Nearly two years ago, we tasted Washington Merlots . . . this month, we tested wines from the same state, but switched to Cabernet Sauvignon.
All the wines of this tasting were produced by the Chateau St. Michelle wine company (formerly known as Stimson), which owns Columbia Crest, Northstar, Col Solare, and others. It is the largest producer of wine in Washington, but its wines did not disappoint. Indeed, except for David's experiment in a 10-year-old, $10 basic Cabernet, the wines were well-made and enjoyable. All were good values, and overall, the younger vintages showed better than their elders.
While the first place wine won by a good margin, the second and third place entries were separated by only one point. Only the winning bottle had a more specific vineyard designation beyond the larger Columbia Valley.
First Place: Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Indian Wells 2005 (Columbia Valley). Very dark in color, with aromas of buttered popcorn, chicken wings, violets, candy, cream, and coffee. Smooth, creamy texture, which David thought was "expansive". Meat, blackberries, charred oak, and golden raisins on the palate. Friendly and likable wine, with Andy R. deciding that it was "here to help". Four tasters gave this their top mark. Received 28 points. Ali's wine. About $16.
Second Place: Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Columbia Valley). Uniform color. Brighter nose, featuring green bell pepper, milk, dried flowers, rhubarb, and blueberries. Flavors of black tea, oak, and cherries. Very blueberry on the finish, where the tannins are evident. Ali felt that it was "like taking a bite out of Maine", and David described it as "masculine". David's favorite of the night. Received 22 points. Resa's wine. About $12.
Third Place: Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Estates 2004 (Columbia Valley). Garnet in color, with a lighter edge. Cherries, dust, Playdough, tobacco, musk, dark spices, licorice, and coffee on the nose. Tasters found flavors of milk chocolate, meat, and cinnamon. Kristin was reminded of "apple pie spices", while Resa noted "Raisinets". Silky texture, and tangy on the finish, which David felt "retains its elegance". Andy R. thought it was "a selfish bitch", while Andy P. felt it was "worth it". Andy P.'s favorite. Received 21 points. Andy P.'s wine. About $10.
Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Columbia Valley). Shy nose, that Andy R. described as "smells like a clean wine glass". Dusty aromas, along with tomato sauce, and urine. Dried herbs, deli meat, blackberries, and tea on the palate. Andy P. noted "shrimp". Decent tannins on the finish. Received 11 points. Andy R.'s wine. About $16.
Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (Columbia Valley). Not offering a lot on the nose, with hints of nail polish remover, mint, chalk, and "old estate's library" (Ali). Plums, blackberries, and tobacco flavors. A little hot, with some tannin on the finish, which Andy R. thought was harsh. Received 7 points. Kristin's bottle. About $15.
Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Estates 1998 (Columbia Valley). Tasters described mushrooms, wet rags, cheese shop, bacon, celery, and Chinese food on the nose. Andy R. noted "toe", with Resa finding "car exhaust". Ali decided that it "smells like Elizabeth" (the town in New Jersey, that is). Turns flat on the finish, where Ali said "it tastes like chards of glass". No points. David's bottle. About $10.