Chateau Ste. Michelle: Sometimes Big Is Good

This Washington winery has options for every occasion

Wine of the Week

Chateau Ste. Michelle: Sometimes Big is Good

Wine lovers spend an inordinate amount of time searching for distinctive, value-priced wines, something they can keep around the house and know that it will be good enough for nearly all occasions. In most cases, they'll find wines from obscure parts of the world with humble labels and often little-known grapes. But there are a few conglomerates that make reliable wines at bargain prices. And in this arena, Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the good guys.

Sure, it owns a number of expensive wineries like Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and Col Solare, but the original business is Chateau Ste. Michelle's Columbia Valley wines, the least expensive in its line. Despite the prices, winemaker Bob Bertheau still lavishes these wines with a lot of attention and care. The company's reputation was built on a single wine, its Dry Riesling ($9), and to this day, it lives up to the hype. It's dry, with tongue-tickling acidity, and ripe apple aromas make it work with everything from sautéed flounder to a backyard bleu-cheese burger. Its Chardon­nay ($13) is also exemplary, avoiding the dreaded over-oaked butter bomb syndrome. It has more body than its French rivals but still seems to make a perfect compromise between American oomph and French elegance.

When it comes to red wines, Washington is one of the world's great locations for Merlot ($16), and Chateau Ste. Michelle again strikes a nice balance by tempering the huge fruit available in Washington red wines, toning it down a little so the wine is appropriate for slow-cooked as well as grilled meats. It's a rich wine that, blind, might be judged as much more expensive than it is.

Chateau Ste. Michelle's wines are widely distributed in better grocers, wine shops, and liquor stores. They are bargains at their price points and are occasionally offered at even lower prices.

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Chateau St. Michelle, bargain wines, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Col Solare, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington wines, Bob Bertheau

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