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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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(In the order of their
publication dates)

Meat My Merlot
A 4-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2015

Bordeaux Buddies
The Blending Grapes

on their own
A 4-Part Series
Published Aug & Sep 2015

Wines for Oysters
and Mussels

A 4-Part Series
Published July & Aug 2015

Pinot Noir & Salmon
A 4-Part Series
Published June & July 2015

Red Rhone Varietals
A 4-Part Series
Published Apr & May 2015

50 Shades of Chardonnay
A 4-Part Series
Published Mar & Apr 2015

Italian Varietals Come
to America

A 4-Part Series
Published Jan & Feb 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon
& Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published Nov & Dec 2014


Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal



















Wines of the Week

Published November 23, 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends
...with Lamb for the Holidays
Part 1 of a 4-Part Series
By Chuck Hill

This holiday time of year sends wine lovers to their cellars or to their favorite wine merchant to select rich and hearty red wines to accompany the festive beef, lamb and other entrees of the season.  Since my first Thanksgiving article last week didn’t feature any Cabernets, I’m combining the kickoff of the annual Cabernet and Blends extravaganza in time for you to choose a blockbuster wine to accompany your Thanksgiving meal.  Turkey is traditional, but lamb is a treat that can’t be beat. 

Each of my Cabernet review columns will include wines from all price points.  While this time of year nudges our hands deep into the wallet with regularity, there are times when a simple-but-tasty wine is appropriate. Cheers!

Grand Ciel by DeLille
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Mountain AVA

This superb Cabernet Sauvignon was crafted by DeLille wine master Chris Upchurch who co-founded DeLille Cellars in 1992 with Greg Lill, Jay Soloff and the late Charles Lill.  The winery planted their estate Grand Ciel vineyard next to Ciel du Cheval and has released this special wine each year since 2004.  Refreshingly Old World in style, the wine offers complex aromas of cassis, pepper and mint leading to rich flavors of black currant, blueberry, tapenade, toasty caramel and spice.  Perfect structure and balance make it a food-friendly masterpiece for holiday dining. 

Pepper Bridge
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

The hit parade continues with another outstanding wine, this time from Walla Walla, featuring grapes grown at Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge and Octave Vineyards.  Winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet came to Pepper Bridge in 1999 as it was being developed and has become a busy superstar of the Walla Walla wine industry.  His 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon captures the taster with aromas of toasty plum and cassis mingling mineral and herbs. The palate has excellent structure supporting blackberry, cocoa and mineral flavors. 

Quilceda Creek
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Galitzen Vineyard
Red Mountain AVA

From the warm 2012 vintage, Paul Golitzen’s Quilceda Creek Cabernet weighs in at over 15% alcohol, but his winemaking expertise took the reigns and he produced another stellar bottling.  Classic Red Mountain aromas of black fruits, violets and cassis dance with mineral, vanilla and hints of anise and cedar.  The palate is perfectly structured for aging, offering flavors of black currant, earthy mineral, dark cherry and roasted meats.  This is a great wine now and will be even better with a few years aging.  (Golitzen's Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the same vintage was ranked by Wine Spectator as the #2 wine of the magazine's Top 100 Wines of 2015.)

Adams Bench
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, The V
Columbia Valley AVA

Tim and Erica Blue craft Cabernet Sauvignon at their winery above the Woodinville valley from grapes harvested from many of Eastern Washington’s most prestigious vineyards.  The winery name comes from Tim’s law profession, but the scientist in charge of winemaking is Erica who is a physician.  This wine was tasted with many “heavy hitters” and garnered high scores across the board.  Look for Old World aromas and flavors of cassis, tobacco and herbs that complement notes of vanilla, plum, smoky cedar and mineral. 

Cinder Wines
2013 Cab/Merlot/Malbec
Snake River Valley AVA

Winemaker Melanie Krause crafts her fine wines from grapes grown in vineyards near her winery in Garden Valley, Idaho in the Snake River Valley AVA.  Her annual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec offers fruity aromas of red cherry, vanilla and juicy berry, leading to a complex palate that adds olives and herbs to a base of cassis, cherry and plum. 

Upchurch Vineyard
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Mountain AVA

Chris Upchurch and Theadora Upchurch are the proprietors of Upchurch Vineyard and Winery on the south end of Red Mountain.  Chris eagerly anticipates each vintage, looking forward to the creation of a new wine. Thea enjoys discovering the nuances as each bottling reveals itself through aging.  This highly rated wine offers aromas and flavors of blackberry, cassis, graphite, herbs and toasty oak with excellent balance and structure for aging. 

