Best of Washington Wine

Cabernet That Reigns Supreme

One of the grapes that first made the wine world take notice of Washington is no longer an elite niche—cab production surpasses that of chardonnay and riesling.

By Sean P. Sullivan September 13, 2017 Published in the October 2017 issue of Seattle Met

Cabernet final vjp5cp

Image: Jordan Kay

* = denotes hard-to-find wine

1. Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2014 • $195 *

This latest iteration is every bit as rich and opulent as the bottles that built Quilceda Creek’s reputation for world-class wines (and Washington’s reputation for cabernet sauvignon); after 38 years, it’s safe to say its bottles are some of the most long-lived in the state. 

2. Feather Vintage Select Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 • $95 *

Star California winemaker Randy Dunn crafts this reserve-level* wine at the invitation of Long Shadow’s Allen Shoup; his annual Washington cameo yields full-bodied cherry and chocolate flavors and one deeply intense cabernet. 

*Unlike France’s grand cru, this term has no official definition. Basically it’s whatever the winemaker considers the best bottles in its portfolio (though reserve often implies a bottle is worthy of aging).

3. Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2014 • $95 *

The latest sought-after bottle from the Walla Walla Valley’s first bonded winery displays plenty of black cherry, incense, and barrel spice along with tightly wound tannins. This is the caliber of cellarworthy cabernet that established the valley’s (and the state’s) status among national wine circles. 

4. Woodward Canyon Artist Series #23 Cabernet Sauvignon Washington 2014 • $59

Since the winery’s founding in 1981, Woodward Canyon has consistently created some of the state’s highest-quality and most age-ready wines; this latest example is especially great, filled with both fruit and tannins. 

5. DeLille Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2014 • $68

The titular flags represent the four vineyards DeLille works with on Red Mountain—Ciel du Cheval, Grand Ciel, Upchurch, and Klipsun. Each one comes through beautifully on the pitch-black fruit flavors and tannins combed to the softest of sheens. 

6. Betz Family Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2014 • $75

This wine is hard to resist now, with its black fruit, bay leaf, and plum aromas and flavors, but will only improve with time in the cellar and should show well late into the next decade. 

7. Pamplin Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 • $50

This Oregon-based winery uses only Washington fruit and has a knack for producing top-quality reds, especially in the case of this wine, whose fruit comes entirely from superlative sites on Red Mountain. 

8. Forgeron Anvil Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2012 • $65

In Washington, 2012 was a vintage for the ages, and this fine example brings rich, luscious fruit flavors as dark as its namesake blacksmithing apparatus. 

9. Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2014 • $94

Sure there are athlete-owned wineries that function as mere vanity projects, but former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe is also a Walla Walla native son and very involved in the production of wines like this focused cabernet, full of concentrated dark fruit flavors and tannic heft. 

10. Januik Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2014 • $55

Champoux Vineyard is a Washington equivalent of a French grand cru site, and long-tenured winemaker Mike Januik shows his skilled hand with its fruit, producing a wine that shows finesse and balance and a memorable, velvety texture. 

11. Passing Time Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2014 • $75

Damon Huard and Dan Marino have a few vintages under their collective belt, but this is the former NFL quarterbacks’ inaugural Red Mountain release, with earth, herb, and black fruit flavors supported by burly tannins. 

12. Pursued by Bear Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 • $85

Twin Peaks’ revival cemented Kyle MacLachlan’s cult fame on the small screen, but locals also know the Yakima native as an adept winemaker. Here, fruit from two top sites, DuBrul and Klipsun vineyards, yield cherry, date, and spice flavors capped off by an exceptionally long finish.

13. Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2014 • $50

This is a big wine from Casey McClellan, known for his oft-reserved style; credit the warmth of this vintage year, plus the vineyard’s original 1980 cabernet plantings, for the ripe fruit aromas and flavors. 

14. Upchurch Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2014 • $70

The eponymous project from DeLille Cellars vintner and cofounder Chris Upchurch delivers a heady wine focused on a single vineyard site on Red Mountain. 

15. Sightglass Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2014 • $45

This inaugural release from former Woodinville Wine Cellars winemaker Sean Boyd is a big-time winner with aromas of dried herb, dark plum, and barrel spice followed by exquisitely balanced dark fruit flavors.

Show Comments