The more I explore wine the more I hear about Washington State. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest so I knew that Washington produced some Merlot, but kind of in the same way that I knew that guy in the center Hollywood Square was gay. I just kinda heard it somewhere and didn't really think too much about it. Things were different back then; I didn't care about wine, people weren't convinced that Washington was yet a standout wine producing region, and Harvey Levin and Perez Hilton hadn't yet convinced us that a celebrity's personal life is news.
But apparently behind the scenes Washington was on the rise. There have been vineyards in Washington since long before Prohibition. Commercial-size vineyards began to be planted in the mid-1960's making inroads for what would eventually become Washington's most famous wineries - Columbia Winery and Chateau St. Michelle. But not until the late 1980's did the industry become serious enough to start forming statewide trade associations that really focused on investing in the winemaking industry. It worked, as Washington is now 2nd to California in grape growing, and wine production. A consumer can find a Washington wine in any of the 50 states, and lots of countries around the world. A more in-depth essay on the history of the Washington wine industry can be found here.
Chateau St. Michelle gots its start in 1967 when the American Wine Growers, in Washington, started a premium line of wines that they labeled 'St. Michelle' wines. This winery eventually changed their name to Chateau St. Michelle in 1972 and began planting acres and acres of grapes across the what is now the Columbia Valley AVA.
Since I can not participate live in the #WAMerlot virtual tasting event, amazingly pulled together by blogger Josh Wade at Drink Nectar, I am posting my tasting of Chateau St. Michelle - 2005 Merlot Columbia Valley here on my blog, in honor of the event.
This wine is widely available in grocery and wine shops, retails for between $10-$13, and received scores of 88 and 89 from Spectator and Enthusiast, respectively. It had a nice nose of sour cherries, lots of cola, blueberries, and purple fruit. On the palette it had more purple plum fruit, and a nice full body. I did get a little heat on the end, but overall it was nicely balanced. For an entry level Merlot this was really a great introduction to #WAMerlot. I can easily give this wine 3 solid points, and a strong recommendation for a weeknight dinner wine.
I hope everyone enjoys participating in #WAMerlot and recognizes the efforts (and success) of this event. I for one am looking forward to such virtaul interactions continuing to become a normal way of the consumers interacting with the product, and industry on such a large scale. Kudos to Josh for pulling off what promises to be a great event, and a boon for the Washington wine industry.