Just as it is in California’s Napa Valley and its native Bordeaux, cab is the most important wine grape in Washington. And it’s no accident. Wine lovers have long gravitated toward the red wine grape, and that has been true in Washington for the past dozen years.
As recently as 2006, Washington winemakers crushed 20,000 tons of cab, moving it ahead of merlot for the first time in years. Yet a decade later, those numbers have more than doubled to nearly 48,000 tons.
And thanks to aggressive plantings in the Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain and the Wahluke Slope, it will not be slowing down anytime soon.
Here are several delicious examples of Washington cabernet sauvignon, all of which won gold medals at this spring’s Cascadia Wine Competition. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
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Ross Andrew Winery 2013 The Huntsman Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: Ross Andrew Mickel, once a sommelier at iconic Seattle restaurant Canlis, has crafted a cab that displays aromas and flavors of blackberries, John Robertson raspberries and and cassis, then finishes with restrained tannins and a bit of chocolate.
Kontos Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $38: This family of Walla Walla wheat farmers and winemakers put together a red with aromas that lead off with black cherries, blackberries and black currants. On the palate, the black currants become more prominent as flavors merge with fine-grained tannins, chocolate and licorice at the close.
College Cellars 2013 Summit View Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $35: The wine program at Walla Walla Valley Community College is an award-winning operation, and this cab is another example. It shows off black cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors, plus a touch of graphite and tannins with the bite of blueberry skin.
Seven Falls Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $20: One of the many pearls in Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ string of wineries, its stellar consistency in the hands of winemaker Doug Gore has made it highly coveted. Its nose promises deep black cherry fruit and spice, and in the mouth it delivers more cherries, blackberry, blueberry and grippy tannins.
Columbia Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $14: The late David Lake would be proud of this cab, which sports bright aromas of blackberries and black currants with deftly-used oak. On the palate, the blackberries and currants remain lively, augmented by a dusting of cocoa powder and a bit of Bing cherry in its finish.
Bridge Press Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $35: This downtown Spokane winery released a sophisticated red with black cherry, blackberry and blueberry aromas and flavors under subtle nuances of caramel and spice.
Amelia Wynn 2013 The Dwelley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $32: Based on Bainbridge Island, Wash., Paul Bianchi used Walla Walla grapes for his beautiful cab. On the nose, it shows off spice, blackberries and elegant use of oak, including 50 percent used American barrels. In the mouth, it displays blackberry, graphite and firm tannins, with a lingering touch of spice.
Muret-Gaston 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $42: This high-end label for Kyle Johnson’s Purple Star Winery near Benton City, Wash., used grapes from nearby Red Mountain for this cab. It displays aromas of ripe blackberries, black currants and spice, then shows off the same flavors, augmented at the end by firm, juicy tannins.
Saviah Cellars 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $45: Owner/winemaker Rich Funk crafted an elegant cab with aromas and flavors of blackberries and black currants, followed by well-managed tannins and a closing touch of black tea and dark chocolate.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.