Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Impressions of Washington: Cabernet Sauvignon

Here it is, the last of the series. The summer has wound down, and my Washington focus (inspired wholly by the Wine Blogger's Conference) should probably go down with it. How fully appropriate that the finally entry is on the precariously elevated king of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon. I say precarious because the importance of Bordeaux and cult-like Napa Cabs ebbs and tides over trending tastes, and economies. These waves may never knock the grape down to second, but certainly bring decades in which one's devotion to pinot noir is considered more refined than a cellar full of cabernet.

Washington can grow cabernet. Examples abound of their success, ubiquitous names like Cayuse, and Quilceda Creek, and the number 1 Wine Spectator wine of 2009 the Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (jumping from $35 to ~$115 due to press alone...) The cabernet sauvignons of Washington tend to have structure beyond belief, and the soils provided by the Missoula floods offer the grapes some amazing terroir driven complexities (think rocky minerality, leather, and tar). The acidity of the grapes, aided by long warm days to ripen the fruit without the exorbitant heat of some other cabernet areas, make these wines ageable and more food friendly than some California cabernets.

I will openly admit that I am not always a 'cab' guy. It is probably due to the outrageous price that cabernet can garner, to be honest. I find more value in equally exciting but less sought varietals, and my blog and cellar probably show it. However, the following examples of Washington cabernet were outstanding, and reminded me why the grape is king:

Pepper Bridge 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley - One of the larger family owned wineries in Walla Walla, Pepper Bridge is also one of the most respected. Focusing on their estate vineyards and primarily Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon this winery is a leader in 'green' farming and winemaking, and in showcasing the fruit of Walla Walla. An exquisite example of dark fruit, and minerals Pepper Bridge cabernet does the grape justice. Available from the winery for $55, (a great place to visit as well)

2006 Col Solare - A collaborative venture between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Italian winemaker Marchesi Antinori, this is the first vintage that was made in their winery on Red Mountain. This was one of the more lush version of cabernet that I tasted in Washington, with loads of berries and a bit of vanilla and chocolate. I was struck at how smooth this wine was, and how long the delicious finish lingered. This wine is available from the winery for $75.

Betz 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille - As I write this I am noticing a Red Mountain bent towards my choice of cabernets, and here is another. This wine combines amazing concentration with an elegance that is almost indescribable. Too young to be drinking now, if you like focused fruit that mingles with earth, and an intensely interesting minerality you will be blown away by this wine. I don't think you can buy it anymore, as it is a direct mailing list wine, but you can sign-up for the waiting list on future vintages here.

DeLille Cellars 2006 Grand Ciel Cabernet Sauvignon - A bit more cedar on this wine than the others, this cabernet also showed an intensity that was awe inspiring. This wine will impress for its berry fruit, and dusty earthiness. I really did love this wine, but have to say that for my money I would not fork over the $135 price tag. However, many cab lovers have come to accept such prices, and does the wine near perfection within the Washington cabernet profile? In my opinion, yes.

So here is where I leave you. I hope you have enjoyed my profiles of some outstanding Washington wine. I particularly hope that you have felt encouraged to keep your eye out for Washington wines available in your area. Many wines highlighted on my trip were small wineries, with limited availability and higher price tags. However, there are some stunning examples of value driven, widely available wines from Washington as well that you can surely find in your area. With their own set of strengths, making it a region unique to itself, Washington wine growers and makers should be proud of what they are doing, and consumers should be excited.

1 comment:

  1. Great new discoveries. I can't wait for your new articles and if possible can you feature some of the great wineries in the Oklahoma.