Each month, Sean Sullivan of the Washington Wine Report, hosts a virtual tasting. Tonight I am tasting January’s selection the Columbia Crest Grand Estates 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was Columbia Crest 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Reserve that came in first of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines for 2009. This is definitely a different label and a different vintage and retails between $9 and $12.

This Washington Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep blackberry color which often heralds a big bouquet but the nose on this wine is very subtle.  I get predominantly milk chocolate and vanilla on the nose. The fruit is very subtle, I pick up some cherry but it shy. When it really opens up a get a hint of plum and a bit more bing cherry.

The fruit introduces itself, momentarily on the tip of the tongue but dissipates as the tannins take over. The tannins are grippy and provide most of the structure of this wine. The finish is dominated by the tannic grip.  Fruit seems to be sacrificed to the wood in terms of both nose and palate.

I tried pairing it with a simple beef stir fry to see how the wine would handle the challenge. The beef softened the tannins a bit so more of the fruit could shine through.  The tannins much improve when this wine is paired with food as does the finish. I get blackberry on the finish when paired with the beef. It isn’t as successful with the green and red peppers part of the stir fry. The peppers almost over power this wine.  Stick to something with some fat and a bit of richness but avoid strongly flavored foods with this wine.

I appreciate that the alcohol content of the wine is only 13.6%, which adds to its ability to pair with food. It is a budget wine, more designed as in an inexpensive dinner wine than a wine to savor over the course of the evening. At this price point and alcohol level, it would also be a good choice for an office party with a hosted bar.