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Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the best producers of premium quality wine today. I mean if you can conveniently produce several millions of crates of vino every year, then you have to be given some accolades for such great work!
Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the oldest and most prestigious wineries in Washington State and produces nothing less than 8 million cases of well-made Riesling wine every year.
Today, this winery has over 60 wines, and all of them can be found in more than 100 countries around the world and all the 50 states.
So, if you are searching for veritable and well-priced wines that are good enough for virtually all occasions, Chateau Ste. Michelle is the winery to trust.
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About Chateau Ste. Michelle
Chateau Ste. Michelle is a winery that was founded by the American Wine Growers in 1954. This company was formed after a 1954 merger of the Pomerelle Wine Company and the National Wine Company (NAWICO). This took place following the repeal of Prohibition.
The Chateau Ste. Michelle, which pioneered the cultivation of Vitis vinifera grape in Washington State, is designed and built in a French-style. It is set on 35 hectares (87 acres) of land that is graced by mature trees. To reach Chateau Ste. Michelle, you may have to travel up to 20 miles northeast of Seattle in the cozy town of Woodinville.
These are the woods in which Frederick Stimson, the lumber baron, used as a hunting ground. The mature trees also double as the Hollywood Farm which is a rural working farm.
Chateau Ste. Michelle produces Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot. It is the world’s leading producer of Riesling and has been making Riesling for over 45 years now.
The winery is also in wine-making partnerships with two other wine merchants, namely:
- Eroica Riesling is an alliance with Mosel’s Ernst Loosen
- Col Solare is a partnership with Perio Antinori
Chateau Ste. Michelle was selected as the American Winery of the Year in the 2004 edition of Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Since then, several vintners in Washington have partnered with the winery. This includes Chinook Wines, the brainchild of Kay Simon. This company was co-founded with Clay Mackey, her husband. He was at one time the vineyard manager for Chateau Ste. Michelle.
Chateau Ste. Michelle also owns several state’s historic vineyards. This includes the Cold Creek Vineyard which was established in the ‘70s, the Indian Wells vineyards in Columbia Valley AVA, and the Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard situated in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.
You should also know that all the grapes used in producing the varieties of wines by Chateau Ste. Michelle is sourced from their own vineyards right there in Washington State.
Chateau Ste. Michelle has gone into several partnerships as well as acquisitions indicating a significant growth from its humble beginnings.
Columbia Crest Winery is the second Washington label which was founded in 1983. Chateau Ste. Michelle also purchased Erath, which is based in Oregon in 2006.
Ste. Michelle started making Eroica, a premium-quality Riesling produced in the Columbia Valley with Ernst Loosen in 1995. In 2016, the company purchased the Chardonnay house, Patz & Hall as well as the Sonoma-based Pinot Noir.
Ste. Michelle is also renowned for producing luxury Cabernet Sauvignon under the Col Solare label, thanks to the partnership that was formed with Antinori in 1995.
Chateau Ste. Michelle: 7 Things You Should Know About This Winery
Chateau Ste. Michelle, as a leader in winemaking, has defined and sustained Washington State wine over the last 5 decades. The label has successfully established several of the now-favored wine-growing regions within the state. It has also helped to create both national and global markets for wine produced in Washington.
However, this label started from somewhere before it rose to prominence in 1974. This was when the label’s 1972 Riesling won the blind tasting of 19 White Rieslings which was sponsored by the Los Angeles Times back then.
Here are 7 things you need to know about Chateau Ste. Michelle:
1. The Battle of the 19 Rieslings
Once upon a time, right before the Judgement of Paris placed Napa Valley on the world map in 1976, there was the battle of Los Angeles. It is otherwise known as the battle of 19 Rieslings, wines scouted from other parts of the world.
This “battle of 19 Rieslings” refers to the blind tasting of 19 Rieslings set up by the Los Angeles Times in 1974. This was when it was proven beyond any reasonable doubt that American wineries could compete on a global scale.
Ste. Michelle’s 1972 Riesling won, making Riesling the most popular variety in the United States.
