Washington state is the nation’s number two producer of premium wine, with more than 60,000 planted acres, nearly 1,000 wineries, and 14 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The town of Woodinville, WA is a wine destination located in Western Washington, and situated approximately 30 minutes to an hour drive time from downtown Seattle. Woodinville is home to more than 130 wineries and tasting rooms, including several of the state’s most notable wineries, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, and Novelty Hill Januik. The natural wooded landscape surrounding the Woodinville area has made it an inviting area for wineries to develop. The first winery to open in Woodinville was Chateau Ste. Michelle, which opened it’s doors in 1976.
Founded in 1954, Chateau Ste. Michelle was the pioneer of vinifera grape growing in Washington State and has been producing classic European varietal wines under the Ste. Michelle label since 1967. Chateau Ste. Michelle owns 3,500 acres of vineyards in the Columbia Valley of Eastern Washington, including Canoe Ridge Estate and Cold Creek, which are LIVE and Salmon Safe certified. Enjoying winemaking partnerships with some of the world’s most distinguished vintners, Chateau Ste. Michelle works with Col Solare in an alliance with Tuscany’s Piero Antinori, Eroica Riesling is a partnership with the Mosel’s Ernst Loosen and Tenet is a collaboration with Michel Gassier and Philippe Cambie of France.
There are over 80 grape varieties grown today in Washington state, and the primary grapes used in the production of wine are from the Vitis vinifera family of grapes. The main grapes used in wine production in Washington are Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah.
There is much to see at Chateau Ste. Michelle, the winery has more than 300,000 visitors annually. Driving past the small vineyard as you enter the property you will experience beautifully landscaped grounds, a trout pond and a pair of peacocks wandering the estate. The wine assortment available at Chateau Ste. Michelle includes select wines which are available only at the winery.
The Riesling tasting line up included; 2015 Waussie Riesling, 2016 EROICA XLC Dry Riesling, 2016 EROICA Riesling, 2014 EROICA Gold Riesling, 2016 ETHOS Reserve Late Harvest Riesling, and 2014 EROICA Riesling Ice Wine.
Showcasing Riesling versatility, Chateau Ste. Michelle makes up to nine different Rieslings. On the back label of their Riesling bottles you will see the “Riesling Taste Profile” scale feature, to help understand this particular wine is made in a dry style. The Riesling Taste Profile was developed by the International Riesling Foundation.
2015 Waussie Riesling Limited Release-Columbia Valley
The Waussie Riesling is produced from grapes that are half harvested from Lawrence vineyard on the Royal Slope, and the other half from Viewcrest vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Lawrence vineyard gives the wine its tropical fruit characteristics, while Viewcrest introduces an elegant acidity that gives the Riesling its unique structure. Only 682 cases were produced of this limited release, making it an enticing Riesling to purchase for the Holiday season. I appreciated the edginess of this wine and how it showed both the elegance and temperateness that is classically the Pacific Northwest. The 2015 Waussie is a dry Riesling that introduces the tropical flavors from the Lawrence Vineyard in the way of lime and sweet mandarin. Also present is the soft kiss of white peaches mingled with a faint note of spice and ginger.
First Release 2016 EROICA XLC Dry Riesling
Inspired by Winemaker Ernst Loosen’s grandfather who made dry lees aged Rieslings, this is the inaugural vintage of the EROICA XLC. This Riesling is made from Evergreen Vineyard (Ancient Lakes AVA) fruit and fermented in an upright oak cask. With ambient yeast and left on the full lees without the addition of stirring and sulphur, this 2016 vintage stayed on the lees for 12 months. On both nose and palate it displays citrus with just a hint of minerals on the tongue. I think with additional cellar time this Riesling will prove to be an intriguing wine that will only get better with age.
During the tasting of this XLC Riesling I wasn’t sure if I was hearing right when it was described as an aged Riesling. Wait! What? Aren’t white wines meant to be drank early and reds left to age? So I learned something new, that the Riesling grape actually has a magnificent trait for those with some patience, it does improve with age. This is one of the many advantages of tasting in a wineries tasting room, you not only get to taste new and exciting wines but you learn how the wine making process is evolving, or in this case looking back to the old ways of wine making.
Even before an all Riesling tasting was decided this stunning sip was poured to taste as you entered the Chateau Ste. Michelle tasting room. Being able to taste it again as part of the Riesling line up was an added bonus.
