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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Merlot and Malbec
A 3-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2014

Oyster and Mussel Wines
A 4-Part Series
Published Sept & Oct 2014

Red Rhone Varietals
and Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published July & Aug 2014

Pinot Noir & Copper
River Salmon

A 4-Part Series

White Rhone Varietals
A 3-Part Series

Versatile Chardonnays
A 3-Part Series

Italian Varietals in America
A 3-Part Series


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Last Week's Reviews
Published December 4, 2014

Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends – Round Two
Part 2 of a 4-Part Series  (See Part 1)  (See Part 3)
By Chuck Hill

It is a great delight to enjoy the complexity of Cabernet Sauvignon wines.  These are the wines that winemakers strive to make their best, using the finest grapes they can grow or buy, and aging the wines in expensive French oak.  It is the consumer’s obligation, therefore, to make an effort to create an accompanying high quality dish. 

Chef Ted grilled a flank steak and prepared a sumptuous sauce, featuring sautéed mushrooms with shallots, capers and dry vermouth.  Delectable medium-rare steak, sliced a la London Broil, is a superb pairing with Cabernets and their blends. 

Delille Cellars
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Four Flags
Columbia Valley

The DeLille Cellars winemaking team crafted this wine from four vineyards on Red Mountain in Washington State.  Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Ciel du Cheval, Upchurch, Grand Ciel and Klipsun Vineyards were harvested from the exceptional 2012 vintage to create this favorite with my tasters.  Look for aromas and flavors of blackberry, cassis and cherry with complex nuances of cedar, vanilla, olive, anise and spicy oak. 

Three Rivers Winery
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Champoux Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Coming from the highly pedigreed Champoux Vineyard in the much cooler 2010 vintage, this Cabernet leans toward aromas and flavors of red fruits such as plums, cherries and ripe red berries.  Winemaker Holly Turner aged the wine in French oak – 57% new, adding toast and vanilla character with complex spicy notes of tobacco, cocoa and hints of smoky meat. 

Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2011 Destiny, Estate
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Drawing from his estate Destiny Ridge Vineyard, owner/winemaker Jarrod Boyle selected a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and smaller amounts of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere to create this rich and flavorful wine.  My tasters found an appealing combination of black currant, cherry and blueberry mingling with toasty vanilla, earthy mineral, leather and cedar – excellent with our entrée of grilled medium-rare steak. 

Tamarack Cellars
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

From the warm and consistent 2012 vintage, Ron Coleman’s Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon shows the complexity and finesse that can be gained with standout harvest conditions.  After aging in French oak – 65% new, the Cabernet Sauvignon was blended with 8% Cabernet Franc and 6% Merlot.  Look for ripe dark cherry and cassis with notes of dark chocolate, anise and vanilla. 

Reininger Winery
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley

Winemaker/owner Chuck Reininger comments that, “This Cab is not the boisterous seat at the dinner party.  Rather it is the captivating, intriguing, humble guest that you want to stay the night.”  Hailing from Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills Vineyards, the wine offers aromas of cassis and earthy, smoky meat and notes of floral perfume and mint.  On the palate my tasters enjoyed bright cherry, chocolate with lingering notes of vanilla and cola. 

Brian Carter Cellars
2009 Solesce
Columbia Valley AVA

Washington’s master blender crafts his Bordeaux-style blend from all five red Bordeaux varieties with Cabernet Sauvignon taking the dominant role.  He exercises restraint in the use of new oak and gives the wine a long time in barrel to create a superb and food-friendly wine.  Aromas of blackberry and blueberry are complemented by hints of vanilla and floral perfume.  The palate is juicy with berry and cassis flavors with vanilla on the finish.  My tasters also enjoyed Brian’s fantastic Opulento Port as a finisher, featuring complex berry flavors with notes of citrus and cocoa – look for it on his website:

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

NXNW wines are made as part of the King Estate Winery operation of Oregon and produces wines from the inland grape growing appellations of the Columbia River Basin of Oregon and Washington.  This tasty Cabernet was sourced from vineyards along the Columbia River including Wallula [now called The Benches], Alder Ridge and Coyote Canyon.  The wine offers aromas and flavors of cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate and vanilla with hints of eucalyptus and leather. 

Columbia Crest
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Red Mountain AVA

Columbia Crest is just releasing some new reserve wines crafted in their “Petit Chai – a winery within a winery.”  In addition to this rich and flavorful Cabernet, there are other red wines and two Chardonnays.  Most of these are available only at the winery tasting room in Paterson and online.  This Red Mountain Reserve offers a tight aroma of earthy mineral, toasty oak and cassis and a powerful palate of black currant, cherry and dark chocolate – buy a few bottles to age! 

