Food & Drink

Northwest Wines: Washington’s largest, oldest winery continues to shine

Running the Northwest’s largest winery is daunting. Simultaneously crafting some of our region’s best wines is downright difficult.

That’s what Chateau Ste. Michelle manages to do year after year, and its latest releases show no signs of cutting corners in quality as it continues to grow in size.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington’s flagship winery. Its roots run deep, going back to the repeal of Prohibition. In 1934, two wineries — Pommerelle and National Wine Co. — began, and they were fierce rivals until Pommerelle bought out Nawico prior to World War II. By the 1950s, they merged, and in the 1960s, the first Ste. Michelle wines hit the market.

With the opening of a grand chateau in the eastern King County community of Woodinville in 1976, the winery was rechristened Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Today, head winemaker Bob Bertheau oversees a team that spans the state, with white wines made in Woodinville and red wines made at the winery’s Canoe Ridge Estate winemaking facility in the remote southern Horse Heaven Hills overlooking the Columbia River.

Here are some of Ste. Michelle’s latest releases. For the most part, they are broadly distributed and should not be difficult to find at groceries and wine retailers throughout the West and across the nation.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $10: This medium-dry Riesling starts with aromas of Granny Smith apple, lemongrass and white pepper. The entry to the palate is juicy with apple and ripe pear flavors, backed by lemon pepper. (12% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Harvest Select Sweet Riesling, Columbia Valley, $10: Pretty aromas of rosewater, pineapple and peach give way to flavors of lush tropical fruits, backed by Honeycrisp apple, Bartlett pear and a souk spice market. (10.5% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $11: This is bone-dry in a style that’s tremendous with fresh, regional cuisine. Grassy aromas include sweet lime, lemon juice and white pepper. That green and grassy theme continues on the palate with Granny Smith apple, lime peel and slate, backed by brisk acidity. (11% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Canoe Ridge Estate Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, $25: Notes of melon, apple and dusty pear include a faint hint of minerality often found in wines from this region. The elegant structure on the palate presents more orchard fruit and a sense of grassiness amid the mild oak tones and richness on the midpalate from surlie aging. (14.8% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Ethos Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $36: There’s a fair bit of oak in the aromas, along with baked bread, lemon, green banana and clove. It’s rich and round on the palate with up-front butterscotch and orchard fruit flavors. (14.5% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Cold Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $30: Aromas of purple fruit hint at blackberry and boysenberry, backed by black licorice. Inside comes a creamy entry of dark plums, dried cherry and sweet blackberry. (14.5% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: This wine’s smoky, savory, spicy and chocolaty nose could be mistaken for a Syrah, and there’s pleasure on the palate with tones of rich Marionberry and chocolate-covered cherry. (14.5% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Ethos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $48: Opulence oozes from aromas that feature black cherry, dark plum and crushed herbs along with hints of barrel influence with brown sugar, clove, cocoa powder and coconut. The flavors are bold with currant and plum amid a sturdy, yet integrated, structure. (14.5% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Ethos Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley, $50: Oak lovers will dig this Syrah, which features aromas of dark toast, blackberry, candied blueberry and hints of charcuterie followed by bold and brawny flavors with a theme of roasted coffee, boysenberry and blueberry. (14.9% alc.)