EROICA is named for Beethoven’s Third Symphony, a name that also reflects both a refined elegance that has strong Washington roots and a heritage of German inspiration. Carrying characteristics of the aged XLC Riesling this wine has a newer, crisper flavor that accentuates the citrus flavors and mineral notes. Of the two wines I must say that I enjoyed this one slightly more, as it had a long smooth finish that made me anticipate the next sip. The tasting notes for this Riesling were described as mouthwatering and this is something with which I completely agree.
Grapes for this 100% Riesling were taken from Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA, which provided over half of the fruit for the this vineyard blend at 66% and the remaining grapes were harvested from Viewcrest, and Jacona vineyards. Winemakers Ernst Loosen and Bob Bertheau considered dozens of small vineyard lots for this wine, each with slight characteristic differences to get a more complex vintage.
In Washington state 2014 was an ideal growing season with outstanding ripening for many different varietals. This season was a perfect time for Winemakers Dr. Ernst Loosen and Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Bob Bertheau to produce a gorgeous Riesling that few producers can equal in the state. This 2014 Riesling has shining aromas of golden apples, and the refreshing mist of the Spring snow melt as it cascades over a waterfall. Of all of the Rieslings the aromas of this wine made me visualize a truly Pacific Northwest experience. Tastes of pear, gold apple and orange marmalade mingled with a slight acidity that delivered the sensation of a light syrup flowing across my tongue. This is just a remarkable Riesling.
Following in the Dessert category of wines this Late Harvest Riesling had such a lengthy finish that I almost forgot that their was one more wine to come. Produced in the same ideal growing season as the EROICA Gold Riesling, the grapes were hand selected during harvest from Chateau Ste. Michelle’s clusters 30-year-old Horse Heaven Vineyard near the Columbia River. These grapes were picked after “Botrytis bunch rot” set in and worked in concentrating the sugars and flavors of the fruit.
The Ethos Late Harvest Riesling has a rich layer of concentrated flavors like an orange and apricot jam preserved with honey and sweet grass. Wonderfully balanced, this is a perfect sipping wine to end a meal or enjoy as you nibble on a platter of cheeses, dried fruits and nuts. After this lush Late Harvest taste I almost forgot for a moment that there was still one more Riesling to taste, a Riesling Ice Wine.
Few wines make my tongue tingle like the anticipation of trying a new Ice Wine. Cue the music-“Ice Ice Baby”
My personal Ice Wine experience began during my Wine tasting trip to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley last year, before the trip I had not even tried an Ice Wine. The difference between a Late Harvest wine and an Ice Wine is the time the grapes spend on the vines. To make a “true” Ice Wine, grapes are left on the vine long after harvest and are picked by hand once temperatures reach a certain level, usually about 17 degrees Fahrenheit. These frozen grapes are crushed and since they are frozen, only a few drops of sweet juice is released. With so little juice coming from the harvested fruit, ice wine tends to be expensive. For these reasons most Ice Wines are often offered in small half-bottles.
2014 EROICA Riesling Ice Wine
Chateau Ste. Michelle was one of the first producers of ice wine in North America with the release of its 1978 Ice Wine. The climate of Eastern Washington has been known to have extreme temperature fluctuations, which is perfect to produce a great Ice Wine. During the 2014 harvest all of the necessary conditions for ice wine came together, a hard freeze and ripe, healthy fruit still on the vine. The 2014 EROICA Riesling Ice Wine grapes were harvested from Horse Heaven Vineyard, located in the Horse Heaven Hills by the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.
After tasting many Ice Wines in Canada and coming home with two bottles that I “had to have”, I can say this Ice Wine really wowed me. This Riesling Ice Wine is a beautiful soft gold color and shows off with a sexy cling on the inside of the glass. Luscious with flavors of apricots dipped in honey and tides of exotic fruit, I fell in Love with this wine. At $60 for a 375 ml bottle it is an expensive purchase but one that I can envision sharing with friends after a fantastic meal or served with creamy vanilla custard and grilled pears. Be still my heart!
Spending time at a historic winery like Chateau Ste. Michelle is always a great way to spend a day. Making the tasting experience even better is trying an array of Rieslings that showcase the one of the most popular grapes in Washington. When visiting the Seattle area or if you live locally and just need a new adventure, I would suggest taking the time to visit Chateau Ste. Michelle and partake in a fantastic wine experience.
All images are copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.