Final Final Update: January Virtual Tasting '07 Columbia Crest GE Cabernet

January’s Virtual Tasting is tonight! The wine is the 2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is widely available in grocery stores and wine shops and retails for $12, although it can frequently be found on sale.

The tasting will take place from 7-9pm. Look for updates to this post and comments from the virtual tasters during this time (click on “Subscribe by email” after commenting if you want to follow the comment thread via email). I will also be tweeting @wawinereport.

What you need to do to participate:

1. Buy this month’s wine from a local retailer

2. Post your comments/tweets tonight between 7 and 9pm. Comments can be as long or short as you want (my personal favorite comment ever was “Blech!”). A good place to start is, did you like the wine or not? Not sure? Think about whether you would buy it again.

If you can’t participate tonight, feel free to try the wine at any point in the future and post your comments.

Read about previous virtual tastings here.

7:05 Update: And we're off!

Some background information. Columbia Crest has four tiers of wine – the Reserves (one of which was named Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year in 2009), H3 (for Horse Heaven Hills), the Grand Estates series, and the Two Vines.

Starting with the outside of the bottle, the 2007 Grand Estates Cabernet has undergone one of the more significant label changes the winery has made in recent years. Usually Columbia Crest has made slight alterations in color to distinguish between the vintages of the GE wines. With the 2007 release, it has a quite different looking label. Personally, I think the new label looks a bit more classy and contemporary. What do you think? Also interested to see that it says “Washington grown” at the bottom of the label. Don’t remember seeing this before. Does anyone else?

Time to pour this sucker…

If you’re leaving a comment and want to receive email comments from the other virtual tasters, remember to click on “Subscribe by email” in the comments section. For those tweeting, I’m using the hashtag #wawine.

7:20 Update: Opening the bottle up, a composite cork which is very lightly stained. Overchilled the wine a bit (58 degrees). As many of you know, I like to drink my reds between 62-66 and the room was a little warmer so I through it in the fridge. At this temperature the nose is light and the wine shows a lot of barrel aromas (vanilla but mainly wood and some spice). Not a lot of fruit showing through. Letting it warm up a bit.

7:30 Update: While the wine has warmed up, the nose has remained fairly stable. Light and dominated by vanilla, chocolate, and oak aromas. Fruit seems fairly far in the background. The nose and the taste definitely seem to match up on this wine. Taste shows a lot of chocolate (fairly consistent with the GE Cab and Merlot series) and lots of barrel influence. The palate has some weight but a lot of it seems to be coming from the wood rather than the fruit. The fruit is there but it is playing a secondary role. Palate seems to dip down and come out of balance about 2/3 of the way through. Leaves a bit of a strange taste lingering.

7:45 Update: A bit of background on the wine. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah. 13.6% alcohol. No listing of the case production but Columbia Crest has generally made about 200k cases of this wine.

Tasting notes from the Winery: “Soft, yet intense aromas of chocolate cherry, cassis and slight spice lead to a medium-bodied palate of fruit- forward flavors. This concentrated wine trails into a supple finish that offers silky tannins, notes of dark chocolate and a slightly spiced finish."

8:10 Update: Four reviews on CellarTracker. See them here. Average 85.8 pts. and median of 84 pts. in 4 notes. No reviews yet from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, or Wine Advocate.

8:30 Update: A nice tech sheet on this wine which you can access here.

Like many who participated tonight, I purchased this wine at the grocery store for a bit under $9. The wine retails for $12 but can frequently be found on sale.

8:45 Update: Overall I find the wine disappointing. Given that 2007 was such a spectacular vintage in Washington, I had higher hopes. The nose on this wine is dominate by oak aromas and the fruit is far in the background. The taste is about the same with a lingering aftertaste that I find a bit unpleasant.

That said, the main reason I am disappointed is due to the way that this wine - and the other wines in the Grand Estates series - have consistently over-performed over the years. This is a wine that more or less matches its price point. Generally, under $15 is an extremely tough price point for Washington cabernet. It's hard to think of one that is particularly compelling, outside of the Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet 2007, off the top of my head.

I would rate this wine somewhere between a dot (.) and a plus (+). If I were rating on a 100 point scale I would say 86 points. It's not a bad wine by any means but overall fairly unremarkable and a bit of a step down from its predecessors.

Final Update: That’s all folks! Thanks to everyone who participated and commented on the blog. Thanks also to those virtual tasting Tweeters: @nectarwine @winebeerwa @riche88 @boxboylover @sturat (forgive me if I missed anyone!).

If you didn't get a chance to try the wine tonight, feel free to do so and post your comments in the future.

We’ll do it all again next month. Let me know if you have any suggestions for the wine. Until then…

Final Final Update: Just added some food to the mix. Cheese and smoked salmon. Drinking this wine with this food is like putting a magnifying glass on the food. Everything about the cheese and salmon got larger! It didn't really go the other way with the food bringing more out of the wine. Interesting...

Sean P. Sullivan


  1. Popped and poured a little early. I was hungry and Kay Kay had smoked BBQ ribs ready at 5:45. Color of CC 2007 GE CS is medium dark garnet. Nose is mocha with hints of mint. A little rough and thin on the palate but definite cabernet flavors. More cocoa on the finish.

