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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived January 23, 2017
Originally Published December 15, 2016

Cabernet Sauvignon & Blends for the Holidays
Part 3 of a 4-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 2)  (Part 4)
By Chuck Hill

Buy a decanter.  That’s it, just buy a decanter.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, you can probably find a nice one for under $20.  Every wine in today’s column will benefit from aeration, and the only way to ensure aeration is to pour the whole bottle into a decanter, and (possibly) return it to the bottle with a funnel.  Do this a few hours before dinner and you will be rewarded with more aroma, better balance and an overall superior wine experience. 

On to the wines.  If you are having trouble finding some of these selections, take a field trip to Washington wine specialist Doug Charles’ Compass Wines in Anacortes, Washington. 

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

Abeja wines are made in relatively small quantities and have a loyal following.  They are, naturally, hard to find.  Grape sourcing and winemaking are impeccable with winemakers Dan and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler continuing the high standards set by former winemaker John Abbott.  This first-place finisher offers blackberry, cassis and vanilla with complementing notes of toasty oak, floral perfume and superb balance and structure. 

Substance (by Charles Smith)
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
Washington State

This wine from Charles Smith (visit his Jet City facility in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood) if not fancy or expensive, and doesn’t need decanting.  It is rich in fruit and powerfully juicy on the palate.  Look for spicy cherry and plum with hints of vanilla and smoky cedar. 

Leonetti Cellar
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Winemaker Chris Figgins crafted this elegant and food-friendly wine from grapes grown at five estate Walla Walla vineyards that represent the finest sites in the appellation.  The wine was aged in new and once-filled French oak barrels and is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon with portions of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Blackberry and blueberry mingle with toasty oak, herbs and baking spices – nice to enjoy now, but a great candidate for aging. 


L’Ecole No 41
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

The winemakers at L’Ecole No 41 define this wine through four specific terroirs found in the selected Walla Walla Vineyards represented in this blend: wined-blown loess, river rock, fractured basalt and ice-age floods silts.  All Cabernet Sauvignon, look for ripe dark fruits, complex earthy mineral and toasty oak. 


2013 Southwind Red Blend
Walla Walla Valley AVA

This is Cadaretta’s first “estate” wine from their Southwind Vineyard in the hills of the southern Walla Walla Valley.  It is a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Petit Verdot, 21% Malbec and 2% Merlot.  Blackberry and Bing cherry carry the fruit component with notes of dark chocolate, spice and cedar – well structured and delicious. 

Woodward Canyon
2013 Estate Reserve Red Wine
Walla Walla Valley AVA

This wine is only 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, but it offers complexity and style that is the hallmark of recent Woodward Canyon wines.  Grown at the low-yield estate vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley, grape blend includes Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, giving an Old World character that works well with holiday meals.  Enjoy black cherry, herbs, tobacco and creamy vanilla notes. 

Amavi Cellars
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Amavi Cellars began as the little brother of the renowned Pepper Bridge winery, initially crafting Semillon and Syrah to complement Pepper Bridge’s flagship Cabernet blend.  Times have changed, vineyards have matured, and now the winery offers a full line of varietals and blends.  Ripe cherry and red currant mingle in this wine with baking spices, mineral and vanilla to accompany beef or lamb for the holidays.  

Mercer Estates
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Beginning with the Mercer family settling in the Horse Heaven Hills in 1886, the Mercers have been involved in regional agriculture continually for 130 years.  Ten years ago, the Mercer and Hogue families founded Mercer Estates and have grown the brands to current annual production levels of more than 60,000 cases.  Ripe blackberry and plum are joined by mineral, caramel and cocoa in this food-friendly holiday wine. 



Reininger Winery
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

As his winery approaches its 20th birthday, Chuck Reininger continues to produce superb Walla Walla wines under the Reininger and Helix labels.  This wine shows the classic Walla Walla Cabernet style of power and finesse with ripe black currant and cherry, complemented by anise, herbs and toasty oak. 



2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Mountain AVA

Dan Duckhorn expanded his California Merlot empire north to Washington with this winery on Washington’s Red Mountain.  This lush Cabernet offers aromas of ripe blackberry and plum with notes of spicy cola and olives.  The palate is lean with Old World red and black fruits and a balancing acidity on the finish. 

Spangler Vineyards
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve

While Pat Spangler is enjoying his December Hawaiian vacation, we were enjoying his reserve Cabernet Sauvignon featuring earthy aromas of mineral, red fruits, anise and baking spice.  The palate is young and rich with black cherry, cocoa, tobacco and caramel. 

Schmidt Family Vineyard
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Applegate Valley AVA

Cal and Judy Schmidt purchased the old Bennett Ranch in Oregon’s Applegate Valley in 2000 and created Schmidt Family Vineyards, a superb location for grape growing on the fertile Kubli Bench.  The beautiful winery and grounds make for a delightful visit and are the scene for many events and weddings throughout  the year.  His 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon offers blackberry, cherry and spice with dried herbs, toasty oak and vanilla. 

Wines from other areas:

Trefethen Vineyards
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley

As one of Napa Valley’s few remaining family wine estates, Trefethen Vineyards has never purchased a single outside grape.  Indeed, all the grapes for their Cabernet Sauvignon come from their Main Ranch in the Oak Knoll District of southern Napa Valley.  A top wine with my tasters, look for boysenberry and blackberry with toasty cedar, baking spice and a juicy finish with cocoa and vanilla. 

Stonestreet Estate Vineyards
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Alexander Valley, Sonoma

This tasty Cabernet comes from the high elevation vineyards on the Mayacamas Mountains in California’s North Coast region.  Tangy blackberry, cassis and fresh herbs lead the way with peppercorn, vanilla and caramel following on the finish – a favorite with Chef Ted’s hearty sirloin in mushroom sauce. 

Terroir Hunter by Undurraga
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
Alta Maipo, Chile

The Terroir Hunter project by historic Chilean producer Undurraga seeks to produce wine in the Old World style by finding new growing areas and exploring new cultivation practices in Chile’s diverse topography.  This Old World style offers aromas and flavors of cherry and strawberry, dried herbs and spice.  This style finds favor among those seeking elegant, food-friendly wines. 

Vinum Cellars
2014 The Insider Cabernet Sauvignon
Paso Robles

Winemakers Richard Bruno and Chris Condos first met while students at U.C. Davis, and went on to establish Vinum Cellars in 1997.  They have since expanded to 14 varietals utilizing the philosophy that great wine begins in the vineyard.  They utilized select vineyards from Paso Robles to create this classic Cabernet offering cassis, black cherry and plum with notes of oak and spice on the finish.

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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above text,
visit our alphabetical lists for Northwest States.



©  February, 2017  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 02/07/2017