Archive | May, 2018

Producer to Rely On: Chateau Ste. Michelle

14 May

With year after year of excellent vintages, it’s a great time to drink Washington wines. And for consistently high-quality, very reasonably priced wines, I recommend those of Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington’s biggest and oldest winery.

It’s also one of Washington’s best. It has a worldwide reputation for quality and has received much recognition from the wine media. It has, for example, been chosen as a “Top 100 Winery of the Year” by Wine & Spirits magazine 22 times, more than any other U.S. winery.

Founded in 1934, the Chateau Ste. Michelle ( label dates back to 1967. CSM pioneered vinifera grape growing in Washington under the guidance of famed California winemaker André Tchelistcheff. At the time, there were only 12 wineries in the state and 88% of their production was fruit wine or fortified dessert wine, according to Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s parent company.

As it flourished, Chateau Ste. Michelle played a pivotal leadership role mentoring other Washington wineries, turning the state into one of the world’s premier wine regions. Among other things, it helped establish-–and continues to fund–a world-class Viticulture & Enology program at Washington State University; sponsors a scholarship fund at state universities for high-achieving, low-income students; helped create the Washington Wine Commission; and employed numerous winemakers who eventually went on to improve other wineries in the state.

CSM attributes its success in part to having vineyards in the Columbia Valley, which affords ideal conditions for grape growing. (It’s in the same latitude as Bordeaux and Burgundy, France’s most-esteemed wine-growing regions.) In the valley, warm days and cool nights ensure a long growing season. The grapes ripen fully and maintain crucial acidity.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is best known for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and especially Riesling. Its Rieslings have garnered attention since 1974, when its 1972 Johannisberg Riesling won a now famous Los Angeles Times blind tasting. Today it’s the largest single producer of Riesling in the world.

CSM offers some of the best values available. There are many different varietals ripe for exploring. At these prices, it’s hard to go wrong.


Chateau Ste. Michelle wines are available in all 50 states and more than 100 countries. It produces five tiers at different price levels: Columbia Valley, Single Vineyard, Indian Wells, Ethos Reserve and Artist Series Meritage. I’ve listed the $20-or-under wines below that have been well received by the wine media, as seen on CSM’s website ( There you’ll also find more expensive, well-rated wines.

Riesling Columbia Valley 2016 $9

Riesling Columbia Valley Dry 2016 $10

Gewurztraminer Columbia Valley 2016 $10

Pinot Gris Columbia Valley 2016 $15

Merlot Columbia Valley 2015 $15 Food & Wine magazine’s Ray Isle included this Merlot in his list of 50 of the world’s most reliable, inexpensive wines—bottles that offer amazing quality for their price year in and year out.

Syrah Columbia Valley 2016 $15

Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Vineyard 2016 $18

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Indian Wells Merlot $20

Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Indian Wells $20

If you’re a fan of sparkling wines, I recommend the following wines of Domaine Ste. Michelle (

Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Columbia Valley $13

Domaine Ste. Michelle Extra Dry Columbia Valley $13

Domaine Ste. Michelle Rosé Columbia Valley $13