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Review: Cabernet Sauvignon Round-up

Written By | Feb 22, 2014

SEATTLE, February 21, 2014 — As the undisputed number one-selling red grape varietal, cabernet sauvignon in many ways is the “king of the red grapes”. There are numerous reasons why it’s number one, a few of those are its ability to pair so well with red meats, reflect terroir and be produced across the full spectrum of pricing. No matter what your wine budget is, there’s a cab out that will fit it.


2011 Catena – $20:

On the nose: Red licorice, dark chocolate, leather, raspberry, cherry and cola. Also notes of some herbal action, hibiscus flower, medicine cabinet and dirt.

On the palate: A superbly balanced wine with a very solid balance of acids, fruit and tannin. Argentina is clearly known more for its Malbec but don’t discount its cabs! A very easy-drinking wine that will get better over the next 5-8 years.


2010 B Cellars Synergy – $65:

On the nose: Dirty cherries, raspberries, cola, tanned leather, spice, vanilla, and tobacco.

On the palate:  A stellar cab that – after a few hours of decanting – opens up into quite the palate orgy of flavors. You’ll find a sublime combination of red fruit, peppercorns, leather and dark chocolate. What is groovy about this wine is how it layers in the various components on the palate which all work in concert to a finish that is ridiculously long. One sip and you’ll be hooked.

2010 Cade Napa Valley – $60:

On the nose: A cab of good complexity with notes of black cherry, baking spice, plum sauce, peppercorn and caramelized sugar cane.

On the palate: Like many well-made cabs from the Napa area that are being sold right now, this is a super young wine that still hasn’t “entered puberty” yet. Given another 3-5 years in the bottle, it should provide a car more rewarding experience. If you drink now, decant for several hours and you’ll have a solid cab that exhibits good fruit tannin and finish. 

2010 Cade Howell Mountain – $80:

On the nose: Strawberry, earth, vanilla, roses, cranberry and spice.

On the palate: Very solid tannins that are still too youthful right out of the bottle so letting this wine open up is a good idea. Flavors of strawberry, huckleberry, spiced-vanilla, bramble and a bit of “forest floor funk” ride across the tongue like an easy glider sleigh.

2010 Ehlers Estate 1886 – $100:

On the nose: Lightly smoked cherries with vanilla, cassis, Big League Chew gum, dried plums, fig, chocolate, tobacco with hints of peppercorn and leather.

On the palate: A sublime cab if ever there was one. 1886 is a wine that has everything we love about this varietal. Complexity of fruit, soft tannins and acidity which all balance in such a harmonious way that you’ll be left asking yourself, “Why don’t I have more of that?” Sure it’s pricey, but if there was ever a Cab from the Napa area that was worth it, it’s this one.

2010 Lyeth Chronology – $30

On the nose: Black currant, prunes, cherries, spice, dark chocolate, peppercorns, a hint of baking spices, blackberry and Marion berry pie filling.

On the palate: Take some cherries, dip them in a combination of currant, prune juice and dark cocoa and that’s what comes flowing on the front end of the palate here. The finish lingers on with notes of tobacco, cocoa, spiced cherries and plums.

2010 Quintessa – $125:

On the nose: Blackened raspberries, charcoal, licorice, leather glove, black pepper, tobacco and dark cocoa.

On the palate: Gorgeous dark chocolate-laced leather glove with hints of shoe polish, raspberry, Bing cherry, cigar and quince. Very nice fruit and oak integration with good acidity as well. The finish lingers nicely. Drink now or hold another 8-12 years. 

2009 Spring Mountain – $75:

On the nose: Chocolate dipped raspberries, dark cocoa powder, pipe tobacco, leather strap, forest floor, allspice, vanilla, clove and cherry.

On the palate: There’s a reason why Napa Valley was put on the map so many decades ago as a premier cab region of the world and this is a wine that completely exemplifies that. It has more complexity than the layers of the Grand Canyon, enough fruit to make orchard owners jealous and enough extras going on here that will help make it an unforgettable wine. All too often we have wines that are fun and exciting to drink, however, every now and then we get exceptions to those like this wine that will forever cement a sense of place and time where you were at when you drank it.


2010 Los Vascos Grande Reserve – $20:
On the nose: Bramble, dirty cherries, dark cocoa, spice, leather and tobacco.

On the palate: Acid, fruit, leather, tannin good mid a bit short on the finish.


2008 Tero Estates Walla Walla Valley – $42:

On the nose: Some uber-dark chocolate notes combine with blackened plums, ink, mud, Bing cherry, black tea, violet, licorice, leather and a hint of shoe polish.

On the palate: A “chewy” cab if ever there was one. It’s a bombardment of fruit that creates an ultra-lush mouth feel and creates a finish which lingers around longer than those guests who “don’t get it” when they’ve stayed too late. The difference is, of course, this wine’s finish is something you actually want to have happen.

