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Substance Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Another hit from one of my favorite Washington, large production wineries. The day after I filmed this, word came out that Charles Smith had sold part of his business to Constellation Brands.  No matter, if you want a $15-$20 Cabernet Sauvignon tonight….this is an outstanding choice and another hit for Washington wine.


Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’m joined today by a Charles Smith Substance Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon from 2013. We’ll get to 2013 vintage here at the end. Charles Smith’s wine that we talked about a few times in this space, he makes K Vintners and also a few kind of other labels. I believe there’s six or seven of them in total. I also believe that Substance is the most recent of the labels to be created.

I think if we look at this from a marketing perspective, this is one of the great looking wine bottles that you’re likely to find. Then, after you get it and you bring it home from the grocery store or your local wine store, and we’re talking about giving some of their new distribution models and that kind of stuff. We’re likely talking about grocery store kind of stuff here.

This is a $15-$25 bottle of Cabernet. That’s where the state of Washington has really started to grow a lot, especially in comparison to California where we struggle to create high quality wine at this price point because the land values are so high. Washington, especially guys like Smith who are great wine makers, but also maybe better wine sourcers if that makes sense, as far as finding great quality grapes.

These are grapes from higher elevation vineyards in the state of Washington. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave this wine a 90-93 point score. If you think about it, it’s really one of the insane values that you’re likely to find throughout the course of the entire year. That’s big production, small production, or anything in between. You don’t find 93 point wines for $20 a bottle or under. It just doesn’t happen.

Smith [inaudible 00:01:33] about keeping the price point consistent even with the high score and this is the first fore, I think, into … You’re going to see the Charles Smith wines for that $10 price point and then you’re going to see the Substance wines in the $20-$25 price point probably at a lot of stores. Then, I think you’re going to start seeing more of the K Vintner stuff show up at the $45 range.

Partially why this wine’s so good, and partially why, I think, 2013 was an interesting vintage for Washington, a lot of people will tell you that that’s the warmest vintage they’ve had for about ten years before that. I believe it’s ’03 and ’05 when the state of Washington went through two really warm vintages, almost California-esque, but, in ’13, and quite honestly in ’03 and ’05 most of the vineyards you talked to say, “We didn’t know what to do because we never had it that warm before,” and in ’13 they both had some experience and, at the end of the vintage, stuff hung on the vine for a lot longer and they had let the canopies grow a little bit extra. There’s certain things you can do in the vineyard to help counteract when it’s so darn hot and they had done that, really, for the first time in the state of Washington.

With all that stuff put into place and then the weather, it kind of magically in September and October, cooled off, not where it was cold but it was warm but not hot. The vines were able to have the grapes hang for quite a long time. This is higher elevation stuff so it tends to hang longer anyway but this was picked at the beginning of November, which is kind of incredible if you think very hot vintage plus picked really late, late, late in the season.

I think what you end up having is this dense, thick wine that people really think of when they think of Cabernet Sauvignon and what you don’t always get at that price point. It’s really something that tastes like a wine that’s twice the price point or three times the price point and you’re getting it for under $20 at the grocery store. It’s a really great value and I think it’s a great example of what happens in Washington state, why they have, perhaps at this price point, a wider range of outcomes than we do elsewhere. If it gets really hot, the wine can still be really good. If it doesn’t get as hot as they like it, it still ripens enough to get finished. That’s where I think you’re going to continue to see Washington pick up sales and I think Charles Smith is one of the guys that’s leading the way. I think you’re probably going to hear more about him in the main stream wine press than you have already.

Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. It’s not something I can ship in a wine of the month club just because it’s out there everywhere already, although quality wise, I would love to. We really do still like all of Smith’s stuff from K Vintner’s label all the way down through. If you have the opportunity to do so, I’d check it out.

Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, hope everybody’s having a good weekend.

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