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Exploring American Cabernet Sauvignon

Washington cabs give California a run for it's money

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It's been almost 35 years since Stag's Leap Wine Cellars topped the rankings at the Judgment of Paris and put California cabernet on the map. Today, wines from that state take a back seat to none. But as this tasting proved, the Northwest is coming on strong. Two wines from Washington made the top three in our tasting of American cabernet. Here are the panel's top picks:

2007 Januik Cabernet Sauvignon, $28

Mike Januik is one of the most acclaimed Northwest winemakers, quietly crafting some of the finest wines in Washington. This 2007 cab is no exception. Packed with rich cherry and blackberry aromas that are backed by fresh herb, dark chocolate and vanilla, it's just as rich in the mouth, where juicy red fruit and cassis mix with soft oak, mocha and earth. Velvety tannins come through on the long, long finish. An outstanding wine.

2007 Merryvale Starmont Cabernet Sauvignon, $24

In the tradition of Bordeaux, this Napa standout is a blend of cabernet, merlot, petit verdot and a dollop of (not so traditional) syrah. It's a beautifully scented wine with notes of dark cherry, vanilla, cedar, green olive and coffee. Nicely balanced on the palate, this wine is dominated by dark berry and plum, and backed by soft cranberry, with touches of anise and black pepper. This is an excellent value for a Napa cabernet.

2006 Thurston Wolfe Cabernet Sauvignon: The Teacher, $21

This 100 percent cabernet from Washington offers classic aromas of cassis and dark berry with accents of tobacco, earth and spice. The palate is filled with creamy fruit flavors--plum, blackberry, cherry­--while silky smooth tannins add texture, and a nice kiss of lightly toasted oak adds depth. Lovely touches of vanilla and mocha come through on the long finish.

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