  2. Chris, thanks for the comment. No shame in starting early. Unbelievably, I have yet to go to Columbia Crest. Planning to get there this March/April. Time to try this wine.

  3. Found a bottle for $8.99 at the supermarket. Super deep dark color--nice. Nothing special on the nose. Surprisingly smooth for a cheap cab. It was pretty good with a grilled steak. I'd recommend it for that price range.

  4. wzg50, thanks for the comment. I agree on the nose. Steak would probably be a pretty good pairing for this wine I think.

  5. Anon,thanks for the comment. Tell those kids you need to focus on the wine and put them to bed! Takes a lot of time to tease out wine aromas and flavors. If you're interested in doing so, I suggest picking up a wine wheel. Will leave a separate comment later on some ones that I recommend. They are a great tool for getting a starting point. I still use them a lot if something flummoxes me. Best thing to focus on starting out is, do you like it? Would you buy it again? After that it's all just fun!

  6. This is a decent bargain Cabernet Sauvignon. I wouldn't serve it with the best cut of beef, but the wine perked up with stir fried beef. It shows the simplicity and balance of a budget wine but has its place for inexpensive dinners and office parties.

  7. Stuart, agreed that this would be a good wine to take to a large party. Thanks for the rec on the trip out there. Have wanted to do it for a long time.

  8. Bean, thanks for the comment (and the tweets). Cab is a tough wine in this price point generally. I'm about to add some food to the mix to see what happens. GE wines are always good for parties.

  9. Okay, kids are watching Tivo'd Idol, so now to the wine. My wife and I decided that we mostly only taste fruit at the beginning, and not a lot of alcohol taste at the end. Good for the price, but no burritos yet, so one of the 2 might make things worse. Good wine for the price, but have had several less expensive ones that we liked better lately.

    As a side note, we have made the trip to CC. Not too unbelievable that someone hasn't been there. If you tripped in the parking lot, you would almost fall into Oregon. Drove so long and straight on the road heading South, that I glanced in the general area on our map of Washington, and you could see it. Only road in the area. Very secluded, but felt like it was worth the trip. Great people, and plenty of wines to taste.

  10. I've always enjoyed watching the Tour de France on TV. On the aerial helicopter shots you see the peleton zipping through the French oucntryside then all of a sudden there's a large sand colored Chateau with poplars, oaks, and a grand entrance. This is what it's like finding Columiba Crest after crossing Horse Heaven.

    Friendly staff, nice vertical tastings. No fee!!!

    Picnic supplies in the cooler. Tours of the tanks, barrels, and testing labs if you're there at 10, 12, or 2. Or something like that.

    We had a Lindt chocolate truffle for dessert. By now the wine is much smoother and goes pretty well with the chocolate. We'll save the last half of bottle 2 for breakfast.

  11. Hints of close to nothing on the nose. I just can't get much. Not bad, just feel like I'm smelling the glass perhaps. Taste is much better. A bit front-loaded. If the finish was more complex then the taste would be good, but as is, I enjoyed last year's better than this one.

  12. LI, definitely not a lot going on on the nose on this guy for me. However, I felt the same way on the taste in many respects. Just not super interesting. Last year's was definitely a better effort imo.

  13. I think this one falls into the "unmemorable" category. Okay price, okay taste. Probably goes on the "buy if there is nothing else you remember was good" list, because I will remember that it is not bad, just will not be able to remember what was OK about it.

    Thanks for this venue guys. It's nice to be able to read comments while you are trying something new. Comments will probably never change my mind about if I like one or not, but they sure give me a reason to study the wine a little better, rather than just finish the bottle and move on.

    Also, probably don't pair with chicken burritos.

    I think I might have figured out how to post with a name.

  14. Sean, thanks for hosting this. It was fun!

  15. Josh, thanks for participating! I agree the wine was underwhelming but overall, fairly solid at the price point. Always looking for the overachievers. Keep up the good work at

    MD20/20. Thanks for the comment. To use a medical term, I would change your "unmemorable" to "unremarkable". Your description of it is perfect. If it was person you would say "Have we met before?" As always, it's all about what you like. Readers please note, not recommended with chicken burritos. Thanks for participating.

    Stuart, thanks for joining in!

    We'll do it all again next month. Send in any suggestions on the wine.

  16. Final notes on the wine. Nose has some hints of wood, but still have to strain to get it. Taste has some oak, big initial palate, but just is not real complex. Probably wouldn't buy it again but you never know...might get desperado for an inexpensive wine when at Safeway soon.

  17. Enjoyed reading these posts. Thanks for organizing this Sean. Will watch for the next one and try to participate.

  18. Hmmmm... more used to my role as the VT curmudgeon, but in this case I think I liked the wine a bit better than most (maybe because my wine had a few hours in the glass before tasting). Quickly scrawled notes: Nice mix of red fruit and cocoa powder; plenty of acid; flavors pop nicely; nose just okay; not bad overall.

    In sum, I would drink this on a Tuesday.

  19. Mr. Zitarelli, first off let me say, you're late! Nose definitely just okay and not bad overall. For me, I think I had just expected better based on the exceptional track record of the winery. Generally the CC wines exceed their price points across the board. This one I thought just met it. Thanks for the (tardy) comment!

  20. Btw PZ, very nice 2007 Milbrandt Traditions Cabernet you offered @fullpullwines. Bested the CC wine.