Chateau Ste. Michelle is in Woodinville, Washington. It is Washington state’s largest winery and its roots go back to the state’s first commercial winemaking ventures. In 1954 two Washington wineries merged to form American Wine Growers, which in 1967 began producing a premium line called Ste. Michelle Vintners. Today the estate has vineyards in the Columbia Valley in Eastern Washington and has commercial partnerships with Marchesi Piero Antinori of Tuscany and Ernest Loosen of Germany’s Mosel region. Though Chateau Ste. Michelle makes a large portfolio of wines, from Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah to Chardonnay, Viognier and many blends, it is perhaps best known for its Riesling.
Columbia Valley AVA is larger than some states. At 18,000 square miles, or 11 million acres, the appellation covers almost half of Washington State and a small part of Oregon on the south side of the Columbia River. Established in 1984, Columbia Valley contains numerous sub appellations within its boundaries, including Yakima Valley AVA and Walla Walla AVA, both large and important wine districts. Columbia Valley AVA, generally called the Columbia Basin by Pacific Northwesterners, is in the Columbia River Plateau, and the AVA also includes a section of northeastern Oregon. There are dozens of microclimates within this appellation of about 7,000 vineyard acres. Many kinds of grapes are grown in the Columbia Valley, though the principal grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. Eastern Washington experiences very hot summers and cold winters, and the northern latitude means that Washington vineyards receive several more hours of sun in the summer than California vineyards. Grapes in Washington therefore have time to develop significant tannins and overall ripeness.
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.