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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Cabernet Sauvignon
& Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published Nov & Dec 2014

Merlot and Malbec
A 3-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2014

Oyster and Mussel Wines
A 4-Part Series
Published Sept & Oct 2014

Red Rhone Varietals
and Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published July & Aug 2014

Pinot Noir & Copper
River Salmon

A 4-Part Series

White Rhone Varietals
A 3-Part Series

Versatile Chardonnays
A 3-Part Series


Index to Archived
Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal


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Last Week's Reviews
Published December 19, 2014

Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends – Part 4
Happy Holidays!
Part 4 of a 4-Part Series  (See Part 1)  (See Part 2)  (See Part 3
By Chuck Hill

The year is drawing to a close, yet the celebrations are just beginning with friends and families gathering to enjoy the finest foods and wines served in 2014.  I hope you have found many exciting new wines in my recommendations this year, and perhaps some of these discoveries will find a place on your holiday table.  Whether you buy your wines at the winery tasting room, at your local wine shop or grocery store, or even online with delivery by UPS, there are plenty of superb bottles to be had at all price points. 

This has been a good year to enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon wines for those who seek out Old World styles.  The 2010 and 2011 vintages (now widely available) were long and cool growing seasons favoring the earthy, herbal side of Cabernet and not so much the overripe heavy fruit wrapped in oodles of oak.  Enjoy these wines now, because early tastings of wines from 2012 and 2013 suggest bigger wines to come. 

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday season! 

Helix by Reininger
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

Helix is the genus name of the Burgundian escargot snail and an image of the delectable critter graces the wine label of this brand from Reininger Winery.  Helix is also the name of a rural farming community near Pendleton, Oregon that traces history in the winery's family.  Chuck Reininger’s Helix Cabernet comes from the Phinny Hill, Stone Tree and Bacchus Vineyards, and offers aromas of earthy mineral, blueberry and violets.  Flavors of dark berries, cassis, toasty vanilla and caramel pair very well with meats from the grill. 

14 Hands
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, The Reserve
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

The 14 Hands brand from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has grown very quickly by offering a wide range of varietal wines at very attractive prices.  The 14 Hands reserve wines are crafted from very ripe fruit from warm vineyard sites and are aged in French and American oak, mostly new.  This warm and powerful Cabernet offers aromas and flavors of ripe blackberry, blueberry, dried herbs and toasty components of caramel, vanilla, coffee and chocolate. 

Chateau Figareaux
2011 Tradition
Columbia Valley AVA

The Bordeaux varietal wines from Byron Dooley’s Seven of Hearts Winery are labeled under the Chateau Figareaux brand.  This Bordeaux-style blend features Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Franc, creating a rich and complex wine with red fruits mingling with vanilla and spice with hints of bell pepper and herbs on the finish.  It is a very tasty complement to your finest holiday meals. 

Hightower Cellars
2012 Murray Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

I almost let the holiday season go by without giving a ‘woof’ to Murray at Hightower Cellars!  Tim and Kelly Hightower honor their winery dog Murray with this flavorful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot.  You’ll wag your tail with delight when you taste the rich blackberry and cherry fruit with notes of toasty oak and vanilla. 


Tamarack Cellars
2012 Firehouse Red
Columbia Valley AVA

The old World War II Army air base near the Walla Walla airport was revived and given new purpose in the late 1990s when several wineries took residence in former air base buildings creating the Walla Walla Airport winery “incubator.”  One such repurposed facility was the air base fire station, now the home of Tamarack Cellars.  Owner Ron Coleman honored this heritage with his award-winning Firehouse Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and other varietals offering aromas and flavors of cherry and plum with notes of toasty oak, cocoa and floral perfume. 

Purple Star
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

Kyle and Amy Johnson are the proprietors of Purple Star Wines in the eastern Yakima Valley town of Benton City.  Their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon was crafted using 20% whole berries and a minimum of new oak in the barrel-aging regime.  The wine offers the classic Columbia Valley Cabernet nose of black cherry, dried herbs and cassis leading to flavors of blackberry and red fruits with hints of caramel and vanilla. 

Jacob Williams Winery
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

Jacob Williams Winery is a family-owned boutique winery in the beautiful Columbia Gorge where owner Brad Gearhart and 40-year NW winemaking veteran John Haw are dedicated to producing high-quality wines from the region’s finest vineyards.  This Cabernet from the cool 2010 vintage offers aromas and flavors of red currant, violets, cherry and lots of toasty oak – good with meats from the grill. 

Walla Walla Vintners
2012 Washington State Cuvee

This wine is a blend of all six Bordeaux varietals with emphasis on Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Grapes were harvested from vineyards throughout the state with several Walla Walla Valley properties included.  Jammy aromas and flavors of raspberry, blackberry and plum meet with barrel-inspired notes of tobacco, baking spices, vanilla and cocoa. 

Zerba Cellars
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

This Cabernet showcases fruit from the rocky floodplain of the Walla Walla River, blended with Cabernet Sauvignon from the winery’s higher altitude Cockburn Vineyard.  Ripe fruit aromas of black cherry, plum and cassis mingle with notes of vanilla and toasty oak with flavors on the palate echoing the nose.  It has nice acid balance for pairing with your favorite holiday meals. 

Maryhill Winery
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley AVA

The Columbia Gorge offers some of Washington’s most dramatic views, especially in the winter months.  Visit Maryhill Winery for the views, the wines and their cozy tasting room!  They are open up to 4pm on Christmas Eve.  Enjoy this easy-drinking Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon featuring aromas and flavors of dark cherry, herbs and olives with notes of vanilla and spicy cherry candy. 

Wines from other areas:

Two Angels
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Mayacamas Mountain

Join the two tipsy angels on the label in their celebration of the harvest with this food-friendly Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County.  The Mayacamas Mountain range separates the Napa Valley from the Sonoma Valley, and the vineyards are near the very top of the range.  Look for dark cherry, plum, cocoa and vanilla. 

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley

Emblem reflects the rich winemaking tradition of the Mondavi family in the Napa Valley, now carried forward by the fourth generation.  Winemaker Rob Mondavi, together with his sister Dina, crafted this elegant Cabernet Sauvignon from fruit grown on the northern Napa-hillside Oso Vineyard and valley floor vineyards in Oakville, Rutherford and Wooden Valley.  Rich blackberry and cassis aromas and flavors are complemented by nuances of earthy mineral, cocoa and toasty vanilla. 

Parducci Winery
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, True Grit Reserve

This Mendocino County Cabernet Sauvignon takes the name True Grit for its rich aromas and hearty palate – a perfect match for prime rib or other toothsome meats for the holidays.  Aromas of earthy mineral yield to dark fruits, cherry and chocolate, and a sip reveals flavors of cherry, cassis and vanilla with a finish of velvety tannins. 

Naked Grape
NV Cabernet Sauvignon
$20.00 3L

There are times when a simple Cabernet Sauvignon is just the thing to share with friends and relatives around the festive holiday buffet.  Wines in a box offer convenience (the wine stays fresh for weeks) and all parts of the package can be recycled.  Dark cherry and blackberry fruit with notes of herbs and floral perfume are the perfect pairing with everything from turkey to tenderloin to chocolate soufflé!

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