Watermill Winery
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

“Earl and Lorraine Brown settled in the Walla Walla Valley in the 1950s and began a tradition that has evolved into a third generation, award-winning farming entity producing premium apples, world class wines and award-winning hard apple cider.”  The family’s tasting room is in downtown Milton-Freewater, Oregon in the southern Walla Walla Valley.  Enjoy this rich and powerful Cabernet for its ripe black currant and boysenberry flavors complemented by dark chocolate, baking spices and earthy mineral. 

Ginkgo Forest
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Wahluke Slope AVA

Winemaker/owner Mike Thiede describes his Cabernet as “bold and robust,” and my tasters agree!  This hearty Cab is blended with 4% Malbec and offers rich aromas of dark fruits, toasty oak and earthy mineral.  On the palate you’ll find rich and chewy flavors of blackberry and cranberry corralled with smoky cedar and spice.  Western Washington wine lovers can visit the Ginkgo Forest Winery location in Tacoma’s Old Town neighborhood. 

Amavi Cellars
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

This edition of Amavi Cellars Cabernet is a blend of five varietals (mostly Cab and Merlot) and is sourced from six esteemed Walla Walla Valley vineyards.  The warm 2012 vintage provided this wine with aromas of dark fruits, dried herbs, dusty cedar and ripe berry.  Flavors lean to dark cherry, red currant, spicy berry candy, vanilla and toasty oak.  Amavi Cellars and Pepperbridge Winery have a combined tasting room in Woodinville at Hollywood Corner for the convenience of Seattle area enophiles. 

Columbia Crest
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, H3
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

The Horse Heaven Hills AVA in the southern Columbia Valley is rapidly becoming a favorite for complex and flavorful red wines as the vineyards continue to mature.  Winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca left 20% whole berries in the fermentation of this wine and aged it in French oak for 18 months.  Aromas and flavors of blackberry and cherry are complemented by notes of vanilla, mineral and cocoa – a great value for the holiday season. 

Wines from other areas

Grgich Hills Estate
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate
Napa Valley AVA

I have been a big fan of Mike Grgich’s wines for many years and have followed his winery’s evolution for decades.  Many winemakers talk about “the wine is made in the vineyard,” but Grgich Hills Estate follows this practice with minimal intervention and careful tending of the young wines.  This wine is one of the few Cabernets we have tasted this year that gives 100% Cabernet character with aromas of rich cassis, green peppercorns, a hint of dill and following flavors of dark fruits, olive and a hint of toasty oak and spice – also a great food wine. 

Conn Creek Winery
2012 Anthology Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley AVA

Conn Creek Winery was founded in the early 1970s and was among a small group of wineries leading a renaissance in the Napa Valley.  Founders Bill and Kathy Collins were devotees of Bordeaux red wines and from the beginning focused the winery’s direction on Cabernet Sauvignon and blends.  This superb reserve-style Cabernet placed near the top of my tasting, showing rich dark fruits, smoky caramel, tobacco and hints of floral perfume and dried herbs – a great pairing for steak. 

Valentin Bianchi
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Mendoza, Argentina

Valentin Bianchi wines are made primarily from grapes grown in San Rafael, Mendoza, in vineyards over 2,200 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Andes.  This wine was aged in two- and three-year-old barrels, allowing the fruit full expression.  Look for ripe black currant and dark cherry aromas with hints of spice.  The palate is firm and offers earthy mineral and herbs over flavors of berry and vanilla – a good value wine for holiday meals. 

Edna Valley Vineyard
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Central Coast

The Edna Valley growing area is just south of San Luis Obispo along the Central Coast of California. The area was home to mission vineyards in the 19th century, but was virgin territory for planting in the 1970s when vineyard developer Jack Niven planted the first modern era vineyards.  This wine from the Central Coast offers aromas and flavors of juicy cherry, cranberry, vanilla, dark chocolate and baking spices – another good value for holiday entertaining. 

William Hill Estate
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
North Coast

The Coastal Collection from William Hill Estate offers wines crafted in the Napa Valley style from vineyards in California’s North Coast and Central Coast regions.  This flavorful and approachable Cabernet Sauvignon hails from Sonoma County and Lake County.  It is a very complex wine for the price, showing ripe aromas of dark fruits with notes of vanilla, caramel and bell pepper.  The palate dances with flavors of dark cherry, cranberry, sweet oak, anise and dried herbs.

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