives depth and structure without being dominant, akin to the perfect amount of seasoning in a dish.
Maryhill Winery 2015 Proprietor’s Reserve Serendipity, Columbia Valley, $36: Aromas of Bing cherry, dark berries and black pepper waft from the glass to promise and deliver a well-integrated Bordeaux-style blend. Particularly impressive is the judicious use of Petit Verdot, which offers a deep raisin finish that lingers with a touch of clove.
Airfield Estates 2015 H. Lloyd Miller Red Wine, Yakima Valley, $50: Marcus Miller pays tribute to his great-grandfather with this terroir-driven blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (66 percent), Merlot (23 percent), Cabernet Franc (7 percent) Petit Verdot and Malbec. Its theme of red currant, cherry and cranberry includes eucalyptus, forest floor, shiitake mushrooms and raspberry tea. Enjoy with lamb or Beef Bourguignon.
L’Ecole No. 41 2015 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Perigee, Walla Walla Valley, $55: Perigee is Marty Clubb’s Cabernet Sauvignon-focused red blend, named for when the moon swings closest to Earth in its orbit. It’s crafted from fruit off famed Seven Hills Vineyard, and this vintage resulted in warm, cedary aromas of black cherry, blackberry and blueberry with a pinch or two of spice. In the mouth, that elegant fruit compote is joined by flecks of dark chocolate and chalky tannins, making for a lengthy and cellar-worthy finish.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Artist Series Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $65: This classic Bordeaux-style wine is a tour of the top of Ste. Michelle’s top vineyards Canoe Ridge Estate and Cold Creek in one delicious stop. Aromas of plum, cassis and cherry mingle with elements of sandalwood, raisin, fig and leather, finishing with tingly tannins and a dash of espresso. Each year, this bottling celebrates a different artist, in this case, Janna Watson of Toronto, and the bounty of the Columbia Valley.
Smasne Cellars 2013 Owen’s Reserve Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $75: Using Columbia Valley fruit, Smasne Cellars crafted its 2013 Owen’s Reserve Red Wine with alluring aromas of spice, black cherries, blackberries and vanilla. In the mouth, it’s smooth and complex as blueberries and plum join in for a finish with a dash of black pepper, likely from its Carménère.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company; www.greatnorthwestwine.com