Top Ten Cabernet Sauvignons: Spotlight on Washington State

Christy Canterbury MW picks the best Cabernets from this corner of the Northwest


Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended. This changes - and some would say completes - its distinctive profile. To showcase this iconic black grape, I wanted to pluck out varietal Cabernets. However, I most wanted to spotlight wines from Washington and some of my favorites there are Cabernet-dominated blends. So, I’ve chosen some of both.

While no longer hiding in the wings, Washington still has not reached the pinnacles of recognition that Napa Valley has, despite making wines of equal or better quality. These are tremendously good Cabernets; they are more elegant and often more balanced than those of Napa due to a brighter acidity. They are also more realistically priced. (As an aside, I only considered wines under $100 for this piece.) The Washington State motto, a Chinook Indian saying, comes to mind with regard to its wine industry. Al-ki means “by and by” or “hope for the future.” In Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington shows tremendous hope for its fine wine future.

Washington State image via Shutterstock
Abeja 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50)

A varietal Cabernet that exhibits the brooding depth this variety can achieve: grilled meat, toasted boule bread, savory herbs, crushed blackberries, cigar wrapper and fresh leather swirl into a delicious, harmonious flavor field with a persistent finish.

Andrew Will 2007 Sorella ($70)

This highly perfumed, deeply fruited Bordeaux blend possesses the seamless fruit-structure integration that I have come to expect from Washington. The tannins are silky and the acidity bright, keeping the expansive breadth on the palate and significant extraction in check.

Betz Family Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Père de Famille ($65)

Concentrated and effusively complex, this wine boasts cassis, blueberry, pencil lead and garrigue that linger on the palate. A satisfyingly rigid structure is supported by a pleasant, balanced generosity of fruit. This Bordeaux blend is always good for long-term cellaring.

Chateau Saint Michelle 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Canoe Ridge Vineyard ($25)

The Canoe Ridge Cab always dances between opulence and definition, pulling off the perfect balance. There is a plushness to the tannins that is unusual for Cabernet and a savory spice assertiveness that is reminiscent of the Old World.

DeLille Cellars 2003 Harrison Hill ($80)

With 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is aging incredibly well, taking on nuances of tobacco leaf, spice box and cedar. The fine-grained tannins have grown even silkier and the supporting acidity is well-integrated. There is a subtle dignity about this wine.

Januik 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Hills Vineyard ($45)

Entirely Cabernet, this wine’s highly-defined aromas include black currant, graphite, fireplace smoke and eucalyptus and evolve with time in the decanter. The marked acidity and steely tannins makes this a candidate for a forgotten corner of the cellar.

Leonetti 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($95)

This wine’s imposing structure attests to its high percentage of Cabernet. An abundance of juicy fruit fills the wine’s frame, striking a lovely balance. The nose is a rambunctious jumble of crème de cassis, licorice, mocha and minerals.

Powers Winery 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard ($30)

Cocoa and baking spices leap from the glass. The oak is not restrained, but it works well with the rich, primary black plum and black currant fruit. Mostly Cabernet, the fruit is pure with an intense aftertaste and is supported by a chiseled, muscular frame.

Soos Creek 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Ciel du Cheval Vineyard ($NA)

A vast array of aromas develops with aeration, starting with beef jerky, iron, rosemary and black pepper and continuing on with grilled wild game and burning Cuban cigar. Smartly structured with a light tannic grip and refreshing acidity, this wine has a way to go.

Woodward Canyon 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines ($80)

Almost entirely Cabernet, this juice comes from some of Washington’s oldest vines. The color shows an inky concentration and the tannins are broad-shouldered. The nose is highly perfumed with coffee grinds, dark chocolate, blueberries, black plum and cassis.

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