Over 80 types of grapes are grown in Washington State, a region known for its varietal diversity. But with all the competition, is Cabernet king?

Washington State wine is perhaps best known for its diversity. There are more than 80 grape varieties planted here, but one variety seems to be separating itself from the crowd: Cabernet Sauvignon.

Washington’s Cabernet plantings date to the early 1940s, and vines planted in 1956 at Otis Vineyard in the Yakima Valley remain some of the oldest in production today. With a climate once thought too cool to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon, plantings across the Columbia Valley (Washington’s largest wine-growing region) have increased through the decades.

Many of the state’s early producers, names that include Quilceda CreekLeonetti Cellar and Woodward Canyon, made reputations based on their Cabernets. Still, varieties like Riesling and Chardonnay led the state in production.

Making the Case for Cabernet

“Cabernet is our best grape,” says Bob Betz, MW, who has worked with the variety at Betz Family Winery since 1997. “Notwithstanding fabulous Riesling, outstanding Syrah and very good Merlot, but I do think Cabernet Sauvig­non is our greatest grape.”

Washington Cabernet Sauvignon mixes New World-style fruit with more of an Old World-style structure, in terms of the balance of tannins and acidity.

Cabernet Sauvignon, often called the “King of Grapes,” is known for its firm tannins and aging potential. What differentiates Washington Cabernet from those made in other areas of the world?  Read More »