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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived February 7, 2014
Originally Published December 12, 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends
for the Holidays
Part 3 of a 3-Part Series (See Part 1) (See Part 2)
By Chuck Hill

Accompanied by pan-fried steak with hearty mushroom sauce, we tasted another fine round of delicious Cabernet Sauvignon wines and blends of Cabernet with other varietals.  Enjoy these wines with your finest meats and hearty entrees.   

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season. 

DeLille Cellars
2010 Harrison Hill
Snipes Mountain AVA

This impressive blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot is made from grapes grown at Washington’s second oldest vineyard.  Harrison Hill is in the central Yakima Valley's Snipes Mountain AVA and boasts historic 50-year-old vines.  Showing a great balance of power, finesse and complexity, the wine’s aroma intrigues the taster with black cherry and black currant on the front with notes of summer herbs, cedar and earthy mineral following.  The palate is a balance of fruit and spice flavors with balancing acidity and a companionable presence of toasty oak. 

L’Ecole No 41
2010 Perigee, Seven Hills Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Here’s another winner from L’Ecole No 41 highlighting the fruit from their estate Seven Hills Vineyard in the southern Walla Walla Valley.  Look for complex aromas of cassis, black cherry, fragrant herbs and vanilla.  The palate offers great depth, with rich black currant and berry flavors mingling with spicy oak and dark chocolate – nice acidity for pairing with your favorite foods. 


2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Burney’s Blend
Columbia Valley

Coming from a small town in northern California, Hillary Sjolund started out at U.C. Davis as a pre-med major but became sidetracked to winemaking through an academic distribution class on the subject.  More than a dozen years later, with stints at wineries in Chile, California and Washington behind her, Sjolund has her own winery and winemaking consulting business.  Her Cabernet, Burney’s Blend, is named after her grandfather and offers complex aromas of cranberry, green olive, herbs and cherry with flavors of spicy cherry and plum on the palate.  94% Cab Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot.


Delille Cellars
2010 Chaleur Estate
Red Mountain AVA

Winemaker Chris Upchurch crafts this red blend from fruit grown at the Red Mountain vineyards of Klipsun and Ciel du Cheval – formidable players in Red Mountain grape growing.  Many aspects of this wine are related to the character it gains from barrel aging in quality French oak.  From notes of spice and cocoa on the palate, to aromas of pepper, cedar and anise on the nose, the wine’s fruit brings the whole together with red fruits of currant, cherry and plum balancing the toasty goodness to a perfect union. 

Columbia Winery
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley

Columbia Winery has a new label, a new winemaker and new directions beginning with four new releases coming out in January of 2014.  Talented winemaker Sean Hails brought experience from his native Canada, Australia and California as he took the reins of winemaking at Columbia in 2012.  Following the release of the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Red Blend and Chardonnay, other varietals and blends are in the works for the future.  The new Cabernet offers varietally true aromas of black currant, blackberry and herb with similar fruit flavors augmented by notes of cocoa and toasty oak.  

Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, A2
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

This juicy Cabernet from winemakers Jarrod Boyle and Matt Dodson gives wine lovers a chance to sip and savor a medium-bodied, flavorful wine and appreciate complexity and nuance.  It is very accessible now, showing aromas and flavors of cran-cherry, plum, fresh herbs and toasty oak.  Sip with cheeses and snacks or grill up some meats for a more carnivorous wine-tasting experience. 

L’Ecole No 41
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

To craft this wine, the winemakers at L’Ecole No 41 selected lots of grapes from vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley, including Klipsun, Stone Tree, Alder Ridge, Cold Creek and others.  Such a variety of grape sources gives the resulting wine a balance of flavors, textures and complexity.  Look for aromas and flavors of dark fruits, mint, earthy herb and notes of toasty cedar and vanilla. 

Columbia Crest Winery
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, H3
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Columbia Crest Winery has done a very effective job of promoting the Horse Heaven Hills AVA with their H3 (Horse Heaven Hills) designation on the wines.  The winery is at the east end of the AVA with vineyards spreading west into the heart of the designated area.  This juicy Cabernet fills the bill for holiday entertaining at a value price, featuring ripe cherry and plum with notes of vanilla and toasty oak. 

DiStefano Winery
2010 Meritage
Columbia Valley AVA

Owner Mark Newton is celebrating 30 years of winemaking this year at DiStefano Winery.  His original sparkling wine production in the 1980s gave way to the now popular and successful line of still wines named for his wife’s maiden name.  This masculine Bordeaux-style blend is comprised chiefly of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Look for aromas of cherry and cassis with notes of violets and toasty oak leading to a firm palate of fruit and spicy oak that cries out to accompany your holiday prime rib of beef. 

Coeur d’Alene Cellars
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Coeur d’Alene Cellars in scenic northern Idaho specializes in Rhone varieties with a few other varieties and blends making occasional appearances.  The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon was crafted from grapes grown at Bacchus Vineyard, Stillwater Creek Vineyard and McKinley Springs Vineyard.  Aromas of ripe plum, violets and barrel spice lead to a rich palate of cassis, dried herbs and smoky cedar – excellent with grilled beef. 

