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.