When I told a friend I was going to taste this for a possible wine of the week, she said, "Good luck. I've had it more than a few times, and I don't remember it fondly at all."
Which is understandable. Columbia-Crest makes the kind of wine that gets sold in national chain restaurants, where the staff's lack of wine knowledge is matched only by the managment's lack of concern about the staff's lack of knowledge. So if a bottle sits open for a couple of days and oxidizes, no one cares that the wine they serve to the customer is more or less undrinkable. It's also a grocery store wine that gets sold to grocery stores that don't sell a lot of wine, so if it sits in a hot warehouse and turns to vinegar, no one is any the wiser.
Which is why I wanted to try it. Just because a wine is sold in a chain restaurant or grocery store is no reason for the Wine Curmudgeon to write it off without tasting it. And, in fact, the cabernet ($10, purchased) is -- if not a great wine -- certainly better than my friend remembered. In this, it's a not only a value, but a big, hearty wine for those who like that sort of thing.
The cabernet has Washington state terroir, oddly enough, which you don't find in most mass-produced wines (and Columbia-Crest is owned by the same company that owns the even more massively-produced Chateau Ste. Michelle). That means it's got that dark, fruity, earthy cabernet flavor, as well as the tannins, that typify Washington state. California winemakers, on the other hand, go for a more rich and juicy approach.
The wine is a bit overwhelming at first, but let it sit for a few minutes -- something else you don't have to do with most grocery store wines -- and it opens up sufficiently. It's definitely a food wine: red meat certainly, and I drank it with Friday night take-out pizza, and that almost wasn't enough for it.