Showstopping, Old-School Domestic Cabernet – Overdelivering and Undercharging, for Once!

Posted on: 01/8/19 6:59 PM


This might just be the most exciting American wine I’ve discovered since I moved here in 2016. The reason? This is just what I’m always looking for and struggle to find- well made, well priced, and most importantly well balanced Cabernet. I love Napa, but boy does it get pricey for the good stuff. Here instead we’re in Washington State’s sought after Red Mountain AVA, with a wine that wonderfully combines old world complexity with new world intensity. When you get what Jeb Dunnock describes below, loads of fruit plus an ‘old school, rustic style’ at a smart price, I am on board!

2015 Hedges Red Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State

“The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain Estate offers more spice and incense, with loads of plum, blackberry and currant fruits front and center. Made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and the rest Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Souzao, this medium to full-bodied effort has an old-school, rustic style, yet loads of character as well as good purity of fruit, ripe tannin, and a clean finish. I suspect it will keep for 8-10 years, probably longer.

This is another fine lineup from winemaker Sarah Hedges, who has been at this family estate full-time since 2006, becoming the head winemaker in 2015 when her uncle retired. These classic, old-world styled efforts come all from the estate vineyard on Red Mountain and hidden gems worth the money.” 90 pts., Jeb Dunnock

More about the wine:

Many of you will know that I am Bordeaux crazy. I’ve dedicated almost my entire professional life to it, both back in the UK and since I moved to the States in 2016. Now that I’m here people very often ask me what I think of domestic Cabs, and I say truthfully that I’m a fan, but that the problem is that I like all the really expensive ones. I’ve really struggled to find ones that I love that get you much change from $100.

So when I find one, I’m excited, and I like to shout about it. For this one we’re off the beaten path just slightly to Washington State. In the context of the region however, this is primo terroir, and is where everyone wants to be. I remember back home studying for my WSET diploma, which involved covering wines from just about every corner of the earth, and reading about the revered Washington site of ‘Red Mountain’, said to be producing some of the most promising Bordeaux blends in the country. At the time I’d never tasted any and this was all theoretical, but I’m now a passionate convert. Soils of loam and gravel on a steep south westerly slope, with sharp differences between day and night time temperatures- often key to high quality winemaking and a combination of ripeness and acidity. The hot and cold swings are enough that growing season day averages are as high as 90 degrees, but frost is also a serious threat in nearby areas- something that the Red Mountain AVA is generally protected from by the presence of the Yakima River.

Not only is this a delicious wine from an interesting place, but it’s made by interesting people. It’s not a wine with a huge amount of ratings, in fact the owner Tom Hedges has been known to refuse to submit his wines for scoring in the past. The thinking is that the wines need to be made in a certain way (big, rich, ripe) to get the big scores, and he’s intentionally making wine that is the antithesis of this. He’s also been spotted wearing t-shirts festooned with the slogan “I drink 88 point wines”. As a Bordeaux guy this is something that resonates with me greatly- so many of my favourite wines are of the lighter and less explosive style of Cab, and they very rarely get the scores they deserve. They are wines of subtlety and grace, wines that belong on the table and usually with food. If I can get hold of one of those t-shirts I’m wearing it!

Posted in Daily Flash By Guy Davies