Walla Walla, WA and Napa Valley, CA are separated by 750 miles, a completely different climate and a resulting distinctly different wine style. I find that Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla sits somewhere between Napa and Bordeaux in style.
Washington State may arguably be one the most underrated wine regions in the new world. It’s tough being in the shadow of Napa’s prestige and Willamette’s fame for Pinot Noir. Washington’s wine diversity is a benefit and a curse. They aren’t known for one particular wine like Napa and Willamette. Instead, they are more like Sonoma – able to produce a wide range of high quality wines. However, that means they aren’t viewed as the “go to” region for anything in particular.
Although Washington makes excellent Riesling, Pinot Gris and Syrah, their fame is rising for Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla, with quality that rivals California but without the insanely high price tag. However, if you are expecting a big, fruity, high alcohol style of wine a la Napa, your expectations will be dashed, for better or for worse, depending on your wine preference.
Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla has higher acidity than Napa and slightly less body, more moderate alcohol levels as well as a very distinct earthy character and grippier tannins. This means Washington Cabs may need a little more cellar time to soften than those lush, hedonistic Napa Cabs. That may sound very Bordeaux-like, and it is, but I would say Walla Walla has riper fruit and more fullness than Bordeaux.
To my palate, Walla Walla Cabernet offers a perfect middle ground – balanced fruit and earth, alcohol that adds body without burning your esophagus, and the ability to improve with time in the cellar. All of that, with a price tag that while not cheap, makes them an excellent value compared to Napa and Bordeaux.
- Seven Hills Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
- L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
- K Vintners The Creator ($60)
- Reynvaan The Classic Estate Cabernet ($70)
- Figgins Estate Red ($90)