Long overshadowed by California’s North Coast regions of Sonoma and Napa, which are arguably America’s most established and prodigious wine zones, the Pacific Northwest has steadily carved out a unique winemaking reputation that’s really beginning to shine. With many mature vineyards now in the 40-year range, the coastal and inland terroirs of Oregon and Washington states are proving to be capable producers of robust blends built with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, as well as, cool-climate, varietal white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. Somewhere in the middle of this unusual winemaking polarity lies a less-surprising success with Cabernet Franc, Riesling, and lighter-weight versions of Chardonnay. Though the expansive range of these varieties and wine styles do somewhat defy the conventional wisdom about what should be possible within a single growing region, this is apparently what intrepid
Washingtonians do well: side-step generalized preconception while continuing to build on the economic foundation of forestry and shipping established in the 19th-century, which then diversified into commercially-scaled agriculture in the 20th-century; becoming the USA’s foremost producer of apples, along with major crops of cherries, raspberries, pears, wheat, hops, and now – grapevines!
Aka the ‘Evergreen State,’ Washington might soon consider revising its motto due to a veritable explosion of winemaking that began as a trickle in the 1960’s and then started a meteoric rise in the 1980’s. At the outset, there were fewer than 30 wineries; as of 2016, there are over 900 and growing at a rate of 3 new winemaking enterprises per month! To satisfy the burgeoning demand, winemakers are drawing fruit from 21,500 hectares of vineyard; both from their own plots and those tended to by 350 independent growers; located mainly in the coastal zone of the Willamette Valley and the high-desert hillsides of the Columbia Valley. Despite the ‘desert’ descriptor, most of the vine stock is
planted on the same 44 thru 47th latitudes as France’s Bordeaux, Northern Rhône, and Burgundy regions and so Washington’s adapted cultivars of Vitis vinifera grapes benefit from similar dynamics in the growing cycles of their distant, European ancestors.
As for this week’s featured wine and vintner, Hogue Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, the defining difference in their various Columbia Valley plots is the prevailing dry climate. Lying in the rain shadow of the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges, the hot days promote plumping of the grapes and sugar content, alternating with cool nights that maintain bright acidity levels. As an introductory example of the fruity and fresh wines that these conditions yield, this deft blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 5% Syrah, small splashes of Petit Verdot and Malbec, and cooperative weather during 2014 – all make for a pleasing bottling that defies a $14.95 price tag, and possibly prompting a few of those previously mentioned California vintners to blush with envy!
HOGUE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #462960 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD
Made in Washington, USA
By: Hogue Cellars
Release Date: October 15, 2016
This is an uncomplicated, easy-drinking Bordeaux-style red that exceeds its pedigree and expectation at this price-point. An abundance of cherry, raspberry and plum aromas and flavours are wrapped around the pleasing oak, making it a natural complement to food fare such as roasted pork tenderloin in a Madeira sauce, marinated flank steak with sautéed mushrooms or braised short ribs and polenta with crispy onions.