In the hierarchy of West Coast wine regions Napa Valley is the one to chase. It always has been. How often have you heard the comment about, say, Paso Robles (or fill in the blank with any other AVA), “It’s just like Napa 30 years ago.” While it’s hard to argue that Napa’s reputation for absolute top-quality—one might say Grand Cru—wine isn’t well-deserved, there’s plenty of smart money betting that a few other places vie in the same Bordeaux space and excel with distinctive wines, in many ways, because they aren’t Napa.
The experts have always known this. Napa Valley’s own André Tchelistcheff, vice president and chief winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyards from 1938 to 1973 and widely considered the most influential American winemaker after Prohibition, had a famously keen eye for good terroir and cast it in far-flung places. Back in the ’70s, when he was kicking a little dirt in nascent Washington wine country, the Golitzin family consulted with “the dean of winemaking,” as he was often called in the industry, after which they founded Quilceda Creek, which would go on to earn six perfect 100-point scores from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. (There’s fascinating pedigree here: The Golitzins are descendants of Prince Lev Sergeevich Galitzine, who was an acclaimed winemaker for Russian Czar Nicholas II and dubbed “the creator of Russian champagne.” And yes, Tchelistcheff was Quilceda Creek founder Alexander Golitzin’s maternal uncle.)
In addition to Quilceda Creek, we’ve mined Washington state for Cabernet Sauvignons that go toe-to-toe with Napa’s best, yet offer variety of character from the king of reds.
Doubleback 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
His retirement plan after 14 years as an NFL quarterback, Doubleback brought Drew Bledsoe back to his home town of Walla Walla. Crushed-rock aromas open this 2017 on a savory note, joining complex veins of dark fruit wrapped in tobacco leaf and mint. Vibrant energy and impressive structure suggest this is one to age, for the lovely berry fruit balanced with crushed herbs to fully express itself.
Quilceda Creek 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
This perfumed beauty from Quilceda Creek proves the wisdom of the Golitzin family’s choice of Washington in 1978, when they were only the 12th bonded winery (post-Prohibition) in the state. Aromatic forest floor, mint, warm spice, and crushed tobacco leaf unfold around classic cassis on the nose. A cherry cordial character joins velvety tannins and savory minerality to create an incredibly elegant wine with an enormous yum factor.
Abeja 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
This elegant red from Abeja—one of Walla Walla’s terrific producers, which doubles as a lovely inn—folds in everything you want in a Cabernet. Cassis and dark plum on the nose are layered with cocoa, spice, and touches of cedar and minerality. The palate is beautifully balanced between generous, juicy fruit—plum, berry, and cherry—and elegant structure, with toasted spice coming together with fine tannins on the finish.
Canvasback 2017 Grand Passage Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
This exciting new vintage from Duckhorn’s Washington outpost showcases what talented winemaking can shape from the power of Red Mountain. An alluring mashup of cedar, leather, earth, and dusty berry aromas give way to a juicy and intense palate spilling with spiced berry and cherry flavors with hints of savory herbs carrying through a long, long finish.
Col Solare 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
This 2017 from Col Solare is the kind of wine that has earned Washington’s Red Mountain its reputation for powerful reds. It broods a little on the nose, with loam and forest floor notes underlying cassis and hints of licorice. A light salinity surprises (in a good way) as the palate unfolds with dense and concentrated layers. Dark chocolate and toasted spice join dark berry and cherry against bold but mature tannins.
Force Majeure 2017 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain
Bottled unfined and unfiltered, this powerhouse from Force Majeure lets the savage side of Red Mountain peek through (in the best way). Earthy aromas of dry loam, graphite, and leather pull you in, then give way to blueberry and a hint of florals. Dense, plush fruit flavors lean toward dark berries (blueberry again stands out, edged with savory herbs); cocoa adds to the wine’s intriguing textures.