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Mercer Canyons Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Blend: 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 6% Syrah
"Surely this is Horse Heaven!”
Its wide prairies and rolling expanses led an early pioneer to proclaim that the region looked like “horse heaven,” and as a result, the area was appropriately named. Horse Heaven Hills is in south central Washington state, geographically bound on its northern border by the Yakima River and in the south, by the larger Columbia River.
Its proximity to the Columbia River contributes to a variety of climactic factors that dramatically affect its grapes. In particular, an increase in wind from changes in pressure along the river, which flows from the cool and wet Pacific Ocean, inland to Washington’s hot and arid plains, creates 30% more wind than there would be otherwise. These winds moderate temperatures, protect against mold and rot, reduce the risk of early and late season frosts, diminish canopy size and toughen grape skins.
The vineyards bordering the river are on steep, south-facing, well-exposed slopes, with well-drained, sandy-loam soils. But the soils of the appellation are diverse throughout, ranging from wind-blown sand and loess, Missoula Flood sediment, and rocky basalt. Horse Heaven Hills has an arid continental climate with elevations ranging from 200 to 1,800 feet.
The first vines of the appellation were planted in 1972 in an optimal spot now referred to as the Champoux Vineyard. Today it remains the source of some of Washington’s most desirable and expensive Cabernet Sauvignons. In fact, the appellation as a whole boasts many of Washington’s top scoring wines. Its primary grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Riesling.
A noble variety bestowed with both power and concentration, Cabernet Sauvignon is sometimes referred to as the “king” of red grapes. It can be somewhat unapproachable early in its youth but has the potential to age beautifully, with the ability to last fifty years or more at its best. Small berries and tough skins provide its trademark firm tannic grip, while high acidity helps to keep the wine fresh for decades. Cabernet Sauvignon flourishes in temperate climates like Bordeaux's Medoc region (and in St-Emillion and Pomerol, where it plays a supporting role to Merlot). The top Médoc producers use Cabernet Sauvignon for their wine’s backbone, blending it with Merlot and smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and/or Petit Verdot. On its own, Cabernet Sauvignon has enjoyed great success throughout the world, particularly in the Napa Valley, and is responsible for some of the world’s most prestigious and sought-after “cult” wines.
In the Glass
High in color, tannin, and extract, Cabernet Sauvignon expresses notes of blackberry, cassis, plum, currant, spice, and tobacco. In Bordeaux and elsewhere in the Old World you'll find the more earthy, tannic side of Cabernet, where it's typically blended to soften tannins and add complexity. In warmer regions like California and Australia, you can typically expect more ripe fruit flavors upfront.
Cabernet Sauvignon is right at home with rich, intense meat dishes—beef, lamb, and venison, in particular—where its opulent fruit and decisive tannins make an equal match to the dense protein of the meat. With a mature Cabernet, opt for tender, slow-cooked meat dishes.
Despite the modern importance and ubiquity of Cabernet Sauvignon, it is actually a relatively young variety. In 1997, DNA revealed the grape to be a spontaneous crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc which took place in 17th century southwestern France.