2008 Tero Estates Windrow Vineyard – $45:

On the nose: Blackberry, bramble, black cherry, chocolate, peppercorns and an old leather book.

On the palate: A very lush cab and one that is rather typical of Tero’s style. It’s full of fruit, leather, dirty cherries, chocolate, a hint of cran-raspberry and chewing tobacco. A ton of fruit going into the mid palate which leads into a lingering finish. 

Washington State:

2010 Amavi Cellars:

On the nose: Grape nuts cereal, leather, cocoa, plums, raspberry and pipe tobacco.

On the palate: A highly young cab that yearns to be held in the bottle for at least another couple of years. That said, it does have some very solid tannin integration and if you opt to drink it now then decant it for a couple of hours or aerate it. This wine has a delicate combination of fruit and tannins along with acidity for weeks. Once it tames down, it pairs great with beef, buffalo or wild game.

2008 Boudreaux Cellars – $50:
On the nose: Dirty cherries, dark chocolate, peppercorn, leather glove, raspberries, pipe tobacco, vanilla, toasted oak and dirt.

On the palate: An extremely sophisticated cab that kicks things up several notches in the flavor profile of complex flavors. The sheer amount of layering of flavors lead into a nicely complex mid palate and finish that hang out for months. Easily one of the better cabs you’ll find at its price point and will only get better over the next 6-12 years.

2009 Corvus Cellars – $39:

On the nose:  Licorice-laced cherries, tar bubble, raspberry, peppercorn, leather laces, red modeling clay and spice.

On the palate: A beautifully structured cab that brings with it all of the classic red-fruit-driven goodness we expect from a Red Mountain Cab but has a supporting cast of tannin, leathery mouth feel, peppercorns and a hint of tar. Excellent fruit, tannin and acid structure make this a very easy-on-the-palate and a food-friendly cab.

2010 Long Shadows Feather – $50:

On the nose: Black cherry, cola, a hint of quince, pencil lead, dark chocolate, lavender, pomegranate, licorice and raspberry.

On the palate: A balanced and complex wine that offers up a bounty of fruit, leather and dark cocoa with layering flavors of coffee, licorice and lavender. While it needs some time to open up, it’ll reward you with a very compelling cab that pairs great with steaks, fatty salmon or buffalo.

2010 Pepper Bridge Walla Walla Cab – $60:

On the nose: Black raspberries, blackberry, cherry, leather, pipe tobacco, dark chocolate, cassis and shoe polish.

On the palate: Once again, the 2010 acids from the cool vintage come ringing through like a fire truck going to a 911 call. This is a cab which exhibits the classic red fruits we all love but layers in some notes of earth, mushroom, bramble, Marion berry and spice. On the finish are flavors of leather, cigar and dark cocoa powder. 

2010 Saviah Cellars Walla Walla Valley – $25

On the nose: Marion berry, black cherry, cola, cassis, black pepper, forest floor and some nice minerality.

On the palate: A cab with tremendous mouth feel, balance and finish for the money. The harmony between the fruit, mid palate and finish are spot-on and should improve over the next 4-9 years.

2009 Va Piano Columbia Valley – $45:

On the nose: Cherry musk, raspberry, cocoa, leather glove, allspice, quince paste and a hint of nutmeg.

On the palate: A tasty combination of cherry, leather, dried raspberry, powdered dark cocoa, spice and forest floor. A good culmination of fruit, tannin and acid that will only improve over the next 8-12 years in the bottle. Drink now with a 2-4 hour decant or hold.

2011 Woodward Canyon Artist Series – $59:

On the nose: Black cherry, dark chocolate shavings, cassis, cigar wrapper, black raspberry, quince and a hint of fennel.

On the palate: A solid cab which exhibits so much character, fruit, tannin and mouth feel. The cascading waves of fruit baste your tongue like a Thanksgiving turkey in the oven.

2010 Woodward Canyon Walla Walla – $44:
On the nose: Chocolate laced cherries, forest floor, mushroom, leather, spice, big league chew and cigar.

On the palate: A very good tasting experience of a Washington Cab that combines so many of the elements most love about this grape. A solid wine with a complexity of flavors of red fruit, dirt, spiced leather, tobacco and dark chocolate. The mid palate has beautiful acidity and its finish hangs around for hours.

Top Picks:

$25 and under:

  • 2011 Catena

$25 – $50 :

  • 2010 Saviah Cellars Walla Walla Valley
  • 2009 Corvus Cellars
  • 2010 Long Shadows Feather
  • 2008 Boudreaux Cellars
  • 2008 Tero Estates Walla Walla Valley

$51 – $100:

  • 2010 Ehlers Estate 1886
  • 2009 Spring Mountain
  • 2010 B Cellars Synergy
  • 2010 Pepper Bridge Walla Walla

$101 and over:

  •  2010 Quintessa

Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.