In the most recent 12 months, six Washington red wines have received a 95 point rating from Wine Spectator. This is the highest point score a Washington red has received from Wine Spectator during this time period (NB: Chateau Ste. Michelle White Riesling Late Harvest Ethos 2006 received a 97 point rating; no other white wine was rated 95 points or above from this publication).

The six wines that received this rating are:

Andrew Will Sorella 2005 $68
Columbia Crest Cabernet Reserve 2005 $27
Owen Roe Cabernet DuBrul Vineyard 2005 $60
Cayuse Syrah Bionic Frog 2005 95 $70
Gorman Syrah-Cabernet The Evil Twin 2006 $55
Gorman Syrah-Cabernet The Evil Twin 2005 $5

Here, we try the three cabernet-based wines – the Andrew Will, Columbia Crest, and Owen Roe. For the purposes of this tasting, we tried each of these wines blind.

Andrew Will Cellars is located on Vashon Island. The winery was founded in 1989 by Chris Camarda and is named after Camarda’s son Will and nephew Andrew. Camarda started off making a series of single vineyard, single varietal wines. Over time, Camarda shifted to focusing on single vineyard wines. The Sorella, Andrew Will’s top end wine, is from the Champoux Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills. The average age of the vines from this vineyard is 29 years.

Columbia Crest is a large producer located near the Columbia River in Paterson, Washington. Winemaker Ray Einberger joined the team in 2002 and established the winery’s reserve wines which current account for 20,000 cases of production per year. Einberger was previously part of the winemaking team at Opus One. Among the many excellent wines this winery makes, the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot consistently defies expectations. How this winery can make almost 300,000 cases of this wine at $11 and year after year produce such excellent quality is a complete mystery.

Owen Roe is an Oregon-based winery located in the Willamette Valley just outside the town of Newberg. The winery is the work of Jerry Owen who works the vineyards and David O’Reilly who serves as winemaker. Owen Roe’s top level wines – of which the DuBrul Cabernet is one – are vineyard-designated wines with photograph labels, and often with hand numbered bottles. In this particular case, I cannot imagine how tedious this exercise is as the winery made almost 6,000 cases of this wine.

What was remarkable about this blind tasting was just how different and distinct these wines were in color, character, and style. The differences in color are apparent from the corks of the wine, with the Owen Roe the lightest in color and the Andrew Will the darkest.

Overall, the group preferred the Owen Roe with the Columbia Crest a reasonably close second. The Andrew Will Sorella, while enjoyable, seemed quite tart and less approachable at present.






Owen Roe DuBrul Vineyard Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

A rich, dark gorgeous nose that is loaded with fruit along with anise and spice. As the wine opens up, suddenly espresso comes through very strongly after about 15 minutes. One of the most evolving noses of any wine I have had. On the taste, there is coffee and touches of chocolate. A pretty, elegant wine that is very refined but has a lot of structure. The finish is outrageously long. 14.2% alcohol.

After two hours of decanting, pencil shavings start to show through along with anise and black fruit. The wine becomes bigger and richer as it opens up.


Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

The nose is less fruit forward that the Owen Roe and has more of a spice component, particularly cigar box and black licorice. The fruit, particularly blackberry, is layered under the spice. The nose shows light coffee grounds as the wine opens up. This wine, at least initially, has a much bigger body than the Owen Roe with black licorice on the taste and beautifully refined tannins that glide across the tongue. Overall, this is a much more tannin driven wine. Needs 2+ years to be at its best. 14.2% alcohol. 5,500 cases produced.

After a couple hours of decanting, lots of blackberry and coffee grounds come through. This is a pretty big wine. The finish doesn’t have quite as much as I want which is its only detraction.


Andrew Will Sorella Horse Heaven Hills 2005

A fruit forward wine with black and blue fruit, particularly huckleberry. Dark in color, the wine has an almost grainy texture to it when first tasted. As the wine opens up, anise starts to show through along with a light herbal component on both the nose and taste. Overall, the taste is quite tart. 65% Cabernet; 12% Merlot; 17%Cab Franc; 6% Petit Verdot. 14.7% alcohol. 806 cases produced.

After several hours of decanting, the wine still has lots of tart, brambly fruit.