Chateau Ste. Michelle “Ethos”
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve
Columbia Valley AVA

The majority of fruit for Chateau Ste. Michelle’s signature reserve bottling comes from their venerable Cold Creek Vineyard north of the Yakima Valley.  The power and structure of this fruit is evident in the finished wine as the taster unwraps layers of blueberry and blackberry fruit and barrel flavors of coffee, caramel and dark chocolate – superb with lamb, also with dark meat turkey. 

Six Prong by Alder Ridge
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

This enticing Cabernet was crafted from grapes grown at The Benches vineyards at the east end of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA above the Wallula Gap where the Columbia River turns west and heads to the Pacific Ocean.  It is a dramatic sight whether viewed from above or from the Oregon side of the river east of Umatilla.  The wine offers aromas and flavors of black cherry and plum and notes of baking spice, coconut and vanilla – great flavors for the season!  

Cotes de Ciel
2012 Flagship Reserve
Red Mountain AVA

This blend from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain is only one-third Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance between Merlot (50%) and Cabernet Franc (17%).  It shows more like a Cabernet in the glass and offers quite a bit of appeal for those seeking a big and roundish wine for meaty entrees.  Aging in 100% new French oak added lots of toasty and spicy nuances, but the floral, plum and cherry are still there to dance with the cocoa, tobacco and baking spice. 

Mercer Estates
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Grapes for this wine came from Mercer Estates’ Spice Cabinet, Big Tee Pee and Princeton Vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.  From the warm 2013 growing season, this wine offers ripe aromas and flavors of black currant, plum and blackberry with finishing notes of caramel and vanilla over supple tannins. 

Brian Carter Cellars
2010 Solesce
Wahluke Slope AVA

Washington’s master blender, Brian Carter, crafts his flagship “Solesce” Bordeaux-style blend from grapes grown in select Washington vineyards – this vintage from Stone Tree Vineyards on the Wahluke Slope.  This warm vineyard site afforded fully ripe fruit in one of Washington’s coolest vintage years.  Look for aromas of earthy tobacco, cassis and rich cherry followed on the palate by black fruits and vanilla with balanced acidity and silky tannins on the finish. 

14 Hands Winery
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, The Reserve
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

The 14 Hands Winery brand has captured the nation with it clever equine themes, memorable television commercials, and mostly its line of flavorful and food-friendly wines.  Winemaker Keith Kenison used grapes from warm sites in the Horse Heaven Hills to craft this fruity beauty, featuring cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors with notes of cocoa, spice and finishing with dusty tannins. 

Reininger Winery
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Chuck and Tracy Reininger graduated from their first small winery at the Walla Walla Airport to their new facility on Highway 12 six miles west of Walla Walla.  The larger space for production, offices and a welcoming tasting room have helped the winery grow to a thriving enterprise.  You can enjoy a visit to Reininger anytime, but especially during the holiday barrel tasting, Dec. 4 - 6.  Look for this Cabernet featuring black cherry, currant and plum with notes of baking spice, mineral and toasty cedar. 

Wines from other areas:

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma County

The Arrowood winery lies in Sonoma County, tucked between the Mayacamas and the Sonoma Mountain ranges.  Grapes for this wine were sourced from the Sonoma, Knights and Alexander Valleys.  The wine has just the right amount of oak – mostly French, 20% new – and is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon with small amounts of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Look for aromas of blueberry and plum with notes of orchard blossom and dark cherry.  The palate adds nuances of baking spice and anise, yielding to a soft and flavorful finish. 

Stonestreet Estate Vineyards
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Alexander Valley

The Stonestreet Estate Vineyards occupy 900 acres of the 5,100-acre estate atop the western edge of the Mayacamas Mountains overlooking the Alexander Valley.  From the cooler 2011 vintage, the wine offers aromas of black currant and dark cherry with notes of green olive and citrus.  On the palate, fruit flavors mingle with firm-textured tannins and finishing notes of caramel, mineral and coffee. 

2012 ASKA Rosso
Bolgheri, Tuscany

You may not recognize the tiny region of Bolgheri in Tuscany, but in 1974 a wine named Sassicaia started the whole Super Tuscan craze.  In 1994 the DOC for Bolgheri red wines was approved, allowing Cabernet Sauvignon and other red varieties to be sold under the region’s name.  Sassicaia now retails for over $250, but for a tenth of that you can enjoy this red wine redolent of raspberry and blueberry with notes of tobacco, licorice and toasty cedar – great with meats from the grill.

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All rights reserved.  Last revised: 11/20/2015