Chateau St. Michelle began on the estate of Lumber Baron Frederick Stimson in the Columbia Valley of Washington State. It is the oldest winery in Washington State, founded in 1954 when the National Wine Company and the Pommerelle Wine Company in 1954 merged. They called it the American Wine Company. In 1967 created a new line of premium wines called Ste. Michelle Vintners. In 1976 the whole company took the name of their most popular wines and became Chateau St. Michelle. With annual production of 2 million cases they are the largest producers of Riesling wines in the world, yes the whole dang planet. They make a really tasty Gewürztraminer too. LeBeau has shared their wines at different tastings over the years, (Wait a minute! We have been doing these for years! Holy Wine Drinking Batman! It’s been 7 years!), but until this September tasting we hadn’t focused on a single winery let alone the Chateau. It was a lovely treat to spend time tasting and learning how varied and delicious all the wines from one winery can be.
On to the tasting and more fun facts!
As we sat at our tables Lebeau gave us our first pour from Chateau St. Michelle. It was from their Indian Wells line simply called Red Blend. Merlot was the main grape at 68% with Syrrah following with 28%. It made for a very fruit forward medium body wine. The color was a soft purple and it smelled of raspberries and smoke. The flavors were also berries and smoke with a hint of vanilla and maybe a little cinnamon. Audrey said, “ Very Drinkable. Deb followed immediately with “Except for Deb.” Yes she spoke of herself in third person. I reassured her the Riesling was coming.
The First Course: Before I describe this first course let me tell you Lebeau wasn’t the only one to narrow his focus to one label. Coreen paired all the lovely Washington State grapes with well known food from the same state. She is very smart. Okay, now the food. This first course was probably my favorite food of the day. Coreen took pears from Yakima, WA. diced them layered them on a tortilla with ham, bleu cheese and a little ginger then grilled them for one of the most unique and flavorful quesadillas I have ever had. It was salty, sweet, savory, and tangy. It amazes me how mellow bleu cheese gets when it is heated but how much more flavorful the pears are when they get the same treatment. The ham pulled them together for a unified bite and I bit several helpings worth! Lebeau paired this delectable treat with a Horse Heaven Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. One first smell this straw colored wine was very green with notes of grass and green peppers and of course that classic Sauvignon Blanc aroma, cat piss. On the tongue there was a slight effervescence and acidity. The taste was peaches and grapefruit. When paired with the food the acid mellowed and the citrus really popped. The food changed as well the bleu cheese became buttery and the ginger popped. I thought it was a great pairing. Mariana called it, “A melody of flavor.” Steve Hussey didn’t like it quite as much. He said, “The pairing nullifies the sweetness in both the wine and the pears.”
The Second Course was another classic Washington State staple, salmon with a coffee rub on a crostini topped with an amaretto cream sauce. The salmon was well prepared and the crostini was good and crunchy. Lebeau paired this with an unusual choice. #1 it wasn’t from Chateau St, Michelle but Seven Falls, also a Washington State Winemaker. #2 it was a Cabernet Sauvignon which isn’t a typical pairing for fish since it is such a big flavor. The salmon is a hearty fish with its own big flavor and with the coffee rub and amaretto sauce it matched the black cherry, coffee and smoke notes in the wine. Wally loved this pairing. I felt the coffee rub was too subtle and I wanted more salt. Steve Hussey said, “The Cab removed the fishiness of the salmon and made it very edible from a guy who doesn’t really like fish.” Sara also liked this pairing a lot. She said the amaretto was a very nice note. Brittany loved the salmon and the bread.
While we waited on the finishing touches of the pan sauce Coreen’s guest chef and Aunt was making; LeBeau shared some fun facts about Washington State wine growing. The state is, in some views, even better situated for wine grapes than California, for instance: Washington gets 2 more hours of sun each day. The main growing area in the Eastern part of the state only gets 8 inches of rain per year. More sun, less rain means the vines have to work hard for nutrients and water which means smaller more concentrated fruits at harvest which means more intense juice at fermentation which means…you get the picture.
The third course arrived with oohs and aahs over the aroma of the pork with cranberry and portabella stuffing and drenched in a pan gravy made with butter, cream, rosemary and love from Chef Aunt Mo. While the first course was my favorite bite of the day this course was my favorite pairing. The pork was wonderfully tender and juicy and thanks to a previous pairing class I recognized the umami in the mushrooms which made me want more. LeBeau paired it with the Chateau’s Cold Creek Riesling. It is was no slouch in the aroma area either, slightly perfumy with peaches and spice. The flavor doesn’t disappoint with a little bite of acid. I took a bite of the pork, then a sip of wine and holy peach stones batman it was smooth. I think I was the only one who tasted hay in the wine but I was raised in the Midwest and had four brothers. I have tasted hay…it that too much information?
The final dessert course was classic Washington State. Coreen made an apple cobbler with what else but Washington State apples. She topped it with a crumble of oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Of course, it isn’t apple anything without a lovely scoop of ice cream and Coreen would never disappoint. LeBeau paired it with a new Riesling from the Chateau. It is called Anew and it was created especially for women. The screw-cap bottle is designed with a lotus flower and the marketing program is targeting active women in the 25-45 year range who enjoy activities like yoga, and meditation. I am chuckling as I write this. Anyway, it is a nice wine with a light effervescence, drier than the Cold Creek and tastes of apples and grapefruit zest. It would be great lounging by the pool with a good romance novel. The wine complimented the dessert bringing out the cinnamon in the crumble and adding another level of juiciness to the apples.
Well there you have it my fellow Gulpers! It was a fantastic day with good friends and even better food and libations. Check out the pictures below of all those who attended enjoying the day. See you next month for October and beer. I know you knew I was going to say that one.