California put American cabernet on the world wine map with Napa leading the way. Back in 1976, in the legendary Judgement of Paris, California cabs held their own against the best of Bordeaux, with three finishing in the top five. Today people still equate cabernet with California, but as this tasting proved, Northwest cabs are coming on strong, besting all of the Golden State entries. Here are the panel's top wines.
2013 Balboa Cabernet Sauvignon, $40
This wine is 100 percent cabernet from the Balboa Eidolon Estate Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. The nose is a complex mix of floral currant, cherry, leather, tobacco and spice. Tart cherry plays against sweet berry for good balance on the palate. An intriguing hint of rhubarb blends nicely with notes of chocolate and caramel, while smooth tannins add grip on the finish.
Greg Koenig is one of the top winemakers in Idaho (and the Northwest). His just-released, oh-so-young 2015 cab started out slowly, but evolved beautifully in the glass. Soft herb colors fruit aromas, and as the wine opens up it offers a creamy core of berry and cherry flavors wrapped around dark chocolate, anise and vanilla. You should decant this one, or cellar it for a year or two. This is a definite bargain.
Made with fruit from Red Mountain in Washington, the Ross Andrew cab is filled with dark cherry aromas backed by subtle cedar, licorice and spice. Silky mocha laced red fruit comes through on the palate of this beautifully balanced wine, along with touches of olive, mineral and chewy ripe tannins on the finish. This one is a real winner.