Will Powers Cabernet Make Me a WA Wine Groupie?


Greg Powers, winemaker at Washington State's Powers Winery

It’s gonna look like I’m stuck in a rut, or worse yet, acting as a paid lackey for the Washington State Wine Marketing Board (if there is such a thing).

But the truth is, I just keep stumbling over Washington State reds that knock my socks off. The latest is about as unlikely as they come, at least judging by its packaging. Powers Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 sports a label that I can only call…dumb. With all due apologies to the label designer, it’s just wildly inappropriate for a bottle of big, bold, brawny Cab to sport a label that’s…lavender. Yes, lavender, like you’d expect to see on fabric softener or women’s bath products. Sorry guys, it just bugs me.powers

But let’s forget that, because what’s inside the bottle really rocks.

Powers Winery is relatively young, but is part of a long legacy begun by Bill Powers of Badger Mountain Winery. Bill has been a huge force in Washington State winemaking, as witnessed by the lifetime achievement award he won from from the Washington Association of grape growers.

His son, Greg, is the driving force behind Powers Winery, and he hasn’t done a shabby job, either: under his leadership Powers Winery has been recognized as a “rising star” by Wine Spectator, and as one of the “50 Great U.S. Cabernet Producers” by Wine Enthusiast. Those are impressive accolades for a young winemaker.

Here’s what Greg does at Powers Winery. He sources all the grapes for his wines from vineyard partners, working closely with them to achieve maximal flavors and complexity. And the vineyards he uses produce some of the best fruit in the state, from appellations such as Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and the Yakima Valley.

Now let me pause here to talk about Washington state fruit. If you’ve read any of my other posts about WA wines, you’ll have learned that eastern Washington State is damn near heaven for wine grapes. The Cascade Mountains that keep the Pacific coast region cool and wet act as a rain shadow for the eastern half of the state. Over there, in the Columbia River Valley, the climate is warm and arid.

But wait…there’s more! The more northerly latitude gives the grapes more hours of daylight to ripen the grapes, and cool night-time temperatures produce good acid and structure. The result is intense, bright, juicy fruit balanced by bracing acidity. I just love this style…

I strive to create  that realize the fruits’ full potential.

So here’s what Greg Powers does. He focuses on “art of blending,” using the fruit of three different vineyards to create his 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. He says he wants “structured and compelling varietals” with “lush, full flavors that continue to develop and evolve after bottling.” I think he hit it right on the hose.

Right off the cork (or screw cap in this case) the aromas gushed out of my glass. I got sweet berries, vanilla, and that “something”, that quasi-aroma that signals depth and intensity.

The palate served it up big time. Ripe berry/cherry leads the way, with chocolate and a hint of spice following close behind. But the kicker was the deep, dark, concentrated undercurrent created by all that acid and well-integrated tannin. For me, the result was a great marriage of sweet fruit and brawny structure.

And did I mention that this wine goes for less than $15?? That’s truly amazing value, and I can’t see anything from California coming close. Once again, I sound like a WA wine groupie, but is that such a bad thing? Cheers!

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