I've recently read a couple of articles in wine publications which seem to suggest that, if you're in search of a Cabernet Sauvignon that displays "varietal trueness," you have to look to Washington State. Now, the idea that there should be some kind of ground state for Cabernet is not so far fetched: it is one of the most moldable grapes, and tends to take on the character of the region where it's grown. A Bordeaux from Medoc, for example, tastes much different than a Cab from Napa Valley.

Anyway, I decided to examine the "varietal trueness" claim, even though my ability to taste critically is limited by my relative inexperience. This wine was excellent, and I immediately caught a glimpse of why wine writers tell you to look to Washington: this $13 Hogue offering (from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley) was a happy medium between the more tannic wines of Napa Valley and the fruity Cabs of Sonoma.

Well, on to the wine: This was a terrific Cab. The deep red color, flecked with brick tints at the edges, suggests that the wine is ready to go. The aroma is a subtle blend of fruit (perhaps hints of blackberries) and an oaky vanilla. The taste was very well balanced: low acidity, moderate but ripe tannins, [solid but not in-your-face fruit. The finish was quite long and pleasant, faintly echoing of cherries. In short, this was a complex yet easy to drink red wine, and at a good price to boot. I've already bought another couple of bottles to stash, and I hope to buy more before this vintage disappears from the shelves.

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