Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Winery Visits in Woodinville, WA

Chateau Ste Michelle & Columbia Winery Visits
Woodinville, WA - May 2010

As far as we can remember Chateau Ste Michelle was the maker of the first Washington wine we ever had. We recall it being a Riesling from a tall, sloping bottle and that we had it many times after the first. This Riesling has popped up at many gatherings since and has been offered to us by friends far and wide. And why not? It is a very good wine.

So as we would be in Seattle for the tail end of our Pacific Northwest vacation, we arranged a tasting at Chateau Ste Michelle (CSM) in Woodinville, about 30 minutes northeast. What a beautiful property! Some of the buildings date to the 1800’s and the grounds contain flower gardens established by the original owners. It was raining so we didn’t get much in the way of pictures to share.

Our private tasting was in the library of the main house. The interior of this house was ornately decorated, with beautiful cortains, rugs and  large works of art on the walls. Beside a very nice couple from Edmonton, Alberta we had the full attention and service from Christina from the Chateau's staff.

The wines poured for the tasting were from several select vineyards in the Columbia Valley, or were blends from several labels that are made in much smaller batches than those wines from CSM we can get at home.

2007 Cold Creek Chardonnay - Nice fruit flavors and a smooth finish. An excellent example of a commercial Chardonnay that was not “over-made”.

2005 Ethos Reserve Merlot – Excellent nose and complex flavors. Washington Merlot was a surprise for me, something I hadn’t really had previously.

2006 Wahluke Slope Syrah – Bold and coating on the tongue. This was my favorite of the group. Flavors of dark berries and strong coffee.

2006 Artist Series Meritage – Smooth and complex, lots of flavors from a blend of Cab, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot.

2006 Ethos Chenin Blanc Ice Wine - We had a choice for our last wine and once offered the ice wine it was decided. As you would imagine it was very sweet with incredible fruit flavors and that ever popular honeyed backbone. This was a nice treat to finish up the tasting.

As each wine was presented some distinctions about the locations and conditions of the vineyards were offered as well as history and background of the labels and how they came to be.

After the tasting Christina suggested we take the tour which is not only fun and informative but gets us three more tastings of different wines. How could any self respecting wine drinkers refuse?


The facility we visited is the site of the white wine production for CSM and of course the visitor center. Impressive in size for sure, it is amazing to think that they have another facility at least as large to produce the remainder of their wines. Some history of the winery was offered, and displays of medal winning wines, recent partnerships, and expansions were found along the tour walk. The bottling line was in the middle of a break in the action, but looking at the raw material queued up I could see how much volume it could produce!

At the end of the tour we lined up at the tasting bar and sampled three additional wines, including the Muscat Canelli which was tart and fruity with hints of spice. The tasting room and retail store are dressed in lots of wood and feel very much like you are working in the winery.

We wandered around the retail store for a bit and selected six bottles of wine to have shipped back east. Combining our favorites from the tastings to enjoy at home is sure to bring back some fun memories.


Across the street is the Columbia Winery, a Washington producer that we have more recently become familiar with. I had been told by some friends that their red wines were worth trying so I added this stop to our trip to check on that advice. It was good advice to take for sure!

Columbia Winery’s tasting facilities and tasting room have a very different feel than CSM. I would describe it as not channeling the history of the property and buildings that CSM can. With a modern feel, dark wood and lots of light the contrast was a nice way to transition to a different batch of wines.

Merlot came up again and scored big with both of us. We tried Merlot, Syrah and red blends from the Otis and Red Willow vineyards, and finished with the Geuwrztraminer. All of the reds were rich and flavorful with nice complexity. We are very familiar with the Columbia Cellarmaster’s Riesling but had never tried the Geuwrztraminer from the same line. With a strong fruit and floral nose the wine was sweet, but not in an overpowering way. Another strong finish.

Ready to move on and get something to eat before heading back to the city we asked our server for a recommendation. In the course of the conversation we found that we had travelled across the country to meet someone who used to live in Boston and had previously worked at the company I now work for. Truly a small world. The food recommendation resulted in the Purple Café & Wine Bar, from which Margot’s pizza blog entry from a couple days ago came.

If you are going to be in the Seattle area you should definitely take a look at the large concentration of wineries in the Woodinville area and build your own adventure.

Cheers!

--Jason

1 comments:

Wine bottle labels said... [Reply to comment]

We took the brewery tour which is a steal at only $1 AND you get almost 3pints of beer during the tour AND a free glass. Our tour guide was hilarious. We had lunch afterwards. The menu wasnt the best. And I really didnt enjoy my food. It took the waitress awhile to even see we needed refills but I noticed that she was working the entire restaurant pretty much alone. The store is fairly inexpensive too. It was fun but I would definately only go on the tour if you're in the mood for a younger crowd getting tipsy and yelling random things out.