2. Chateau Ste. Michelle Plays Well with Other Winemakers
For several years, Chateau Ste. Michelle has attracted some of the crème de l crème winemakers to Washington State. This includes Col Solare, the single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon which is made with Tuscany’s Piero Antinori.
And the Eroica line of Rieslings which are produced in conjunction with Ernst Loosen of Mosel Valley, Germany. This goes to show that Chateau Ste. Michelle is a team player and loves collaborating with other vintners.
As a matter of fact, Chateau Ste. Michelle recently collaborated with Michel Gassier, the Rhône vintner to produce Tenet Wines. This was done in order to explore the potential for Syrah as well as other Rhône varieties right here in Washington State.
3. Chateau Ste. Michelle is the #1 Producer of Riesling
Chateau Ste. Michelle is the single largest producer of the fragrant, dry or sweet wine known as Riesling in the world. The label produces more than 500,000 cases of Columbia Valley Riesling.
All of these wines can be found in all the 50 states of the federation and more than 100 countries around the world.
4. Diversity of Grapes is Welcome
Washington State is blessed with an extensive range of growing conditions, and this is reflected in the diverse wines produced by Chateau Ste. Michelle.
Chateau Ste. Michelle produces a wide array of wines such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, etc.
The label also produces a few red wines made from Bordeaux varietals, and this includes Grenache, Syrah, and so on.
5. The Network is Much Appreciated
Many people have had the privilege of working for Chateau Ste. Michelle and a few of them have gone on to create their own wineries. This has made the label to build an extensive network of former employees who remain loyal to the brand.
Some iconic wineries in Washington such as Fidelitas, Januik, Long Shadows, and many others can trace their origins to Chateau Ste. Michelle.
6. Chateau Ste. Michelle Hosts Concerts Every Year
The Chateau was constructed in 1976 but underwent a massive renovation in 2018. It offers tastings and tours for visitors who love white wine and are curious about how they are made.
The Chateau is also home to all-white wine production and usually hosts a concert series every year. These concerts are so immensely popular that it has attracted the likes of Bob Dylan, John Legend, etc.
7. Chateau Ste. Michelle Owns 3 Estate Vineyards
Chateau Ste. Michelle owns 3 estate vineyards, and each one of them is located within the Columbia Valley AVA. They are Horse Heaven, Cold Creek, and Canoe Ridge.
Both the Canoe Ridge and Horse Heaven vineyards are in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Cold Creek, on the other hand, is situated slightly north of the Yakima Valley.
Canoe Ridge and Cold Creek vineyards are certified Salmon Safe and LIVE (Low Input Viticulture Enology) since 2009. These are healthy practices that are designed to keep Pacific Northwest rivers clean.
Wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle
Chateau Ste. Michelle has utilized the unique talents of superstar winemakers Ernst Loosen, Bob Bertheau, and David Rosenthal. They are behind the production of some of the best Riesling you have enjoyed over the years.
The following Rieslings – and other varieties of wines – would never have existed without them. So, the next time you pour a glass of chilled Riesling in a wineglass, remember to drink to the health of these talented individuals:
This is Chateau Ste. Michelle entry-level wine and it has maintained its extraordinary value ever since. This particular Riesling is a 2017 vintage which offers delicate floral scents along with yellow and white stone fruit.
This results in citrus and rich orchard flavors with lemony acidity. This wine comes with 12.5 percent alcohol by volume. It is definitely a Riesling that no wine lover would want to ignore on their shelves for long.
Eroica is the brainchild of David Rosenthal and Dr. Loosen and was made from select fruit obtained from the very best Riesling vineyards in Washington State.
Two-thirds of these select fruits are harvested from the Evergreen Vineyard situated in the Ancient Lakes AVA.
Eroica Riesling offers a perfumed and highly seductive bouquet and comes with a zest of lime notes of yellow peach and mint. The value-packed wine also has an immaculate balance of sugar and acid while showing a profound depth of peach, lychee, and citrus with a lingering, vibrant palate.
