The Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay 2014 is 100% Chardonnay sourced from multiple vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley in Washington State. Chateau Ste Michelle is the largest winery in Washington, their 2nd label Columbia Crest won the Wine Spectator Wine of the Year for a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (sold for $40), another label, 14 Hands makes one of the best value priced Merlot and they have made great strides in producing excellent Riesling. 53% of this Chardonnay was aged “on lees” (the dead yeast and grape residue are left in the barrel with the wine, it can give the wine a creamy flavor and texture) in mostly used (15% new) French and American oak for 6 months, the other 47% was aged in stainless steel tanks. And this Chardonnay underwent malolactic fermentation (the naturally occurring tart acid changed to softer more rounded flavored acid). So, this Chard is a blend of unoaked Chardonnay which gives the wine the bright fruit and citrus flavors and the depth and complexity of oaked Chardonnay. The alcohol content is a stout 14%.
Sidenote: Because I write reviews for this website, I get to go to Trade wine tastings, which are great because often the person pouring your wine is the winemaker or estate owner. If you ask them questions they are almost always glad to give the real details on what they do. At one tasting I was talking to an owner of a small family owned winery in Columbia Valley. He said that 2 years earlier his vineyard was hit by a hail storm, which can easily destroy the entire crop. The next morning he and his staff toured the vineyard and found that there was nothing left, all the grapes were gone. He went back to the winery to sit down and try to figure out what to do next, when he got a phone call. It was Chateau Ste Michelle calling and they said they had heard about what happened and what grape varietals did they want, how much did they need and when did they want them. There were a couple of other Columbia Valley winemaker’s standing nearby and they all said that is not an isolated incident, Chateau Ste Michelle is a very good neighbor.
The color is a pale lemon yellow. The nose is soft and delicate, a little lemon, green apple, lime, melon and a faint floral scent. This is a medium bodied Chardonnay, with bold flavors and a solid streak of food-friendly acidity. It starts off with smooth ripe apple, lemon/lime and a little raspberry lemonade. The mid-palate shows off a little sizzle from the acidity, along with light creamy vanilla, a bit of spice and a cooling touch of melon. The finish is full and lengthy.
The Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay 2014 is a solid, tasty Chard, worthy to be paired with some of your best efforts as a cook. It has an engaging mouth-feel, a full array of flavors and enough acidity (though maybe not quite the balance) to keep a wine-maker from Burgundy happy. This is a Chardonnay that you should be able to find in the $10 range, and at that price this is a very good Chardonnay.
Post Note: The front label says 100% Vinifera Rootstock. Virtually no wine grapes are grown from seed, they take a cutting from say a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Chardonnay and graft it on to the roots system of another grape. Almost all wine grape varietals are from the Vinifera grape species. The problem with Vinifera Rootstock is that it is susceptible to pests and disease. So, the common practise for grafting grapevines is to use non-Vinifera Rootstock, because they are more resistant to problems. These non-Vinifera grape plants for the most part are not good at producing grapes for wine. Luckily the Rootstock, when grafted to, lets say a Merlot cutting, quickly becomes a Merlot plant. Chateau Ste Michelle thinks that a Vinifera grapevine cutting produces better grapes with a Vinifera root system, so they take the extra time and care to keep Vinifera roots with Vinifera cuttings.