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I spent a few days in the Seattle area this week and had the chance to make several wine-related stops while I was there.  (Thanks to Kori at Wine Peeps  for the recommendations.)   Since this was a quick trip, I was limited to the tasting rooms in the Seattle area, namely Woodinville.   Interestingly, the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference may be held in Woodinville.

Woodinville is located just 45 minutes northeast of Seattle and is home to just over 40 wineries.  Most of the grapes for the wineries located in Woodinville are grown a few hours away in Eastern Washington near Yakima or Walla Walla. 

Most of the small, family-owned owned operations were closed on Monday so I opted for Washington’s first and largest winery, Chateau St. Michelle, for my first stop.  Chateau St. Michelle, produced over 6 million cases last year and is owned by multi-national conglomerate Altria (parent company of Philip Morris Tobacco).

CSM Barrel

The tasting room and grounds were beautiful (as expected) and could rival many of Napa’s most notable tasting rooms.   The tasting room bar extended through two rooms and could easily serve 75 tasters if fully utilized.   

I do respect the wine that Chateau St. Michelle produces, but I’ve never been a big fan of any of their wines that I’ve had, and this trip didn’t change that.

The tasting room staff was exceptionally friendly and inviting, similar to what you find at a much smaller operation.  I tasted seven wines during my visit, a few notables include:

My favorite of the tasting was the Ethos 2005 Syrah, made from the top 1% of all the grapes the winery grows.  The nose started with bell pepper, blackberry and cola that led to more cola and sour cherry flavors in the mouth.   Lengthy cherry crème finish.  $29.99/bottle.

Indian Wells 2006 Merlot

Very nice wine.   Interesting red fruit on the nose along with hints of coffee.  Very smooth mouth feel with flavors dark jammy fruits.    $17.99/bottle

Indian Wells 2006 Chardonnay

Blech.  Too much $/bottle.

Indian Wells 2006 Cabernet

A blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah along with 1% Malbec.  Very fruit forward with a nose of sweet blueberries, prune, currant, and dust.  The blueberries were sweet like over ripe blueberries that you would find in the wild.   Mild tannins with flavors of earth, plum and more blueberries in the mouth.   $17.99/bottle

Eroica 2007 Riesling

The Eroica line is collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle and German winemaker Ernst Loosen.  This one is a 100% Riesling.  Perhaps the most complex wine that I tasted at the winery with notes of lemon, cheddar cheese and citrus on the nose.  Very smooth mouth feel with nice acidity.  Flavors of citrus along with a fuel component in the mouth.  This one would have been excellent with extra spicy szechwan shrimp.  $24.99/bottle

One of the consistent themes of the reds I tasted was lingering vanilla on the finish.  I would recommend a stop by Chateau Ste. Michelle if you find yourself in the Seattle area.

I look forward to returning to Seattle in August for two weeks, which will allow more time for exploring the wine scene.

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