Final Update - April Virtual Tasting Columbia Crest 2006 Grand Estates Shiraz

The April Virtual Tasting tonight is the Columbia Crest 2006 Grand Estates Shiraz. Read more about this month's Virtual Tasting here. I will be updating this post with running notes as I taste the wine. Look for the first update a little after 7pm. I encourage you to post your comments along the way as well.

If you can’t join tonight feel free to send comments any time before or after. Also if you have suggestions for next month's wine, send 'em along.

7:30 Okay folks the bottle is open. Temperature is 65 degrees. Composite cork that is lightly colored. No signs of leakage. Pouring now...

7:45 Wine is medium ruby colored. Nose has light game notes along with sweet oak and berry. Fairly classicly styled syrah nose. Oak is occasionally intrusive.

Some background on the wine. The 2006 Syrah is a reasonable 13.5% alcohol, considerably lower than many produced in the state that are at or above 15%. The fruit is from the Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope AVA. The wine was aged for 12-14 months in 60% French and 40% American oak barrels. It was co-fermented with a small amount of Viognier in a northern Rhone valley style.

8:00 I like the nose a fair bit. The sweet oak notes come off after the wine opens up a bit. Surprisingly flat on the palate, especially in the middle. Doesn't have much to say along the finish. Oak also very present on the taste. Citrus elements about three quarters of the way through. Overall my initial impression is that the nose is fairly appealing but the taste is a disappointment. We'll see what happens with a bit more time.

8:15 Let this sit for a while. Not swirling the wine there are a lot of oak aromas - chocolate, vanilla, spice. Vigorous swirling brings the syrah aromas back to the front. Still can't say much about the taste other than that the oak dominates. Overall it's an inoffensive wine with an appealing nose but a disappointing taste. Based on the nose I would give it a plus (+) but the taste brings it down to a dot (.). Next up, adding a little food to the mix to see what happens.

8:45 Still find myself liking the nose but not seeing much different along the taste. One thing I will say is that I have had few syrahs, especially from Washington, at this price point. I purchased this at Pete's Seattle for $12. Most Washington syrah I have had have been somewhere between $20-$40. Would be interested to try other Washington wines in this price range.

9:05 Put the wine in to stress positions and subjected it to light and heat deprivation. In other words, into the fridge with it and dropped it down to 60 degrees to see what would happen. The game aromas get accented at this temperature as do floral aromas from the viognier. The taste seems to have improved. Carries better along the mid-palate. Way too oak dominated for me still through. The oak is what carries the palate along. Next up, what the winemaker and the 'zines had to say.

9:35 Winemaker notes:
“This opaque, reddish-purple wine contains expressive aromas of pepper, spice, blueberry, and violet. It makes a fresh entry on the palate with layers of fresh fruit and soft tannins that carry through the long silky finish. Enjoy this wine with grilled dishes.”

Wine Spectator: 89 points.
Smooth and generous. A plush mouthful of plum, blackberry and spice flavors that linger on the open-textured finish. Drink now. 30,500 cases made. –HS

Wine Enthusiast: 86 points. From the use of the term Shiraz (rather than Syrah) to the sweet, vanilla-and-tobacco-laden flavors, this seems to be aimed squarely at the consumer who loves a forward, round and rather soft Australian-style wine. It delivers ripe berry flavors, silky tannins and plenty of up-front pleasure for the price. -PG

10:30 Final thoughts. So we're almost three hours in to the bottle being open. I still like the nose which I have consistently throughout. Taste has improved. Oak seems a bit less intrusive now. Overall more even on the palate. Finish has also improved a bit as well. I still would stick with giving it a dot. Creeps up towards and + but doesn't quite make it. On a 100 point scale I would say 86-87.

Great comparison of Harvey Steiman's and Paul Gregutt's writing style above. Have to say that Paul's review aligns closely with my thoughts. Don't really read Harvey's review for this one and feel like we are talking about the same wine. Didn't feel like it was as generous as I wanted. I must say that I would feel better if it were in the $8-$9 price range, like the merlot and cabernet can often be found for, rather than $12.

