Range: 1 to 9 (9 is best, 5 is average)
Gorgeous sprawling estate with room for concerts and weddings. Most grape varietals vinted.
I was in Seattle with my mom for a few days so she could explore glass-blowing and Native American art. So that there was something in it for me, we dedicated part of Friday to wine-tasting. Lacking the time to travel to the Columbia Valley, we visited the main winery neighborhood just to the north-east of Seattle called “Woodinville”. Here, you will find winery operations condensed into a short two or three mile stretch of road, with Chateau Ste. Michelle anchoring the end of the main road. I decided to start off my visit here for a few reasons. First off, since we would be tasting just before lunch, I wanted a place close to dining so we would be just a short drive away from lunch. Secondly, Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the larger producers in Washington, much like Beringer Wines in Napa Valley. The spectacular grounds were simply a happy bonus that I had not planned for. Unlike most winery operations, Chateau Ste. Michelle is set up for much more than just wine tasting. The grounds include an outdoor amphitheater for concerts as well as a few buildings large enough to hold corporate meetings, receptions, holiday parties, and so forth. If you could schedule nice weather like I had during my visit, you might even consider an outdoor wedding at this beautiful campus.
|The entrance to the Ste. Michelle tasting room|
Just like the biggest wineries in Napa Valley, Chateau Ste. Michelle attracts visitors by the bus-load. And, while the tasting room was built to accommodate a great many people, they had to scale back the “shine” to do so. The exteriors of all the buildings have a definite European (French) architectural influence. The walls are off-white with taupe shutters and steep rooflines. The tasting room is rather inconveniently located toward the back of the campus, so you walk past a number of offices and reception halls along the way. Inside, the tasting room is done in an industrial-strength rustic feel, again with a nod toward Europe, though for some reason it felt a little more Italian than French. The walls are a creamy off-white, the floors are simply polished concrete, and the tasting counter and ceiling are finished in a warm-toned wood. What caught me off guard was the amount of merchandise for sale in the large tasting room. You really get the feeling that you are in a tourist mecca here.
|Inside the Ste. Michelle tasting room|
I opted for a red tasting flight at the stand-up wine bar. (There is also a tour and tasting option, as well as the Col Solare sit-down option.) Our flight consisted of four red wines, starting with the 2011 Austral Red Wine (a Rhone-style blend), followed by the 2009 Canoe Ridge Syrah and the 2011 Canoe Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. But I quickly learned that Washington is best for making Merlots, as the Canoe Ridge Merlot was my favorite of the flight. The fellow tending to us then offered us a pour of the (off-the-menu) 2010 Artist Series Meritage, which showed not only that 2010 was a better vintage, but that there is a big difference in the winemaking style of their Artist Series wines. This wine was my favorite from this visit. As I was flying home the next day, buying wine at the winery was not a convenient option for me.
|My favorite curiosity for sale inside Ste. Michelle's tasting room|
Based on this experience, I would rate the winery a 7 and the wines poured a 5.