2016 Eroica Riesling has 12 percent alcohol by volume and usually costs less than $20.
This highly authentic ice wine from Horse Heaven Hills is usually picked mid-November at 35 Brix and then pressed almost immediately. It is left to ferment over 3 weeks.
Ice Wine Riesling is yellow-gold in color and comes with juicy but super intense and stimulating stone flavors and aromas. The 2014 edition of this unique, 9 percent alcohol by volume Riesling wine is the 9th time in 59 years that Ste. Michelle will produce ice wine.
This wine is crisp with light red fruit aromatics and a zingy acidity that remains throughout from the nose to the finish. However, it is an exceptional wine which you can pair remarkably well with Kushi oysters.
This particular Chardonnay begins with hints of toasty brioche, butterscotch, and roasted macadamia nut right on the nose.
The “Canoe Ridge Estate” alcoholic beverage is a warm vintage white with an exceptional mid-palate weight that showcases a mixture of citrus fruit and tree flavors along with creamy undertones.
This Riesling from Horse Heaven Hills is made from 100 percent botrytis-affected clusters harvested in late October/early November at 55-65 Brix.
It takes from 3 to 6 months for this highly sugared wine to ferment to at least 7 percent alcohol. It is left on the lees for up to one year before it is finally bottled by hand.
The Eroica Single Berry Select Riesling is tangy and showcases whiskey-infused orange marmalade and dried apricot on the nose. The palate which is quite syrupy is exhibits caramelized nuts, candied stone fruit, and a tinge of Pedro Ximenez sherry.
This is a noteworthy American dessert wine and one that comes with one of the highest residual sugar ever found among other sweet wines.
Eroica XLC Riesling is an inaugural vintage that was inspired by Loosen’s grandfather while producing dry, lees-aged Riesling back in the 20th century.
This wine is produced from fruit obtained from Evergreen Vineyard (Ancient Lakes AVA), and allowed to ferment along with ambient yeast in an oak cask that is set upright. It is then left on the full lees without stirring and no Sulphur at all.
This 2016 vintage was left on the lees for up to 12 months while the 2017 vintage was left on the lees for an additional year.
This wine showcase mineral and white flower on the nose along with leesy citrus flavors. If you want to enjoy the best of this Eroica XLC Riesling, you may have to give it more time to spend in your cellar.
The “Midsummer’s White” white wine is an enticing as well as a complex blend of Muscat Canali, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, and Gewurtztraminer.
Right on the nose are white grapefruit, gooseberry, and candied ginger aromas. When you take a sip of this slightly sweet wine, your senses will be awash with sterling minerality, gooseberry, pink grapefruits, green apple, and teaberry flavors in combination with a beautiful mélange.
You’d better not allow the intense minerality to escape as it will diminish your enjoyment of this remarkable offering from Chateau Ste. Michelle. So, make sure you drink this wine as soon as possible.
The Cold Creek Vineyard was planted sometime in the ‘70s, and it is a warm site that is held in high esteem and honor. And for a good reason as it is known to produce some of the best Cabernet in Washington state.
This perfumed or aromatic and deeply colored war vintage wine begins with blackberry cobbler, Hoisin sauce, and cigar ash on the nose.
The palate packs a good weight, giving you an excellent sense of the place, the vino originates from. You will enjoy the perfect combination of mocha, blackberry cordial, and tart flavors at all times.
Although Cold Creek Vineyard is one of the hottest sites situated in the Columbia Valley, it is not the perfect place for Riesling. Nevertheless, it is the only single vineyard where Riesling made by Ste. Michelle is produced.
Riesling was planted in the Columbia Valley over 50 years ago based on the advice of André Tschelisteff and Walter Clore. The small berries and the old vines also contributed significantly to the excellent structure and concentration in the wine.
You should expect typical aromas as the palate is densely rich in ripe stone fruit. It took up to 4 weeks to harvest the grapes used in the production of this particular Riesling wine. It comes with 12 percent alcohol by volume.
