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…