Virtual Tasting: Chateau Ste. Michelle Reds
The wonders of holding our virtual wine tastings was evident again at our first tasting after the Summer. We were joined from Washington by Chateau Ste. Michelle's Head Red Winemaker: Brian Mackey. He pulled our evening's selection from the cellars of Chateau Ste. Michelle so he could taste along with us, and guide us through the eight Artist Series Meritage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. All but two of the wines we were tasting this evening were made by Brian since he joined in 2011. Our guide was therefore thoroughly familiar with these wines!
Once again, the Volunteer Directors poured the eight wines into our little bottles and then ferried them around the GTA to our members. Here is a peek behind the curtain to see how many bottles that involves!
Brian kicked off the evening by walking us through some history of Chateau Ste Michelle. Did you know that it is considered the 'founding' winery in Washington? As one of the first wineries in the region they pretty much founded the wine region of Washington State. It is a tight-knit community that is committed to raising the profile of Washington for wine-growing. It has a unique mix of terroir and weather systems that allows it to experiment and blend all sorts of style and they are committed to add layers of complexity to all the wines they produce.
Two-thirds of their wine production is in the white grapes, Chardonnay and Riesling (which sounds very much like our own Niagra/Beamsville Bench regions). And just a third is focused on their red wines. Three of our wines this evening were from the 'Artist Series Meritage' easily identified in the photo at the end of this post by their artsy labels. But would be able to identify them from the Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons? The winery's Meritage blends represent the best bordeaux grapes from the 500-600 wines that they produce each year. Amazing to be able to taste these across vintages: 2003, 2012 and 2014.
Brian kept us entertained throughout the evening responding to our members' questions, such as: whether climate change had any impact on their wine-making so far; how wine-making styles have changed, particularly over the years that he has been making red wine at the vineyard; the most surprising elements of Chateau Ste Michelle or Washington terroir that he'd come across, and what he considers is the dark horse of Washington grape varietals. Always fascinating to get such deep insights into the winemaking process and the wines they offer - it felt like a private tour of the winery, but without leaving our living rooms!
The full scores from the evening appear below. We didn't ask the guest to score this evening but Brian's favourite was Wine D, followed by Wine A and then Wine G. Did you agree with him?
And here are the tasting notes for each of these eight wines: