Chuck Hill on Wines and Wine Country with links
Main menu bar for Wines Northwest


By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

About Chuck

Follow Chuck on Twitter



(In the order of their
publication dates)

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 & 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


Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal













































Wines of the Week
Published December 11, 2014

Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends – Part 3
Caramel, Vanilla and Toasty Cedar

Part 3 of a 4-Part Series  (See Part 1)  (See Part 2)
By Chuck Hill

Those that have been following these Cabernet reviews undoubtedly will have noticed the frequent references to aromas and flavors that don’t have much to do with grape juice.  Indeed, the intervention of the winemaker in crafting Cabernet involves aging the wine in oak barrels – some new, some used. 

Whether French or American, new oak barrels add noticeable aromas and flavors to wine.  Most barrels are constructed with wood that has been “toasted” with a direct flame or other heat source.  This toasty wood adds smoky notes to wine, and the oak wood itself adds vanilla (vanillin), which - combined with the toastiness - creates the impression of caramel.  Notes of cocoa or dark chocolate similarly are derived from combinations of barrel flavors with the natural esters in very ripe red wines. 

On to this week’s favorites: 

L’Ecole No 41
2011 Perigee, Cabernet Blend
Seven Hills Vineyard - $49.00

Seven Hills Vineyard is considered by many to be the first of the great vineyard properties that established the reputation of the Walla Walla Valley.  Located at the southern edge of the WWV AVA, the vineyard was first planted in 1981 and now encompasses more the 200 acres of vines.  L’Ecole No 41 Perigee offers ripe aromas of black cherry, plum, violets and  toasty oak with flavors of dark fruits, blueberry and earthy mineral pairing superbly with beef from the grill. 

Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2011 Quarry Butte
Destiny Ridge Vineyard
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Another wine from Jarrod Boyle’s Horse Heaven Hills estate vineyard, Quarry Butte is a fine pairing for holiday meats showing aromas of dark cherry, black pepper and vanilla with corresponding flavors of dark berries, caramel and cedar.  Quarry Butte was the original name of the vineyard site that became Destiny Ridge. 



Ethos/Chateau Ste. Michelle
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve
Columbia Valley AVA

This reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Chateau Ste. Michelle is crafted primarily from grapes grown at the winery’s Cold Creek Vineyard (planted in 1972).  It is a delicious accompaniment to roast beef, blue cheese and chocolate desserts featuring aromas and flavors of ripe blueberry, plum, earthy tobacco, sweet oak, vanilla and caramel. 



Brian Carter Cellars
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, “One”
Red Mountain AVA

This single-varietal wine is produced in small quantities by Brian Carter for his wine club members from grapes grown at the E & E Shaw Vineyard on Red Mountain.  Most of the wines from Brian Carter Cellars are blends of several varietals and this bottling offers a peek into the winemaker’s hidden passion for the Cabernet varietal.  Look for blackberry, spicy cherry, dried herbs and Red Mountain floral notes with a finish of cedar and hints of dark chocolate. 

Chateau Ste. Michelle
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, “Indian Wells”
Columbia Valley AVA

This wine is a blend of several Chateau Ste. Michelle vineyards including Indian Wells, Cold Creek and Canoe Ridge Estate.  A New World style, the wine is blended with 10% Syrah adding even more dark fruit aromas and flavors.  My tasters enjoyed the complex character of dried herbs, dark berry, spicy cherry candy and toasty cedar.  It pairs very nicely with a wide variety of red meats and hearty pastas or casseroles. 

Palencia Wine Co.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Mountain AVA

Victor Palencia came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1985 and grew up in the agricultural community of the Yakima Valley.  Completing high school in Prosser, he went on to graduate from Walla Walla Community College and worked part time for several Walla Walla wineries.  His current operation is in the Walla Walla airport wine area.  This Old World style Cabernet opens with aromas of dark berry and cocoa with notes of bell pepper and violets.  The palate offers flavors of red currant, olive and spicy oak – tasty with meat from the grill. 

Seven of Hearts Chateau Figareaux
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

Winemaker Byron Dooley first crafted Cabernet Sauvignon as he was starting down the winemaking path in California.  After his move to Oregon, he began with local Pinot Noir and other Oregon varietals.  From the Hellsgate Vineyard in the Columbia Valley, this is his second vintage of Cabernet from Washington.  Look for bright cherry fruit with notes of herbs, plums and anise – tasty with a wide variety of holiday entrees.  

Three Rivers Winery
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

This wine was crafted from grapes grown at the Seven Hills Vineyard in the southern Walla Walla Valley (see Perigee, above).  Winemaker Holly Turner likes the Cabernets from Eastern Washington for their New World ripe-berry character and their Old World structure (especially in a cooler vintage like 2010).  This tempting wine saw lots of new oak (62%), but still offers balanced flavors of blueberry, cherry and mineral dancing with leather, caramel and hints of vanilla. 

DiStefano Winery
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

Winemaker Mark Newton and Associate Winemaker Tracey LaPierre craft the wines at DiStefano, now relocated close to the Woodinville Warehouse district near Covington Cellars and Stevens Winery.  The cooler 2011 vintage allowed the winemakers to get more hang time on the fruit, creating greater complexity while retaining balancing acidity.  Look for cherry and plum fruit with notes of caramel, smoky cedar and spice. 

Cabernet Franc

Don Carlo Vineyard
2010 Cabernet Franc, Estate
Walla Walla Valley AVA

I’m not attempting to fool you.  This is Cabernet Franc, a blending grape from Bordeaux that is also very popular in America as a standalone varietal wine.  Don Carlo Cabernet Franc is a ripe and powerful wine with great varietal character and just enough toasty oak to give balance.  My tasters found dried plum, cherry, bell pepper and herbs with notes of earthy mineral and velvety tannins. 

Stemilt Creek Vineyard
2009 Cabernet Franc, Estate
Columbia Valley AVA

Stemilt Creek Vineyard near Wenatchee crafts this Cabernet Franc as their signature red wine, made from grapes grown in their estate vineyard.  Kyle and Jan Mathison are the fifth generation to farm this homestead since it was established at the beginning of the 20th century.  This Cabernet Franc is rich in aroma and flavor offering ripe cherry, cassis, smoky cedar and notes of cola and dried herbs.  This wine is named “Transforming Traditions.” 

Wines from other areas


2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak
Napa Valley

The Animo Vineyard is located high atop Napa Valley’s Atlas Peak between 1,270 and 1,350 feet on rocky, volcanic soil.  The property was purchased and planted by Michael Mondavi in the mid-1990s.  Michael’s daughter, Dina, named the vineyard after the Italian word meaning spirit or soul.  My tasters enjoyed the 2010 Animo for its rich cassis fruit, earthy mineral and complex floral and herbal notes on the nose, and the rich flavors of dark fruits, caramel, vanilla and toasty cedar on the palate – great with meats from the grill. 


Louis M. Martini Winery
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Rosso
Sonoma County

The Monte Rosso Vineyard was purchased by Louis M. Martini winery in 1938 and has been treasured for the superb fruit produced at this elevated site in the Mayacamas Mountains north of Sonoma.  The 2010 vintage offers the power and finesse that make a great wine, showing black cherry, cocoa and earthy mineral with hints of baking spice, vanilla and a pinch of fresh cut cedar. 

Ironstone Vineyards
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve

Located in California’s Sierra Foothills, Ironstone’s Hay Station Ranch Vineyard is at 2,400 feet elevation where warm days are cooled by the evening mountain air.  Showing both power and elegance, the wine impressed my tasters with ripe blackberry and plum complemented by spicy oak, vanilla and notes of eucalyptus and leather.  It is a great foil for hearty meats and strong-flavored cheeses. 

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Gran Reserva
Colchagua Valley, Chile

Here is a fine Cabernet for your holiday table that offers both quality and value.  Coming from Chile’s famed Colchagua Valley, the wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.  Aromas of cassis, black cherry and herbs mingle with notes of baking spices and mineral.  The palate is long with fruit flavors and resolves with  toasty oak and silky tannins on the finish.

#          #          #


Last Week's Reviews

One-year Archive of previous Wines of the Week reviews

Contact Chuck

Back to Chuck's Main Page

©  December, 2014  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 12/11/2014