My go to comfort wine is a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon originating from Red Mountain in Washington State, or from California’s Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Alexander Valley or Sonoma Valley in Sonoma County. There are other great bottles from other countries but these are widely available where I live. The Cabernets of the New World Countries (South Africa, South America, North America, and Australia) are more fruit forward while having a lower level of acidity, higher levels of alcohol, and fuller bodied compared to their Old World counterparts (France, Spain, Italy). Part of this is due to climates and growing conditions but it also corresponds with the consumption habits of wine drinkers in each country. In Old World countries, wine is an accompaniment to meals. In New World countries, wine is commonly consumed without regard to food. Lower levels of acid can be more palate pleasing than higher acid wines when food is not present.
Quilceda Creek Winery is a world renowned Cabernet producing winery from Colombia Valley in Eastern Washington. It is one of the older wineries from Washington, releasing its first vintage in 1979. The winery was started by Alex and Jeanette Golitzin. Alex is the descendant of Prince Lev Galitzine, who was instrumental in the development of wine in Russia and has been known as ‘the creator of Russian champagne’. After the Russian Revolution, Alex’s parents immigrated to France then, after WWII, to San Francisco. Alex’s maternal uncle was famed winemaker André Tchelistcheff, who was famous for being the winemaker of Napa Valley’s Beaulieu Vineyards (BV). It was here that he garnered the moniker of “Dean of American Winemaking”. Alex would frequently visit his uncle as a child. Tchelistcheff and others believed Washington state would be ideal for cooler climate grapes and red wines would never prosper until he tried a Cabernet from the 1970’s that he called ‘one of the best I’ve ever tasted’. This was extremely high praise from such a legend. Around this same time, Alex brought his knowledge to Washington and eventually passed it on to his son Paul, who is the director of winemaking at the winery today. (If you get a chance to try a bottle, I highly recommend it!)
This week, I uncorked a bottle of the more affordable 2019 Quilceda Creek CVR blend which features 94% Cabernet Sauvignon and nominal amounts of other Bordeaux varietals. I served it with slow braised beef short ribs on a bed of creamy parmesan polenta. Parmesan is a great cheese for big wines because it has a savory flavor component called umami which is bold enough to hold its own with the wine giants. The CVR was a beautiful vibrant deep ruby indicative of a young wine. It had legs that crept down the bowl of the glass. It smelled of luscious blackberries, black cherries, blueberries, vanilla, and baking spices. The tannins were well integrated and velvety considering the young age of this wine but were still quite present. They were made even smoother when paired with the fatty beef ribs. The level of acid was moderate but the body and alcohol were both on the higher end of the spectrum. On the palate, there was a hint of white pepper that lingered with each sip. There were also subtle infusions of herbal notes like rosemary and thyme that shined with braise sauce. Then there were those captivating black fruit notes that made the ribs even more comforting. This wine is wonderful but it will continue to improve over the next few years, if my bottles last that long! This bottle reminds me that a great wine is like a symphony on your palate. Every component is doing its job and well balanced. No portion is out of tune or carrying too much of the burden. They just make the synergy seem effortless. Each time I experience this, it is an ode to the vineyard workers, the soil management, the winemaker, and mother nature!