When it comes to value Cabernet Sauvignons from the United States, this one has few rivals. It’s produced by the Washington State mega winery that is Chateau Ste. Michelle, and it’s available in many wine stores and supermarkets across the country. Yes, sometimes big-production wines can be great!
With a price tag of around $15 or so, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2017 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon really over-delivers when compared with similarly priced wines from California, most of which don’t even come close in quality and complexity. That complexity is achieved in part by the blend: 89 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 7 percent Syrah, and tiny amounts of Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Grenache.
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The result is an interesting and accessible Cabernet that’s ready to drink now — and that reminds me of Cabs that are double the price. With its not-over-the-top alcohol level of 13.5 percent ABV, it drinks more like a Bordeaux than a brawny California Cab.
The winemaker, Bob Bertheau, says he aims to highlight concentrated red fruit character in the wine. But to my palate, it’s all about dark fruit, namely blackberry and cassis tastes, that are punctuated by notes of cedar, espresso, and thyme. The wine is aged for 18 months in American and French oak, 14 percent new. And while there is a good deal of wood in the wine, it’s not out of control.
Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Columbia Valley Cabernet will match well with all kinds of foods. I tasted it one night with chicken sausage and broccoli rabe over pasta, then the next night with grilled pork chops. Beef and lamb are natural possibilities, as is turkey, as you start planning for your Thanksgiving feast.
With its budget-friendly price, it’s an excellent choice in these challenging times, and one that I think you’ll return to again and again.