All hail king Cabernet

By on September 21, 2014
Cabernet Sauvignon in Quintessence Vineyard on Red Mountain

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Quintessence Vineyard on Washington’s Red Mountain. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

We can talk all day about Riesling, Syrah, Chardonnay, Merlot, Grenache and any of the other myriad wine grapes Washington grows with great success.

But at the end of the day, Washington will be judged by its Cabernet Sauvignon. Plain and simple.

Last fall, Cabernet Sauvignon became Washington’s No. 1 variety in total production – more than 40,000 tons – but it already was tops in the minds and souls of grape growers, winemakers, critics, restaurateurs and wine lovers. Already, Washington winemakers were starting to reduce their needs and wants in other varieties – particularly Syrah and Merlot – and focusing more effort on Cabernet Sauvignon.

The need – and Cab’s lead – are only going to become greater in future vintages. Grape growers in the Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope are planting primarily red varieties. And while they might put in a bit of Syrah, Merlot, Grenache and Mourvèdre, their primary grape going in the ground is king Cab.

And on Red Mountain? The ridge in the eastern Yakima Valley is Cab country, plain and simple. When Duckhorn planted its Longwinds Vineyard this spring, it was 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Merlot. Those are the kinds of percentages we continue to see in most vineyard plantings in the warmer areas of Washington’s vast Columbia Valley.

Here are a dozen examples of Washington Cabernet Sauvignon we’ve tasted in recent weeks.

Hail to the king.

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About Great Northwest Wine

Articles credited to Great Northwest Wine are authored by Eric Degerman and other contributors. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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