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.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: RUS
    119003 277

    When you talk about $30+ wines, you are probably talking to under 5% of the market. The people I know just aren't spending that kind of money on a bottle of wine and I live in a fairly prosperous area.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 11:48 AM

  • Snooth User: Lucha Vino
    Hand of Snooth
    249612 105,185

    These are all top notch Washington Cabs. For RUS, the Powers is an awesome cab at 30 dollars. Champoux is one of the best vineyards in the state and their grapes are highly sought after. If you can find any wines from Champoux you should give them a try. There are many available in the 35 and under range.

    Over thirty could be considered the "splurge zone" for many people - it is for me. So, I choose carefully when looking at the wines in the 30 - 50 dollar range. I don't buy very many of them and want to make sure I am getting something I am going to enjoy.

    Look for Gamache, Powers and Soos Creek. All three wineries are offering up some great wines at "affordable" prices. I would put any of these up against Napa Valley cabs in the $100 range.

    Corliss is a winery I would add to this list. They are making some stellar wines and they are aging them for you. Their current release is from the 2007 vintage. Corliss wines are in the 60 - 70 dollar range and are worth every penny. This is another winery that would easily matchup with California wines at twice the price.

    Corliss has a sister winery - Tranche Cellars - that offers up high quality wines in the 25 - 40 dollar range.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 1:23 PM

  • Snooth User: Christy Canterbury MW
    Hand of Snooth
    1060100 89,423

    RUS, I agree these aren't inexpensive wines. These are my TOP quality picks. Any wines lower on the totem pole that are also made by any of these producers will be excellent. It would be fun to put together a top value list, too. WA makes so many great reds.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 1:30 PM

  • Snooth User: Zuiko
    Hand of Snooth
    540750 822

    California Cabernets are having a hard time competing against the 2009 and 2010 red Bordeaux, price wise right now and it looks like WA is priced a bit more realistically. When Bordeaux has two nice years in a row, there is so much good wine available, that it makes a rare buying opportunity. That quantity of good juice also keeps the prices lower than normal.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 3:22 PM

  • Snooth User: bbqwineco
    1099595 12

    A very fascinating list that is long overdue. Bravo! My only quibble is that the vast majority of these wines have been sold out for years. As the largest retailer of premium and rare Washignton state wines on the planet, we have as many back vintages as anybody on these wines and even I have only 3 of these vintages in stock.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 3:25 PM

  • The only wine I would add is Columbia Crest H3 both the 06 and 09 are refined and focused and at $15.00 a bottle a deal if you can find them.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 3:43 PM

  • Snooth User: cromero13
    1126432 13

    I'll go along with RUSS's comments... I am part of the 98% who loves very good and affordable wines

    Dec 13, 2012 at 4:13 PM

  • Snooth User: bbqwineco
    1099595 12

    I think some folks are missing the point of this article. I thought this was about the 'top 10' not the 'top value' wines from Washington. I suspect if a comparison was made of this 'top 10' list against similar lists from Bordeaux, California and the Cabernet based wines from Italy, the value would be overwhelmingly shown here. The fact that 'only wines under $100' were considered doesn't state that there are less than 5 Cabernets in the whole state that are over $100 when released, and most of them come from 1 winery, Quilceda Creek, who's string of 100 point scored from the Advocate puts them in the league with 1st growth Bordeaux and the big Cult wines from Napa. Compare the prices between these, and again, Washington wines wine the 'value' game.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 4:29 PM

  • Snooth User: RUS
    119003 277

    I agree with Zuiko that Bordeaux has great values right now. Plenty of great every day wines under $20, like at a shop I visit:

    Dec 13, 2012 at 4:38 PM

  • Snooth User: bbqwineco
    1099595 12

    if looking for the wines featured in this article, and similar upper tier Washington State wines, one must really check out

    Dec 13, 2012 at 5:48 PM

  • Snooth, Many thanks for featuring our wines in your recent articles. We appreciate your recognition of Washington wines!
    Soos Creek Wine Cellars

    Dec 13, 2012 at 6:08 PM

  • I just don't agree with Rus. Most wine for daily consumption, by people who actually like wine, is probably between $15 and $30. I do suspect that consumption by volume over the entire marketplace does skew much lower, but then you are dealing with figures that are driven by huge sales to food service establishments, caterers, and individuals and business buying in bulk for events.

    However, simply the fact that these wines ($30 - $90) exist, and are regularly stocked by almost all retailers (and not in the "special section" either), indicates that the market for them is healthy. Maybe not for Tuesday night spaghetti with the kids, but probably for a dinner with friends once a month.

    On the other hand, bottles that sell for significantly over $100 are much more scarce at the retailers, and that should indicate less of an every day market. Those wines ($100 - $500) are bought, sold, and consumed, but not by the mass market.

    What it really comes down to is that even if most of the bottles that I buy are $15 malbecs and shirazs from Australia, I would rather read and learn about the wines that I only purchase occasionally. There is nothing worse that spending $50 on a Chateauneuf du Pape and feeling as if you wasted your money.

    Dec 14, 2012 at 8:27 AM

  • Snooth User: mumm5
    1053580 1

    What about a2 from Alexandria Nicole?

    Dec 16, 2012 at 1:18 PM

  • Snooth User: Nerdmom920
    1137005 145

    I work for a grocery store with an adjoining liquor store, and I have to say that although the information in this article is very useful and interesting, most people who buy wine regularly would be splurging if they spen $30 on a bottle. $20 is the max for everyday here and people more regularly spend $10-15. It is good to be able to rely on someone to "vet" the more expensive bottles.

    Jan 01, 2013 at 11:32 AM

  • Snooth User: EmmaJansen
    1339600 34


    Sep 07, 2013 at 1:03 AM

  • awesome

    Sep 08, 2013 at 4:19 PM

  • Snooth User: cglaw2013
    1341096 33

    really nice

    Sep 11, 2013 at 4:17 AM

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