January Virtual Tasting - 2006 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot

Columbia Crest’s Grand Estates Merlot is consistently Washington’s best value wine. The Paterson-based winery produces approximately 300,000 cases of this wine. It has received the following Wine Spectator ratings for the previous three vintages:

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2003 90 pts
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2004 90 pts
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2005 88 pts

In previous tastings, I gave these wines a *, *, and a + respectively.

For the Virtual Tasting, I invited some friends over for a live tasting and conducted a “Poor Man’s Vertical” where we sampled the 2003 through 2006 vintages. Unfortunately, the 2003 was flawed. The 2005 stood out as the best of the bunch at present although all were quite good. Note, do not try this at home as this is a drink me now wine. This shows up in my ratings. However, I just can’t help myself. Check out below the interesting variations in the compositions of the wine.

Overall the 2006 lives up to its predecessors. It is a good wine for the money that is well put together but needs a little bit more on the nose to move it up a notch.







Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2006

Very light pencil shavings and a light, pretty berry smell on an elusive nose. After a bit, shows currant and pepper along with light herbal and floral notes. Very smooth and rich on the palate with a pleasing finish. Overall, good but would like a bit more on the nose. Perhaps will come on in the next 3-6 months. 85% Merlot; 7% Syrah; 5% Cab Franc; 3% Cabernet. 13.5% alcohol. Purchased at Safeway for $9.98.



Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2005

A lively nose with black pepper and spicy oak that gets quite smoky after a short bit. A rich, opulent taste marked by chocolate. Drinking very well and an excellent wine for the money. 94% Merlot; 5% Cabernet; 1% Cab Franc. 13.5% alcohol. 295,500 cases produced. Recommended.



Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2004

A touch of earthiness along with chocolate and cranberry. On the taste, the fruit has started to degrade a bit. 96% Merlot; 3.5% Cabernet; 0.5% Cab Franc. 13.5% alcohol. 140,000 cases produced.



Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2003

Unfortunately this wine was flawed. 98% Merlot; 1% Cabernet; 1% Cab Franc.13.5% alcohol. 150,000 cases produced.


Sean P. Sullivan


  1. On the (muted) nose, I got cherry, vanilla, and toasty oak. The good news on the palate: soft, easy-drinking mouthfeel; surprisingly nice, chocolatey tannins. The bad news: thin, insipid cherry fruit; too much flab (not enough acid); and a big mouthful of wood.

    On Sean's rating system, this is a dot (2/5). No thanks.

  2. Wow what an interesting evening. I believe that I finally now truly understand the meaning of a "drink me now" wine. This has historically been my go-to wine, hence the 4 year vertical.

    2003 - Used to be my favorite. I remember it being funky, but changing all the time. This time it had definitely gone bad. Not sure if it's due to time or if it was bad when I bought it years ago...but I couldn't even take a sip due to the offensive nose.

    2004 - I remember chocolate all over this wine. First one was funky and I mean in a bad way. We had to throw it away. The second was less funky, interesting, not awesome and definitely not the great $10 wine I remember.

    2005 - Super! Still the wine I remember! Some chocolate but lots of cracked pepper and herbs. Great across the palate with a nice finish! Best of the bunch!

    2006 - Nose was a bit quieter than I remember but I think in a few months this will be the CC that I love. Nice across the palate with an excellent finish. Definitely got some IHOP berry syrup on the nose. Red vines too...just not super strong. I'd say a + overall. Still a great go-to wine I think.

  3. Okay - I have to consider giving the '05 a * if we consider price as a deciding factor. I do not understand how they can put out such a large volume of wine with a very, very nice nose (suspect some oaking program with enough new oak to provoke you).

    Beyond that, I'd say + for the '04 and '06.