I’m just going to warn you that today’s post involves a little math, so maybe you want to pour yourself a glass of something before continuing. May I recommend a Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon that’s perfectly suited to your palate?
Washington boasts over 30 different varietals, but Cab is the most harvested grape at 47,400 tons per year. That’s just shy of 95 million pounds of grapes. If we figure that 2.6 pounds of grapes per bottle of wine (that’s just an estimate but don’t worry I let the gang at Cornell University do the figuring for me) that’s…wow! Lets just say it’s a lot of bottles of wine. Here at My Wine Tribe, we decided to do our part to help with what must be a real storage problem and simultaneously celebrate Washington Wine Month with a blind tasting of some of the state’s finest Cabs. With over 900 wineries in Washington, identifying the best bottles of Cabernet can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Lucky for us, Sean P. Sullivan, a local wine journalist and expert, recently published his list of the Top 100 Washington Wines.
The list gave us a great head start. But remember that while Mr. Sullivan is an expert, he is a party of one. He can identify great wines, but he can’t provide nuance based on your palate preference. And that is where My Wine Tribe comes in. Take our nifty quiz to find your wine tribe and then read on for recommendations from others who share your palate preferences.
A Lovely Line Up of Washington Cabs
The lineup for our blind tasting of Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon follows:
2012 Gramercy Cellars ($47): This wine is no. 5 on Sullivan’s list of top Cabs.
2013 Tamarack Cellars ($32): No. 12 on the list.
2013 Fidelitas Quintessence ($60): This wine is no. 4 on the list, making it the highest ranked wine of those we tasted.
2013 Longshadows Feather ($70): No. 10 on the list, this one is the highest-priced of our selections.
WA Wine Winners, and Also-Rans
We tasted the Gramercy Cellars first. Despite the high ranking on Sullivan’s list (and the cool label), none of our tribes gravitated toward this wine. Tasters liked the aromas of spice, earth, pepper and fig, but that was about all the favorable comments they could muster. Though the wine had no more alcohol than any of our other choices, our tasters noted an overwhelming sense of alcohol in this bottle: “When I breathe it in, it makes me cough.” They also found the wine to be quite tannic, “like eating berries when they are still green and unripe.” This wine is much better with food, and decanting (for a long while) could help balance it out. But in the end, regardless of your tribe, I wouldn’t bother with this one.
The Tamarack Cellars bottle was the least expensive wine and on the lower end of Sullivan’s list. Of course, since this was a blind tasting no one knew that before we put glass to lips. That made for a pleasant surprise when we unveiled the wines. Our tasters gave this wine a lot of love, and it was the clear favorite of the Balanced Tribe. The wine yielded light scents of smoke, graham crackers and olives. And the Balanced Tribe really dug the tastes of almond paste (or Almond Joy according to one taster), blackberries and honey. This wine is “so good with food!” And after a bit of decanting, it gets even richer and velvety smooth.
Wine that Pleases the Most Palates
The number one choice for both the Developed and Complex Tribes was the Fidelitas Quintessence. Folks liked its minerally, jammy scents and raved about how it tasted. Some of the predominate flavors are spice, blackberry jam, leather and dark chocolate. Tasters were effusive in their praise, leaving comments like “smooth like a Cab should be”, “great with food”, “Big! But nicely balanced” and “Earthy yet juicy. Love!” If you’re in the Developed or Complex Tribes, I strongly recommend this one.
Finally, we tried the Longshadows Feather. To my surprise, Accessible Tribe members loved this wine. Cabernet’s boldness usually overwhelms the Accessible Tribe’s delicate palate, but this wine was ultra-smooth, a bit sweet and not overly tannic or acidic. Perfect for people who don’t think they like Cabernet. Our tasters commented on its scents of warm cream, ginger and roasted nuts. And they liked its flavors of milk chocolate, raisins and black currents. If you are in the Accessible Tribe, tickle your taste buds with the Feather.
And with that, Ill leave you with my favorite quote of the night from a Complex Tribe member who declared that her “porch-sippin’ Cab” would be the Tamarack Cellars bottle, but her “food-sippin’ Cab” was the Fidelitas. I agree, and encourage you to drink more Washington State Cabernets to find your favorites for all sippin’ occasions. Drop a comment and let us know what you discover. Cheers!