Chateau Ste Michelle Winery
When I talked to people about visiting Seattle, the #1 winery I was told to visit from just about every person was Chateau Ste Michelle. This winery is close to Seattle, has a gorgeous facility and produces some of the best wines in the state, on par with wines from the best regions in the world.
Chateau Ste Michelle is located northeast of Seattle in the suburb of Woodinville. Don't expect to find vines at this location - it is actually the site of the Hollywood Farm, once a dairy farm, then a speakeasy before its current incarnation as a winery. The grapes are all crushed and brought in from the Columbia Valley region.
The nearness to Seattle means that the winery sees a huge amount of traffic, though, and it is well set up to handle it. There are big-name musical acts like Jewel and Don Henley that play on their back lawn, with profits going to local charities.
The grounds are gorgeous, with a pair of chateau-style buildings holding the winery and tasting rooms. This is a place to hang out and enjoy an afternoon at.
There are tours every half hour, and most are at the 24-person limit. The tours draw people from all around the world - our tour included people from Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota and Massachusetts.
If you go during the week you can see the bottling line in full swing, but it's easier to go on a weekend when you can hear the tour guide easily. They fill 40 bottles at a time, injecting them first with nitrogen to push out the wine-damaging air. All white wines are bottled at this facility, while reds are bottled at sister label Columbia Crest in the southeastern part of the state.
Many might know Chateau Ste Michelle for its bargain line of wines, but this winery creates some of the finest wines in the world as well. Their 1999 Reserve Cab took 4th place in a prestigious NYC tasting. The success isn't simply recent, either. In 1974, a blind Riesling tasting had Chateau Ste Michelle take first place - and it wasn't their best riesling, either.
But for those seeking the ultimate experience, there is the single berry select 2001 Riesling made in conjunction with Dr. Loosen in Germany. A half bottle of this 38% residual sugar concoction sells for $200, and the wine earned 96 points from Wine Spectator. Of course, once that rating was announced, bottles of this wine became extremely rare!
The wines made at the Woodinville facility are brought in as pressed grape juice, then fermented with yeast for 2-4 weeks in gigantic 15,000 gallon tanks. They then turn down the temperature to stop fermentation, spin them in centrifuges to remove the yeast, then blend and filter for clarity and flavor. Some of the whites are aged in oak for flavor, but most are kept crisp and clean.
By the time you finish the tour, you're ready to taste some wine. The tasting room is large and well laid out, and the tour guide helps you understand the best way to examine and taste a wine. This information will serve you well no matter where you taset wines in the future! You learn how to spot flavors in the wine, figure out which appeal to your palate, and what foods are recommended with each wine. The wine is poured in Riedel glassware, for the best potential flavor.
I highly recommend paying the small extra fee for doing the higher end tasting in the reserve room. Considering the price per bottle of these wines, the small fee barely covers the cost of what you are drinking. The gorgeous wood, back-lit stained glass, quite peace and delicious wines create an oasis of delight for anyone interested in wine.
Highly recommended as the perfect day trip for any visit to the Seattle region - and keep an eye on their concert lineup!
All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.