This past weekend I made a short trip across the border to visit a few wineries in Washington State. One of the days was a visit to Chateau Ste Michelle and Airfield Estates, located in Woodinville, WA. It was quite a contrast in scale, but the people I spoke to at both wineries were passionate about the wines that they produced. I like that. What did I try, and do I have any recommendations for you? Of course!
Chateau Ste. Michelle
I spent an hour at Chateau Ste. Michelle, being led through a tasting of wines with one of their staff members, Bob. I appreciate all the time Bob spent with me, considering how busy the tasting room was at that time. I tried white, red, and dessert wines.
On the white wine side, I thought their Cold Creek Chardonnay 2008 (US$25.99) was very elegant. The Cold Creek vineyard is the oldest and hottest vineyard owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle in the Columbia Valley. This wine was medium golden in the glass. Vanilla, oak, lemon and apple aromas. It was medium body with toasty, lemon and light spice on the palate. Light acidity to complement the roundness of the wine. Spice and lemon on the finish. Would go nicely with some salmon.
An easy drinking white was their Pinot Gris 2008 (US$14.99). Pale lemon in colour. Lemon, spice and apple aromas. Crisp acidity, with apple, melon and oak flavour. Medium body with nice round mouthfeel.
For their red wines, I have a few recommendations. The Cold Creek Merlot 2007 (US$30) is big and bold. Deep puple in colour. Vanilla and cherry on the nose. Round and smooth on the palate, with tannins kicking in mid palate. Flavours of ripe black cherries and a hint of chocolate. Medium length with a very drink finish. Drink now or wait a year.
Canoe Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from the Horse Heaven Hills was also another big wine. Canoe Ridge is their mid-tier wine level. The grapes for this wine comes from their Horse Heaven Hills vineyard. Deep purple in colour. Purple fruit, vanilla, and sweet ripe plum aromas. Juicy plums and cherry flavours along with vanilla. Medium body with fine tannins and a dry soft finish. There was a hint of cedar and some chocolate on the palate as well. This wine coated my glass. Very nice.
My last red wine pick is their Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. Ethos is the top tier wine level from Chateau Ste Michelle. This wine received 90 points from Wine Spectator and 92 points from The Wine Advocate, and is my top wine pick! The wine is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 3% Syrah. The wine is deep garnet in colour. A nice nose, with aromas of capsicum, cherry, and meat. Round on the palate with soft tannins. Meaty, cassis, black cherry, and chocolate flavours. The wine went through a very light filtering before being bottled, so don’t be surprised to see a bit of sediment in your glass.
For dessert wines, I was infatuated with their Eroica Riesling Ice Wine 2006 (US$60 for 375ml bottle). This wine was made in conjunction with Dr. Loosen from Germany. The Riesling grapes were harvested from their Horse Heaven Vineyard on Oct 31, which according to Chateau Ste Michelle is very rare. This is only the fifth time in their 40 year history that this has occurred. It scored 93 pts in Wine Spectator. The wine was a medium golden colour in the glass. Petrol, flowers, lemon nose. Very pretty. Medium body, with a wonderful lime flavour, petrol, and good acidity to balance the sugar and fruit. Medium sweetness. Lovely lime finish.
Airfield Estates Winery
Airfield Estates winery is a family-owned operation. It has passed through a few generations. Why “Airfield Estates”? During WWII the US Military asked the Miller family if they could setup an airbase on their land to train pilots. The airbase continued operations until the mid 1940’s. Shortly after WWII came to an end, the pilots moved off-site and the recently constructed buildings were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The only bidder turned out to be H. Lloyd Miller. These unique buildings became the headquarters of the Miller family’s farming operations up to today. You will notice an aeronautical theme to all their wine labels. They have a Thunderbolt, Lightning, and Mustang wine, which are three different types of fighter aircraft.
A white wine I particularly liked was their Gewurztraminer 2009 (US$14). Pale lemon with a green tinge in the glass. Lots of lychee and pear aromas. Some spiciness with pear and lychee flavour. Medium length.
Another white I liked was their Lightning 2008 (US$18). This is a Rhone-inspired blend, consisting of 50% Viognier, 25% Rousanne, 20% Chardonnay, and 5% Marsanne. It scored 90 Points on Wine Advocate. Pineapple and vanilla aromas. Medium acidity but still quite a creamy mouthfeel. Peach and some oak flavours. Medium length.
On the red side, I enjoyed their Mustang 2008 (US$25). This is a blend of 53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 8% Cinsault, 2% Counoise, and 2% Mourvedre. I had not heard of the Counoise grape before. From Wikipedia: “Counoise is a dark-skinned wine grape grown primarily in the Rhône valley region of France. Counoise adds a peppery note and good acidity to a blended red wine, but does not have much depth of colour or tannin.” This wine was medium purple in colour. Quite a complex nose, with aromas of cassis, vanilla, and cherry. Medium body with soft tannins. Red cherry, raspberry, vanilla, and butterscotch flavours. Medium length.
Another red wine of note is their Aviator 2008 (US$30). It is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec. A Bordeaux blend, just missing Carmenere. Medium garnet in colour. Capsicum, vanilla, plum and some meatiness on the nose. Medium plus body. Round up front, then dry on the finish. Capsicum, vanilla, and cherry flavours.
If you live in the Vancouver, BC area, it is only a short 2 hour car ride to Woodinville, WA. There are many wineries in the area for you to explore. Enjoy!