Portteus Winery
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve
Yakima Valley AVA

Paul Portteus selected the best eight barrels of his 2008 Cabernet from his renowned Rattlesnake Hills vineyard to craft this mouth-filling red wine.  Lots of toasty new oak and long months in barrel give this wine firm structure to pair with ripe blackcurrant, dark cherry, vanilla and floral notes.  The finish is long and toasty with smoky caramel and silky tannins. 

Cathedral Ridge Winery
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve
Hillside Vineyard
Columbia Gorge AVA

The Hillside Vineyard in The Dalles, Oregon, is the source for some fine reserve wines from winemaker Michael Sebastiani of Cathedral Ridge Winery.  The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve offers aromas of dried herbs, earthy mineral and boysenberry wrapped in layers of toasty oak and caramel.  The palate offers rich flavors of dark fruits with vanilla, cocoa and caramel yielding to toasty cedar nuances on the finish. 

Duck Pond Cellars
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

Duck Pond Cellars farms 840 acres of vineyard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Washington's Wahluke Slope AVA..  The winery is known for value-priced bottlings that deliver varietally-true fruit with nuances found in much higher priced wines.  The nose opens with toasty oak and vanilla, yielding to hints of dark cherry and violets.  The palate is bright with dark fruit flavors and an earthy mineral tang, showing ample acidity to pair with your holiday meats and hearty sauces. 

Delfino Vineyards
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Umpqua Valley AVA

Jim and Terri Delfino operate their small, boutique winery beside their 18-acre vineyard in the picturesque rolling hills west of Roseburg, Oregon.  Their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in French oak (25% new) and was bottled unfiltered.  The wine is medium bodied with a light alcohol content of 13.1% and ample acidity to accompany rich foods.  Look for aromas and flavors of black fruits, spicy oak, plum and nutty vanilla on the finish. 

McKinley Springs
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

The 2000-acre McKinley Springs Vineyard in the southern Horse Heaven Hills AVA began with plantings by Louise and Bob Andrews in 1980.  In 1986, three of their children and their spouses founded Andrews and Rowell with the mission of continuing the family farming tradition.  This Cabernet Sauvignon was crafted partly from “old block” grapes from vines planted in 1980.  The wine opens with aromas of black cherry, herbs and baking spice with following notes of dark chocolate and hints of coconut.  The palate is rich with cherry and berry flavors wrapped in cocoa, vanilla and toasty oak. 

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve
Columbia Valley AVA

From the original small barn winery off McDonald Road west of Walla Walla, Waterbrook winery has crossed Highway 12 and created an expansive production facility and elegant visitor center where wine lovers can relax and taste indoors or out.  This is the new face of the Walla Walla wine industry where technology meets tradition, taking the region to the next level.  Winemaker John Freeman crafted this reserve bottling using both American and French oak aging.  Aromas of blackberry and black cherry mingle with notes of toasty cedar, vanilla and dark chocolate.  The jammy palate offers blueberry and currant fruits with spicy oak leading to a supple finish. 

Wines from other areas: 

Conn Creek Winery
2010 Anthology
Napa Valley AVA

Last week, I thoroughly enjoyed Conn Creek’s excellent varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, and this week their reserve Bordeaux-style blend impressed the tasters even more.  This flagship wine offers generous depth and complexity, showing aromas and flavors that announce its Bordeaux-varietal heritage.  Aromas of blackberries and plums mingle with notes of anise, vanilla and wildflowers.  The palate is a picture of complexity with flavors dancing across the palate – cassis, toasty cedar, dark fruits, cocoa and baking spice all playing a role.  Seek this wine out for your finest dinner party. 

Mount Veeder Winery
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley AVA

The rugged Mayacamas Mountains are home to Mount Veeder Winery whose vineyards climb the hills with terraces at elevations from 1,000 to 1,600 feet.  This classic Cabernet intrigued tasters with a bit of controversy.  Discussion about aromas of dried herbs led some to remark on “weedy” character.  In this case, “weedy” was intended as a good thing…in moderation.  Moderation was the key, and the wine’s other attributes – rich cassis, cherry, toasty oak and spice – combined to win the day, and the taster’s votes. 

LaPostolle Cuvee Alexandre
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Colchagua Valley, Chile

This wine wins the prize for grapes harvested from the oldest vineyard.  The source block of Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile’s Colchagua Valley was planted in 1920.  Harvest is by hand and fermentation takes place with wild yeasts in stainless steel and wooden tanks.  The wine is aged 13 months in small French oak.  The wine responds in an Old World way, offering aromas of ripe blackcurrant, plum and notes of tobacco and coffee.  The palate adds pleasant hints of caramel and spice, finishing with moderate tannins – very tasty with meats from the grill.

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