WA Cabernet Sauvignon

In celebration of Washington Wine Month (August) and International Cabernet Day, let’s take a look at a few Cabs from Washington that made the state internationally recognized.

While Washington wasn’t built on a foundation of Cab, Merlot and Syrah, those red varieties have come to dominate in the markets and scores over the past couple of decades.  Cabernet in the state bounced around in scores from 1989-1999, but by the 2000’s saw a consistent 90+ in all years (excepting 2011, which only dropped to 89) with the best vintages being 2006-2008 (peaking at a 96-point year in 2007), and it looks like the 2015’s will be rated somewhere in the mid to high 90s as well.

The history of Washington Cabs and their international acclaim came skyrocketing out of Walla Walla by way of the 1978 vintage of Leonetti Cellars (which was actually made in a shed – hell, Apple started in a garage, so…).  A machinist, Gary Figgins, started the winery in 1977 and won acclaim from Wine & Spirits (best Cab in the country), and garnered 18 ratings of 95 points or more from Wine Advocate.  This wine could possibly be the single most important bottle of Cabernet in Washington state…

Until 2002.  With the ’02 vintage of Quilceda Creek Vintners Columbia Valley Cab, Robert Parker bestowed the highly desired 100-point score on a Washington Cab.  At this point, the whole world was forced (or intrigued) to start paying attention to Washington as a winemaking state, and their prized, cult Cabernet Sauvignons.

For the few stragglers who didn’t care to pay attention to Parker/didn’t want to, they were undoubtedly forced to have Washington Cabs in their face with the 2005 Reserve from Columbia Crest as it took the Wine of the Year prize from Wine Spectator.

So now we all sit back and wait as the price for Cabs from Napa continue to inflate and the Cabs from Washington continue to excel at a much more affordable rate.  The future can be uncertain, but investing in Washington Cabs seems like a decent bet at this point.

Fun Fact:  Leonetti Cellars still continues to hold “fist growth status” to this day, so while it may be nearly impossible to get a bottle of the ’78, you’d be doing yourself a favor to get a vintage from the aforementioned pinnacle vintages (we recommend ’06-’08), or a current bottle to see what the WA Cabs rage is all about!




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