Chateau Ste. Michelle & Chihuly: A fusion of art and wine

Chateau Ste Michelle Winery
What is more tantalizing to all our senses than combining music, food, art and wine together. Such is the case when Chateau Ste. Michelle offers a mixture of events to its patrons. From the mellow sounds of Harry Connick Jr. to the organic art forms of Chihuly to the exquisite wines of Chateau Ste. Michelle, you could not have asked for more.

I flew to Seattle to visit the picturesque Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery and partake in the 20 –year anniversary celebration of their Artist Series of wines. These wines are considered the Crème de La Crème of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s portfolio. Since Chihuly was the first artist to commemorate their art on the wine label, it was apropos that the artwork should also adorn the 2012 vintage release.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery

Starting with a tour of the winery led by leading winemaker Bob Bertheau, one discovers that the property known initially as Hollywood Farms began as a 105-acre estate with a Manor House built by lumber magnate Frederick Stimson. The winery was officially established in 1967 under the tutelage of Andre Tchelistcheff. The current winery building in Woodinville was built in 1976.

The winery consists of many vineyards in several Washington State AVAs. These include Indian Wells, Cold Creek, Horse Heaven, and Canoe Ridge. The Rieslings come from the Ancient Lakes AVA, and the Cabernet Sauvignon for Col Solare is from Red Mountain.

Bob Bertheau joined Chateau Ste. Michelle, in 2003 as the white wine winemaker and after a year, promoted to head winemaker in 2004. With a degree in chemistry and after graduating from UC Davis with an MS in food science and enology, Bob worked at Hambrecht, Hanzel, and Chalk Hill before moving to Gallo of Sonoma. Like the pioneering Washington state wine region, Bob is making his mark by forging a path that includes experimentation and finding the perfect balance between the science and artistry of winemaking.

During the summer and part of the fall, Chateau Ste. Michelle offers concerts at the winery’s Amphitheater. As the sun sets, the mellow sounds of featured musical artist Harry Connick Jr. echoed throughout the Woodinville estate. On another night, it might be some other well-known musician bellowing out their tunes under the stars.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Amphitheater

Chateau Ste. Michelle Amphitheater

Chihuly Garden and Glass

The highlight of this trip was visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass. The immense colorful glass structures are a sight to be seen and one that any visitor to Seattle should take in, especially the gardens where the sculptures become the flowers. It is floral décor at the max. Some of the most spectacular scenes bring you into a dark room that is aglow with the spectrum of colorfully lighted glass. Envision scuba diving deep in the ocean, and perhaps Chihuly’s artful imagination has taken you into a sea of gorgeously colorful fish sculptures.

Chihuly Art

Chihuly Art

While visiting the museum, one must have lunch at the Collections Café. Featuring Northwestern Cuisine in and amongst the various objects that Chihuly loved to collect is quite an experience. Each table has a collection of items that lie beneath the glass tabletop. Like the museum, it is a very colorful display of collectibles that tantalize your senses as you enjoy your meal.

Chihuly Boathouse Celebration of Art and Wine

The 20-year celebration took place at Chihuly’s studio called the boathouse overlooking Lake Union. Watching a demonstration of glass blowing, taking a glimpse at the indoor pool with a Chihuly mosaic glass floor, and seeing the Chihuly glow in the dark fish aquarium only enhanced the wine showcased at this artist series celebration.

Dale Chihuly and Bob Bertheau

Dale Chihuly and Bob Bertheau

We began with the Eroica Gold, a delightful Riesling that establishes Chateau Ste. Michelle, as a premier winery producing Riesling. The wine is a collaboration between Bob Bertheau and Mosel winemaker Ernst Loosen.

Eroica Gold

Eroica Gold

Chateau Ste. Michelle Artist Series

We must not forget the stars of the celebration, Chateau Ste. Michelle Artist Series, a Meritage blend of the finest grapes from the winery’s vineyards. This Bordeaux blend began in 1993 with the intent of honoring the creativity of both the winery and well-known artists. Since Chihuly is not only a prominent international artist, his roots are well established in Washington state, so it seems ideal that his artwork would be the original inspiration for this series. The 2012 artwork is a Cast Silver Venetian, a unique sculpture created by Chihuly and cast in silver at his Walla Walla Foundry.

2012 Chateau Ste Michelle Art and Wine

2012 Chateau Ste Michelle Art and Wine

For Bob Bertheau, this Meritage is like a sculpture being created utilizing the Chateau Ste. Michelle vineyards in Washington State, thereby making the state and the vineyards the palette. The artistry comes from the grapes themselves with the assistance of the winemaker’s choice of the best grapes for this blend. In this case Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Like a chef who adds spice to finish his creation, Bob adds the ingredients/spices to finish the blend. You might say the spices in the 2012 vintage are the Cabernet Franc and the Malbec. The wine is elegant and fruit-forward yet smooth with soft tannins. This Meritage merits holding to sees how it develops over time.

The artistry of this wine sets the pace for the rest of the Chateau Ste. Michelle’s portfolio since the Artist Series is the first wine to be blended and created each year.

The 20-year celebration included the 2007 and 1997 Artist Series Vintages. T.I. Lange created the artwork on the 2007 vintage. The wine ages for 20 months in both American and French Oak. It is elegant and smooth and very drinkable. It shows the potential of the 2012 Vintage with five years under its belt. The 1997 showcases the work of Dan Dailey. The winemaker at the time was Erik Olsen. The wine is drinking well for this particular year.

1997 Chateau Ste Michelle Artist Series of art and Wine

1997 Chateau Ste Michelle Artist Series of art and Wine

Between the distinct three vintages, one finds the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon has increased while the Merlot has decreased.

For those looking for an extraordinary wine to drink or give as a gift to a true wine aficionado, consider the Artist Series.

Other Chateau Ste. Michelle Wines

The visit also allowed for the discovery of some of the other wines that Chateau Ste. Michelle produces. The 2013 Eroica Riesling is a quintessential varietal that expresses floral aromas. One senses the tension between the acid and residual sugar that develops into a nice acidity. The wine mellows to deliver the freshness of peaches and apricots.

The 2013 Cold Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a big bold with bright dark fruit. Blueberries and stewed fruit are the dominant flavors.

The 2011 Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon is the second wine to be produced after the Artist Series. Compared to the Cold Creek, it exhibited a softer, smoother, and very subtle delivery.

If one is a lover of Ice Wine, the Eroica Ice Wine is a must. Although not made every year, the 2011 vintage, features the flavors of apricots. The wine seems syrupy but in the right way. It still allows one to sense the tension between the acid and the sugar.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine

Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine

Following a visit to the winery and tasting the wines, one finds a common theme present at Chateau Ste. Michelle.   It is the utilization of collaboration. Whether uniting the artist and winemaker in the Artist Series, working with Ernst Loosen on Eroica, Col Solare, a partnership with Italian winemaker Marchese Piero Antinori or Tenet, the French partnership between Rhone’s winemaker Michael Gassier and enologist Philippe Cambie, this bonding seems to permeate the backbone or inspiration of this winery. Perhaps this premise makes Chateau Ste Michelle, a prominent winery in Washington State.

Finally, a visit to Seattle for art and wine lovers must include the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery and the Chihuly Garden and Glass.