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Great grapes are being grown at local estates | NW Wines

Chateau Ste. Michelle head winemaker Bob Bertheau walks through Cold Creek Vineyard.           - Andy Perdue / Wine Press Northwest
Chateau Ste. Michelle head winemaker Bob Bertheau walks through Cold Creek Vineyard.
— image credit: Andy Perdue / Wine Press Northwest

By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is by far Washington’s largest wine producer. This fall, it will use two-thirds of the 200,000 tons of grapes that will be harvested in the state.

And while most of its grapes come from throughout the 11 million acre Columbia Valley, it’s often forgotten the company has estate vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain and the Columbia and Walla Walla valleys.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is the state’s oldest winery with roots that stretch back to 1934. Head winemaker Bob Bertheau is particularly fond of two estate vineyards: Canoe Ridge Estate and Cold Creek, and this week, we take a closer look at them.

Cold Creek Vineyard is north of the Yakima Valley and south of the Wahluke Slope. It was first planted in the early 1970s and was decimated by a deep winter freeze in the late 70s. It was replanted and now is one of Ste. Michelle’s gems.

Canoe Ridge is in the southern Horse Heaven Hills overlooking the Columbia River. According to legend, the Lewis and Clark expedition was floating past, and one of the explorers looked up and thought the ridge looked like an upside-down canoe.

In 1991, Ste. Michelle began planting wine grapes there. The vineyard now has more than 500 acres of grapes.

Here are some wines from Cold Creek and Canoe Ridge that we have tasted recently:
— Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Cold Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $25: This Chardonnay opens with aromas of pear, Gala apple, dried pineapple and Meyer Lemon stand out just above background notes of toasted coconut, butterscotch, oatmeal cookie and hominy. The drink shows remarkable contrast, opening with creamy butterscotch and tropical notes, followed by succulent flavors of lemon/lime that provide length and balance.

— Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Cold Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $30: This Cab Franc opens with aromas of cherries, liquid smoke and mountains of chocolate, followed by flavors of black licorice, black currants, dark chocolate and tell-tale herbaceousness.

— Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Canoe Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $22: Aromas of apricot, dried pear, lemon/lime, candy corn and orange oil give way to a palate that shows off full malolactic fermentation and nine months of sur lie aging, making for a rounded mouth feel with dry notes of starfruit, pear and yellow grapefruit.

— Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $22: This tasty Merlot offers aromas of coffee, peppercorns, black tea and spices, followed by rich flavors of black currants, boysenberries and Baker’s chocolate.

— Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: This brings a nose of smoky cherry wood, root beer and shredded wheat along with ripe Bing cherry, blackberry, black olive and tobacco leaf. Inside, it’s a fruit bomb that explodes with more cherries and blackberries, trailed by cranberry juice, cherry cola and black olive.

 

 

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