1. Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 $140
Quilceda Creek has been making top-level cabernet sauvignon since 1979; the latest vintage only continues that legacy. This is a serious wine, packing notes of spice, incense, and dark fruit. It’s one for the cellar.
2. Mark Ryan Winery Lonely Heart Cabernet Red Mountain 2013 $95
Ciel du Cheval and Force Majeure vineyards provide the fruit for this wine. Pencil lead, black cherry, and barrel spice aromas lead to a densely rich palate, full of fruit and tightly wound flavors. Give it a good 10 years in the cellar or a 24-hour decant.
3. Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2013 $95
The winery’s inaugural, 1978 cabernet sauvignon took first in a prominent wine competition back in the day, and Leonetti hasn’t stopped producing top-notch bottles since. It’s one of the state’s more sought-after wines; if you see a bottle, snap it up.
4. Fidélitas Cabernet Sauvignon Quintessence Vineyard Red Mountain 2013 $60
A newcomer on Red Mountain, Quintessence is already showing itself to be one of the appellation’s finest. This 100 percent varietal wine boasts aromas of barrel spice, black fruit, and coffee. It’s full of lively cherry flavors surrounded by firm but well-balanced tannins.
5. Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012 $48
Gramercy Cellars is best known for Rhone-style wines but also happens to make some of the state’s best cabernet. Intoxicating aromas of earth, black currant, and flowers lead to fruit flavors—rich, yet still fresh. It’s great now, but only gets better with time.
6. Passing Time Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2013 $75
This newer cabernet project unites former NFL quarterbacks Dan Marino and Damon Huard with Avennia winemaker Chris Peterson. I’ll just come out and say it—the second vintage is a touchdown, with very pretty black fruit and herb aromas and a fruit-filled palate.
7. Waters Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Washington 2012 $50
Old vines from elder statesman Cold Creek Vineyard provide much of the fruit for this 100 percent varietal wine. Aromas of savory herbs, blue and black fruit, and spice lead to a palate layered with fruit flavors, with an appealing mouthfeel.
8. Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2013 $89
Former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe doubled back (yep) to his Walla Walla hometown to start this cabernet-focused winery. No mere vanity project, the winery always evinces the variety’s subtleties, here in sophisticated notes of earth, cassis, and spice.
9. Adams Bench Stillwater Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 $70
Blackberry, black cherry, and spice aromas lead to full-bodied dark fruit flavors. The tannins bring some heft and need some time to settle in. Give it a good five years in the cellar.
10. Long Shadows Feather Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 $65
Long Shadows puts Washington fruit in the hands of a few highly accomplished winemakers from around the world. Here Napa Valley’s Randy Dunn crafts a delicious wine full of minced cherry and black fruit flavors supported by tightly wound tannins.
11. Sparkman Cellars Evermore Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 $100
This wine comes from old blocks at Dionysus (Columbia Valley) and Upland (Snipes Mountain) vineyards and boasts pure aromas of blackberry and herb; the subsequent cherry and espresso flavors are restrained yet lively, and there’s a fine sense of balance throughout.
12. Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 $36
Tasty, well priced, and aromatic with vanilla, caramel, and plum. The flavors are plush in feel, and the finish sails.
13. Pamplin Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012 $50
Pamplin—one of several Oregon wineries using exclusively Washington fruit—often flies below the radar, but its wines consistently impress. Here tightly wound aromas of blackberry, barrel spice, and dried herb lead to a polished array of dark fruit flavors.
14. Tranche Cellars Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon Blue Mountain Vineyard 2012 $50
The intriguing young Blue Mountain Vineyard is nestled, as the name implies, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. It delivers a wine aromatic with cherry, plum, and wood spice, a velvety mouthfeel, and concentrated fruit flavors.
15. Bridge Press Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2012 $35
Fruit and barrel notes play off each other here in a wine that’s just a tad oakier than the norm. Aromas of baking spice, vanilla, and herb are followed by potent black cherry flavors and a lingering, coffee-filled finish.