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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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(In the order of their
publication dates)

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 & Salmon
A 4-Part Series

White Rhone Varietals
A 3-Part Series

Versatile Chardonnays
A 3-Part Series

Italian Varietals in America
A 3-Part Series

Cabernet Sauvignon
and Blends

A 3-Part Series


Wines of the Week
...Earlier Columns


Chuck's Wine Reviews
of other Northwest Wines

Organized by varietal













































Wines of the Week
Published November 22, 2014

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

The weather has cooled, the holidays are upon us, and it is time to prepare hearty foods for the dinner table.  For meat lovers, beef and lamb are two selections that cry out for rich red wines of character.  Many wine lovers prefer Cabernet Sauvignon and blends of Cabernet with other Bordeaux red varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere).  These “Bordeaux blends” offer ripe black currant (cassis) fruit with cherry, plum, blackberry and dozens of nuances of aging in oak (vanilla, spice, smoky cedar). 

For wines only a few years old, decant the wines for aeration prior to serving.  A suitable method of revealing a young wine’s optimum character is to pour (decant) the wine into a vessel (decanter) then to pour it back into the bottle.  This aeration should be done about an hour before the wine will be served.  For some really tight wines, several hours might be better 

For our first tasting, Chef Ted made the Albanian national lamb dish Tavė Kosi, which ends up looking like a rustic quiche, but includes lamb, rice, garlic and yogurt in a combination that is mouthwatering and superb with red wines. 

Quilceda Creek Vintners
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Mountain AVA

For those with connections and/or lots of disposable income, seeking out the pinnacle of Washington red wine is a laudable holiday pursuit.  Director of Winemaking Paul Golitzin made this wine from Cabernet grown at the winery’s Golitzine Vineyard.  The marvel of this outstanding wine is the balance and structure.  Aged for 21 months in 100% new French oak, it offers dark fruits, dark chocolate and spice – but no awkward wood character – just vanilla and hints of cedar.  It is a wine to sip and savor with your finest holiday meats. 

Upchurch Vineyard
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Mountain AVA

DeLille Cellars’ Director of Winemaking, Chris Upchurch, staked a claim at his own corner of Red Mountain to create his personal wine with his wife Thea.  Washington vineyard legend Dick Boushey manages Upchurch Vineyard and the harvests from 2010, 2011 and 2012 have produced memorable wines.  This 2011 bottling shows bright aromas of raspberry and cherry with floral notes and hints of dried herbs.  The palate offers dark red fruits with vanilla, mineral and spice – tastes great with lamb. 


Grand Ciel
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Mountain AVA

This wine takes a while to “breathe up” and reveal its ultimate complexity and power.  Once awakened, it makes an impressive statement about Red Mountain and about the massive and expansive wines that can be made there.  Layers of rich dark fruits flex their strength against bonds of new oak, which are revealed as notes of leather, tobacco, spice and earthy mineral.  Once again, it is the structure and balance that offer a benediction of success as you contemplate a near-perfect wine. 


Coeur d’Alene Cellars
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine was made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown at Bacchus Vineyard in the Columbia Valley AVA and 23% Syrah from select vineyards in other areas.  Aromas and flavors of spicy cherry candy, ripe plum, caramel and vanilla mingle with hints of herbs.  The palate is rich and full bodied and pairs well with meats from the grill or pasta with hearty sauces. 

L’Ecole No 41
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley  AVA

The winemakers at L’Ecole No 41 achieved complexity in this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine, selecting lots from five Walla Walla Valley vineyards representing three distinct soil types.  River rock, fractured basalt and wind-blown loess represent the diversity of terroir in the Walla Walla Valley.  The wine offers aromas of cassis, dark plum and earthy mineral leading to complex flavors of dark fruits, spicy oak and hints of vanilla and caramel on the finish – a nice pairing for lamb. 

Maryhill Winery
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

This single-vineyard Cabernet produced by Maryhill Winery hails from the Alder Ridge Vineyard above the Columbia River in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.  From the first of two successive cool vintages in Washington, the wine, none the less, offers ripe fruit aromas and juicy flavors.  Notes of spicy oak, vanilla and wet stone add complexity, and bracing acidity assures food compatibility.  This special wine is available only through the Maryhill Winery wine club; contact the winery for details.  

Columbia Crest
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Estates
Columbia Valley AVA

Now where in the world can you get a world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, suitable for your holiday dinner for just $12?  Right here in Washington State!  Winemaker Juan Muñoz-Oca makes enough of this special wine to share around the world.  It offers ripe aromas of cassis mingling with hints of vanilla, caramel and toasty oak.  The palate is medium-bodied with flavors of berry, dark cherry and barrel spice/toasty cedar.  Stock up for the holidays! 

