The first Cabernet Classic organized by Seattle Uncorked wine club is in the history books. The Cabernet Classic, a benefit for Center for Contemporary Art (CoCA), was held at the Shilshole Bay Beach Club on October 28. 37 wineries were pouring over 70 wines, nearly all wines poured were Washington wines.
My initial tasting strategy was to sip from wineries that have been on my radar lately, Washington wines that I had been hearing abou. Soon that strategy changed into seeking sips of the more high end wines that I would want to taste before investing in, no matter the winery that produced the wine. That strategy was also doomed as I began to talk to those pouring wine, including winemakers. As I made my way around the room, it became clear that I had no coherent strategy, which in itself is a strategy, one I will refer to as either stochastic sipping or tumultuous tasting.
During the time my strategy was devolving, I tasted nine wines before my tongue also devolved. One of the standouts for me was Milbrandt Vineyards Sentinel 2006 Red, Washington State. This is the inaugural release of the Sentinel series focusing on a single vineyard to show off terroir. Each year, Milbrandt decides which of their vineyards produced the best fruit of the harvest and designate the fruit from that vineyard to be the Sentinel. Although all the fruit comes from one vineyard it is not a field blend. Each fruit is vinted separately and then blended.
The selection for the first year is North Ridge Vineyard, part of the Wahluke Slope AVA in eastern Washington. This is a Cabernet blend that also includes Merlot, Petit verdot, Malbec, and Petit Syrah. The fruit is restrained on the nose and the palette, but there is no doubt that black current is present. The tannins are smooth, buoyed by good acid. All of this resulted in a balanced and enjoyable wine. This is a wine I want to pair with food, not to smooth out something out of whack, but to enhance the food. The price tag of $55, however, means that it will be a special occasion when I have fun pairing this wine.
Another memorable wine was Windy Point 2006Pointless Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet franc. The fruit was present on the nose, but not overwhelming. The aroma was thoroughly enjoyable. When I finally sipped this red blend, I was greeted by more fruit, predominantly cherry, with a slight pepper kick – a pepper that was a bit cayenne-like. The tannins were slightly grippy and the acid held its own. This wine also had me dreaming of food pairing. Priced under $20, for me it is a good value for a delightful cab blend.
The truth of my tumultuous tasting strategy was apparent when I found myself with a pour of Cabernet Franc. At first, I wondered why this varietal was present on its own and not just a blend. Wasn’t the event about Cabernet Sauvignon? Then I realized that ‘Sauvignon’ was not in the event title. Any varietal with ‘Cabernet’ as part of its name belongs. There is an even more important reason for including Cabernet Franc. This varietal is one of the progenitors of Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Once upon a time in a land far away Cabernet Franc met Sauvignon Blanc . . . .” Viola! Without Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon would not exist.
The Shilshole Bay Beach Club venue worked fairly well for the Cabernet Classic. Checking in was smooth and painless. The layout of the wineries was functional and allowed for circular flow ending at a table with all the wines available for purchase. Tall tables were scattered about providing leaning and conversational space. The event was a fundraiser for CoCA, Center for Contemporary Art, therefore, several artists and their work were interwoven with the wineries. As the evening progressed the venue became more crowded making movement harder but nothing a few polite requests could not overcome.
Towards the end of my visit I wished for a place to sit down to finish my note taking but could not find any chairs. For me these events are not only the chance to taste wines but to talk with others about wine and the event itself. The handful of others I spoke to were pleased with the event and enjoyed the food – mushroom and butternut squash risotto with polenta bread.
Will the Cabernet Classic be repeated? I certainly hope so. Perhaps it will be an annual event and in 20 years I will be holding a pour of Cabernet Veltliner.