Don’t want to lay out Napa money? Try Walla Walla.

Napa Valley has redefined Cabernet Sauvignon, and along the way they have also redefined what it costs to enjoy a bottle. It doesn’t seem that long ago that great Cabs could still be found for well under forty bucks, but now unless you buy from a negociant you can’t find a great Napa Cab for under seventy five dollars. Perhaps even one hundred dollars is the new normal for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend that much more than maybe once or twice a year.

So where is a Cab Lover to look? Even Paso Robles stuff has gotten expensive!

Look North(west)!

Walla Walla, Washington is your best bet for value Cabernet Sauvignon these days. About ten years ago I stopped in Walla Walla on a trip. It wasn’t a planned stop, but a mechanical issue enforced a delay and to be honest you can’t image a better place to break down. What started as a frustration finished in absolute delight. I sampled quite a bit of the local product and left quite impressed. Since then I have signed up to some wine clubs in the area and regularly enjoy some truly great reds from Walla Walla. Not only Cabernet Sauvignon, but also Cab Francs, Malbecs, Merlots, and even some Petite Verdots, Sangiovese, Syrahs, and most astoundingly Petite Sirah. It honestly would not shock me if a Zinfandel vine or three are growing as we speak in southeast Washington state.

One of those wine clubs I joined is from Walla Walla Vintners. I first tried their Cab Franc which I found at one of my favorite local steakhouses as I preused my usual haunt… the “Interesting Reds” section of their wine list. One bottle and I fell in love, and eventually joined their list. For years now I have been receiving a mixed cases a year of their wonderful wines. Tonight I pulled out a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with a wonderfully thick prime strip steak from Costco.

If you’ve been tasting Napa Cabs for a long time (like I have, starting at my father’s table as a teenager in the late 70s) you’ll know they have evolved over time, from attempts to be like Bordeaux, to today’s enormous “bombs”. Somewhere in the middle they really hit their stride and became… just damn good. Now they’ve sort of gone overboard, espcially in price. While a few Walla Walla Valley winemakers are producing, big, Napa-style cabs, at big, Napa-style price points (such as one that starts with an “L” and ends with an “i”) the guys at Walla Walla Vintners have stuck to their roots and have developed a solid, consistent Cabernet style of their own. I’m happy to say it is absolutely delightful and delicious. Well worth you seeking it out for yourself.

This is a Cab you can buy for half the price (and often less) than a Napa, and to be honest it is a far better choice for almost every occasion.

I’m planning to go back to the Walla Walla Valley very soon, this time with the sole purpose of enjoying the wine. Grab a bottle or two and come along for the ride with me.

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