Maryhill Winery
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Les Collines Vineyard
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Here is another tempting single-vineyard bottling from winemaker Richard Batchelor at Maryhill.  This one is crafted from grapes grown at Les Collines Vineyard along the Oregon border in the Walla Walla Valley AVA.  Aromas and flavors of ripe blueberry and black currant come through over waves of graham cracker, vanilla, caramel and smoky cedar.  Available through the Maryhill wine club.

Native Sun
(Purple Star Winery)
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Mountain AVA

Kyle and Amy Johnson are the proprietors of Purple Star Wines in the eastern Yakima Valley town of Benton City.  They produce the Native Sun Bordeaux varietal wines exclusively from fruit grown on Red Mountain AVA.  This wine hails from Heart of the Hill Vineyard.  Look for very ripe blackberry and dried plum cocooned in toasty oak, with caramel, earthy mineral and vanilla – pretty intense, needs decanting and aeration to show its stuff. 

Hightower Cellars
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Mountain AVA

From their little corner near the top of Red Mountain, Tim and Kelly Hightower reveal that blending this wine required 18 iterations before they arrived at the perfect blend.  The wine is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon with Malbec, Merlot and just a bit of Cabernet Franc in the mix.  Aromas and flavors of cassis, herbs and berry mingle with earthy tobacco and floral notes - good acidity for food pairing. 

Walla Walla Vintners
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Old friends Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri founded Walla Walla Vintners in 1995 after many years of home winemaking.  As their 20th anniversary approaches, they have a talented staff handling most of the winery chores, and their wines are well respected throughout the wine world.  The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon came from six Walla Walla vineyards and was blended with small amounts of five other Bordeaux varietals.  Look for aromas and flavors of cherry and cassis with notes of mint, dark chocolate and toasty vanilla – great with lamb or beef. 

Bowlus Hills
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Walla Walla Valley AVA

Zerba Cellars winemaker Doug Nierman crafted this second-label Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes grown at four Walla Walla Valley vineyards near the Oregon-Washington border.  Aging in American oak (33% new) added toasty and vanilla nuances to a fruity base of dark plum and cherry with notes of tobacco, dark chocolate and cedar.  It is a very nice complement to lamb or beef on the holiday table. 

Woodward Canyon Winery
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Artist Series

Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon is produced from many of the finest and most highly regarded vineyards in Washington State.  Winemaker Kevin Mott blended Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and a touch of Syrah with 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and delivered this winning wine.  Look for rich fruit of black cherry and blueberry with notes of anise, herb and caramel.  The wine opens beautifully with breathing and paired well with our roasted lamb. 

Stemilt Creek Winery
2010 A Day’s Work
Columbia Valley

Stemilt Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend pays tribute to Thomas Cyle who said: “I cometh to this country with nothing more but a day’s work in my hands.”   Stemilt Creek Winery offers tastings at their Wenatchee and Leavenworth tasting rooms – each is open seven days a week.  A Day’s Work offers aromas of cassis and dark cherry with hints of toasty oak.  The palate is juicy with cherry and plum flavors and a finish of caramel, vanilla and spicy oak. 

Wines from Other Areas

Domaine Baron de Rothschild
2011 Pauillac
Bordeaux, France

This wine is part of the Lafite Reserve Speciale line of wines coming from the estate of Domaine Baron de Rothschild.  It is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot coming from the Bordeaux commune of Pauillac.  Look for delicate cassis notes surrounded by earthy mineral, tobacco, graphite and baking spices with a finish of dark chocolate and and barrel spice. 

Joseph Phelps Vineyard
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley AVA

This 40th vintage of Joseph Phelps Cabernet came from five estate vineyards located throughout the Napa Valley.  The Old World style showcases complex aromas of dark cherry and plum with cigar box, toasty cedar, and herbs.  The palate is rich with blueberry and cassis with baking spice and anise layered with caramel and vanilla. 

Haras de Pirque
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Gran Reserva
Hussonet, Chile

This wine comes from the Haras vineyards in Chile’s Maipo Valley, a region at the foothills of the Andes with vineyards planted at between 1,500 and 2,500 feet elevation.  The area is sometimes referred to as  “the Latin American Bordeaux.”  Cabernet and Syrah make up the blend, featuring spicy cassis and fresh herbs mingling with mineral and barrel spice.  A finish of soft tannins with anise, cocoa and mint pairs well with lamb. 

Tortoise Creek Wines
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Lodi, CA

This wine named “Cherokee Lane” pays tribute to a stretch of old Highway 99 that runs through Lodi and the surrounding vineyards.  Grapes were sourced from sustainably farmed vineyards in Lodi.  Aromas and flavors of dark cherry and red plum are complemented by notes of vanilla and caramel with baking spices and hints of floral perfume – good value.

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©  November, 2014  Chuck Hill
All rights reserved.  Last revised: 11/22/2014