Hello friends. While the solstice hit just under a month ago—and apparently the world is gaining light every single day—we know all too well that there are many more months of cold in front of us. But rather than focusing on the unabating gloom of winter, I (an eternal optimist) like to celebrate this time as peak Cabernet season. December is all about sparkling. And once March hits, no matter the temperature, I’m dreaming about rosé. January and February are the optimal months for indulging in dark-fruited, full-bodied Washington Cabernet.
What better way to celebrate peak Cabernet season than a vintage lauded as one of the best for the grape in recent memory? 2014 proved hot, the hottest vintage on record until the following year, and heat-loving Cabernet happily soaked up the sun. The wines produced have proved robust and structured, with wonderful varietal typicity. Today, we have two prime examples for you.
2014 Novelty Hill Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The Columbia Valley Cabernet from Novelty Hill has long been a staple in the Washington wine scene with a reputation for quality and consistency. It has been rated 90pts or above for twelve vintages in a row. It has been named an editors’ choice or cellar selection countless times, and earned a place on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list more than once. At the core of what makes this wine so good is experienced winemaking and a top notch estate vineyard.
Mike Januik has been working in the Columbia Valley since 1984, and spent 10 years at Chateau St Michelle reinventing their winemaking program before breaking off onto his own projects, Novelty Hill and Januik. Stillwater Creek, Novelty Hill’s Estate Vineyard, is widely regarded as one of the top sites in the state. Planted in 2000, the vineyard’s 235 acres sit on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills. Even if you’ve never tried a wine from Novelty Hill, you have, without a doubt, had grapes from their vineyard. Stillwater Creek sells grapes to many well-loved Washington wineries, including Saviah, Baer, Corliss, Rotie—even our own list favorite 2009 Full Pull & Friends Cabernet Sauvignon has a little Stillwater juice in it.
Though it carries the more general label of Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek is a predominant source for this blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Malbec. The rest is sourced from top vineyard connections that Mike Januik has made over the last three decades. Clocking in at 14.4% alcohol, this juice spent 21 months in a mixture of French and American oak, both new and previously used barrels.
Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 91pts.”
2014 Woodward Canyon Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon
Woodward Canyon was there in the beginning. As the second winery in the Walla Walla Valley, the winery served as an instrumental player in obtaining AVA status for the region. So, when Woodward Canyon labels something as “Old Vines,” you know it’s old. This bottle is sourced completely from vines planted in the early 1970s—the Cabernet from blocks of Champoux (Horse Heaven Hills) and Sagemoor (Columbia Valley). The 4% of Petit Verdot comes from Woodward Canyon’s Estate Vineyard (Walla Walla).
Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD] 94pts. Cellar Selection.”
To give some context, out of the 269 Cabernets Sean reviewed in 2017, this is the very strongest review he gave (tied with 2014 Quilceda Creek Cab and 2013 Long Shadows Feather). But it goes even further—Sean has reviewed a total of 836 Cabs for Wine Enthusiast in his entire tenure. Only three have received stronger reviews than this bottling, all 95pts: 2012 Quilceda Creek Cab, 2012 Gramercy Reserve Cab, 2012 Betz Pere de Famille. It is clear that by Sean’s standards—standards that we regard pretty highly around Full Pull—the 2014 Woodward Canyon Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon is just about as good as it gets when it comes to Washington Cabernet.