Monday, January 25, 2010
Chateau Ste. Michelle's Extraordinary Riesling Power
As Washington state's founding winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, located just outside Seattle in Woodinville, has been instrumental in pioneering and paving the way for Washington's booming wine industry. With history leading all the way back to the repeal of Prohibition, the winery had a defining moment in 1967. Assisted by one of California's premier winemakers, Andre Tchelistcheff, the winery began producing a line of premium wines beginning their ascent into stardom. Throughout the years, their dedication to innovation and quality has proven to be a winning formula. One of their largest feats to date was their instrumental involvement in a quest to bring the Columbia Valley (which provides us with many of the state's great wines) into the limelight and be recognized as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1984. With many awards and accolades under its belt, Chateau Ste. Michelle continues its commitment to giving consumers a choice--something for everyone at every price point without ever sacrificing quality.
Recently, I sampled three of their Rieslings, which I purchased at different times and in doing so, I received another valuable history lesson. Chateau Ste. Michelle is known as one of the leading North American Riesling producers and was among the first to plant the Riesling grape in the state of Washington. A 1974 contest held by the Los Angeles Times brought attention to the winery as their 1972 vintage of Johannisberg Riesling was the first place winner. Today, the winery produces eight Riesling-based wines, from simple to ultra-premium.
The 2008 Columbia Valley Riesling is perhaps the most simple of the three I sampled. It is chock full of apples and peaches with a flinty backbone and a nice, crisp finish. Easy to drink and off dry (alcohol level clocking in at 12.0%), it pairs nicely with spicy foods, asian foods and sushi. At $9.99 a bottle, the price is hard to beat. It can be found at most grocery stores and markets.
The 2008 Columbia Valley Dry Riesling is exceptional. As I was sampling it last night with my Thai Chicken (a great pairing by the way), I learned that the wine had recently received a wonderful accolade-- a "Best Of Show-White" award in the 2010 International Winemaker's Challenge Wine Competition. A more refined and elegant version of its Columbia Valley counterpart mentioned previously, this wine is all stone fruit-peaches and apricots and finishes minerally crisp. With 13.0% alcohol, it is bone-dry yet fruit-forward and flavorful. $9.99. This one can also be easily found in grocery stores and markets.
The 2008 Eroica Riesling I picked up was supposed to be a "special occasion" wine for me. I stepped out of my comfort zone for the greater good of my love for wine blogging and I am so happy that I did. Every day is a special occasion as far as wine is concerned. I chose to open this one right away and was swept off my feet! The brainchild of Chateau Ste. Michelle's winemaker, Bob Bertheau and famous German winemaker, Dr. Ernst Loosen, this exotic and beautiful example of prime winemaking had me literally drooling for more! Tangy lime and mandarin orange lead to a lush and tropical midpalate and finishes crisp. It oozes fruit and a bit of natural sweetness (alcohol content 11.5%). Made from small lots of grapes sourced in many areas of Washington, including Yakima Valley and Horse Heaven Hills. Just heavenly! $24.99 and so worth it! (I am actually lamenting the fact that I missed out on meeting Dr. Ernst Loosen awhile back. He made an appearance at a wine store here in my town. Darn!) Find this wine at your local wine shop or order online at www.ste-michelle.com.
Overall, the 2008 vintage of their Rieslings is proving to be one of the winery's finest to date. Cooler weather delayed harvest by nearly two weeks, resulting in these outstanding, richly-flavored wines. At any tier level, these wines are worth seeking out! I am really looking forward to coming out to Washington this Summer and educating myself further when it comes to Chateau Ste. Michelle! I am confident they will continue producing great wines for many years to come.