Thanks Lisala, Mac, RW, and the Anonymi for your thoughts.
Paul, kept waiting for your mid-class notes. Others feel free to try the wine at any point and send your thoughts along.

Let me know if you have suggestions for next month's wine.

Sean P. Sullivan

Please e-mail any comments or questions to


  1. I have a Wednesday night class this quarter. Ugh. Think it would be weird if I opened the bottle during class? Would that be noticeable?

  2. Paul, I could think of nothing more natural than drinking during class.

  3. Nose - When just poured hints of chocolate and sweet oak. Vanilla too! After time and swirling there are smokey hints and dust. Nose gets my hopes up to taste it. Can't wait.
    Taste - And the there was the taste. TASTE DOES NOT DELIVER.
    Overall - Nose is great and very fun. Taste is BIG disappointment.

  4. Totally agree. A fun nose especially for the price point but just doesn't live up to it on the taste.

  5. Garnet color with a hint of rust. The nose first evoked butter cream or cream soda--lots of vanilla. Very nice and pleasing--it served as a warning of what was to come: much like vanilla, the smell belies the taste. Loads of tannin--but not in a good way. Wood chips. Thin, no real depth like other big Washington syrahs I've had. Some citrus, but very flat throughout the palate. Bitter finish--tastes quite weak. This was disappointing.

  6. Hi Sean! Here via Lisala, at Washington Wine.

    Definitely a wine to let sit. I'm thinking I'll actually decant the next bottle - I opened this one about seven, or a bit after, and the character and complexity improves moment by moment. Just had a second glass, and find myself really pleased at the difference between this and the first taste, a half hour ago.

    It's definitely and distinctly a Shiraz, more mature and straightforward than my experiences with previous WA Shiraz has been.

  7. Lisala, thanks for joining the virtual tasting and for the notes! I'm interested to see if the taste evolves a bit more as the wine opens up. The nose certainly does evolve and is enjoyable. I'm not seeing a lot of change on the taste right now. Just find myself wanting a little more of something - a little more acid, a little more fruit or something.

  8. Paul, were I the instructor, I'd encourage my students to bring a bottle of wine. Heck, I've served mead more than once for Beowulf seminars . . .

    But I'm liking the Shiraz; mind, I started before food, and then had it with food, and the flavor did improve. Not, so far my favorite Shiraz, but I'd definitely drink it again.

  9. Lisala sent me this way - but we're different people. :)

    I'm still a cab person. I have to admit. I keep trying other reds, but you know what? In terms of comparable price, so far none of the other reds I've tried have even approached the pepper and attitude of even a mediocre Cabernet Sauvignon.

  10. Mac, thanks for joining in the fun. I love cabernet as well. However, there are some GREAT syrah out there that give cabernet a serious run for its money. Two questions: 1) what cabernets do you like? 2) what Washington syrahs have you tried? I'll see if I can think of something that can give you some pepper and attitude. :)

  11. Lisala, I must say that it's never entirely fair to drink a wine without food on hand. I added some items in late - rosemary crackers, chevre with herbs, and brie. Not really the perfect syrah food. Something more meaty or piquant might have brought something a little different out.

  12. Mac, aha! My eyes skipped over the "via" in your first message. My bad.

  13. Sean, re: food, we had locally grown fresh green beans, sauted with bacon, garlic and onions.

    It did make a difference; the food sort of brought forward the flavors in the wine that the nose hints at.

  14. Sean, Meridian's Cab is one of my standard table wines. But I've been experimenting. The Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cab was quite pleasant, and part of why I was interested in this tasting.

  15. Nose has currants, apples and red pepper on it. Interesting. Taste is interesting as well, but not necessarily in a good way. Blood-iron! Taste has blackberry, Granny Smith apples. Maybe some melon on it. My initial thought is offered it step up from refusing it.

  16. Lisala, sounds like a good mix. Definitely should have added some different food in. Especially at 13.5% alcohol, I think it would have improved the wine.

    Mac, I agree that the GE Cab is great for the price. I'll check out Meridian's cab. What's your price range for syrah? In the $20 range I would check out the Rulo Syrca, syrah cabernet blend. Might be the best of both worlds.

    RW, I am concerned about vampires reading my blog. Especially granny smith apple eating vampires.


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