This is a cool 2010 vintage that was released in 2018, allowing for excellent acidity and extended hang time. This wine offers impressively deep, layered stone fruit flavors along with the perfect balance on a rich palate.
It will surprise you to know that over half of the fruit used in producing this 2010 vintage was harvested from Yakima Valley’s Zillah Ranch vineyard.
The botrytis-affected fruits used in making the 2014 Eroica Gold Riesling was sourced mostly from Horse Heaven Vineyard, Chateau Ste. Michelle. Half of these grapes were harvested in three picks at approximately 32-35 Brix.
They were fermented to less than 10 percent alcohol by volume, thereby leaving up to 90 g/L RS.
The Eroica Gold Riesling wine reveals bright and tangy ripe peach along with apricot on an effusive, aromatic nose. The palate is firm and richly flavored, and it finishes with crisp notes and juicy persistence.
Without question, you will enjoy the exceptional taste of this wine at any time.
Chateau Ste. Michelle And Giving Back to The Society
So, what happens to the proceeds of the Summer Concert Series that takes place at Chateau Ste. Michelle? It may come as a bit of a surprise that the label gives back to the community and the industry as well. Not many labels in its category can do that.
For instance, the net proceeds from the concert are used to fund the charitable giving program which conveniently supports up to 400 not-for-profit organizations without missing a year.
The company has been able to provide not less than $3 million as scholarships for low-income but high-achieving students that attend Washington universities. They are also financial supporters of the Viticulture & Enology Program which is undertaken at Washington State University.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
This is a diverse collection of wine estates. Each one of these wine estates has unique growing conditions, and they follow independent winemaking practices that give their own wines their extraordinary character.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Tasting Room
The display of wine in Chateau Ste. Michelle’s tasting room is a work of art itself. Visitors can also wander around the great shop on the premises and even get to pick up several décor and wine gadgets.
The staff of this company is courteous and knowledgeable about Chateau Ste. Michelle. Another aspect of the tour allows you to catch a glimpse of the white wine production.
The photographic collections displayed along the walls give you the chance to travel down memory lane.
There is no doubt that you will enjoy your foray into the world of white winemaking and how Chateau St\. Michelle has evolved over the years to become the industrial behemoth that it is today.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What makes the difference between a good Chardonnay and a great one is nothing but profound attention to details, in the vineyard and the cellar. Chardonnay is one of those sculpted wines that require extreme carefulness.
A slight difference or change in the vineyard or during the winemaking process can result in another style that may not be desirable. This is why vintners must have a vision that they would follow through right from the vineyard through to the cellar and finally the bottle to create a great Chardonnay.
Eroica Riesling is known for its slight sweetness and crisp, natural acidity. This is why it pairs exceptionally well with a wide variety of foods. Riesling pairs remarkably well with sushi, seafood, sausage, and smoked meats.
Eroica Riesling pairs well with Indian curries or Thai food as they bring a certain amount of heat to the table.
Chardonnay is an easy to drink table wine that costs less than $12. Nevertheless, it is one of the most enchanting and complex white wines in the world today. Chardonnay, of course, means different things to different individuals or wine lovers.
But you can definitely find the expression that appeals to you which you find enjoyable at any time!
At Columbia Valley, we have a very fascinating juxtaposition of Old World later season cold with New World early-season warmth. This exciting phenomenon allows us to grow our grapes to beautiful ripeness without losing their delicate natural acidity.
So, it is safe to say that the climate, as well as the sub-AVAs, have a significant impact on the outcome of the winemaking process. For instance, the weather at Wahluke Slope is not the same as what you will find at Yakima Valley or even Heaven Hills.
The expressions of the Chardonnay produced from any of these areas will be typically different.
There is no doubt that Chateau Ste. Michelle will continue to make waves many years down the road. It will also continue to produce some of the best wines in the world. I do not have too many reservations about the wines – especially Riesling – churned out by this remarkable label.
But then, I could be biased since Riesling wines are one of my favorites. So, go out there and find your own vino and stick with it without any reservations. Please drink responsibly!