vineyards
Chateau Ste. Michelle vineyards in Washington.
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After a group of vintners purchased the 1912 estate owned by the Seattle tycoon Frederick Stimson, their plans to build a winery there were halted by prohibition, which put a virtual end to wine production in America until 1933. With the repeal of prohibition, the estate was taken over by the Pommerelle Wine Company; then in the early 1960s, the estate and vineyards were purchased by the American Wine Growers, who began to use then-revolutionary techniques in the vineyards and build a modern winery.

Under the guidance of renowned California winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, the company also built a French style chateau on the grounds and began producing a series of premium wines, labeled "Ste. Michelle Vintners." In 1967, the winery officially changed its name to Chateau Ste. Michelle, and today it's the largest producer of Riesling wines in the United States.

In addition to two state-of-the-art wineries, one for whites and the other for reds, Chateau Ste. Michelle also has a 50% holding in California's famed Stags' Leap winery, and owns controlling interests in 15 other Washington state wineries - including Columbia Crest, Northstar and Eroica. Wines from the latter three, along with Chateau Ste. Michelle, first appeared locally in 1997. Following are reviews of the most recent arrivals.

The reds

Northstar, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, 2006: Deep royal purple toward garnet, full-bodied, with its still gripping tannins and spicy wood just starting to integrate. On first attack, blackberries and blueberries, parting to make way for black currants and notes of tobacco, licorice and minted chocolate. Best from 2012-2018. NIS 256. Score 92.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington, 2006: A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 1% Syrah, medium-bodied, with soft tannins, opening to reveal blackberries, purple plums and earthy minerals. On the moderately long finish, a note of roasted chestnuts. Drink now. NIS 85. Score 89.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, 2006: Oak-aged for 14 months, showing dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied with gently gripping tannins. On the nose and palate purple plums, black currants and blackberries, on a background hinting of smoky cedar wood. Drink now-2013. NIS 80. Score 89.

Columbia Crest, Syrah, Grand Estates, Columbia Valley, Washington, 2007: Garnet toward royal purple, medium-bodied, a round Syrah with notes of spicy wood and soft tannins. On first attack, blackberries and a hint of saddle leather, parting to make way for notes of blueberries and earthy minerals. Drink now-2013. NIS 69. Score 87.

The whites

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen, Eroica, Washington, 2007: Golden straw in color, medium-bodied, with sweet hints set off nicely by refreshing acidity. On the nose and palate white peaches, Anjou pears and spring flowers, coming to a long and coherent finish. Delicious on its own, but perhaps at its best with a cheese platter. Drink now-2014. NIS 138. Score 90.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington, 2008: Semi-sweet and distinctly Washingtonian. Light straw colored, with good balancing acidity; a soft, round wine showing ripe apples, peaches and nectarines, complemented nicely by notes of white pepper and exotic spices. NIS 58. Score 88.

Columbia Crest, Gewurztraminer, Two Vines, Washington, 2007: Pale gold in color, off-dry with good balancing acidity and showing summer fruits and lightly spiced pears. Not complex, but a good aperitif. Sliding past its peak so drink up. Score 86.