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Hangin’ with Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Winemaker
Plus: Some Reisling suggestions

Wendy Stuckey, a winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, was in town recently, and we met up to fly through a flight of white wines produced by the Washington winery. It was a sticky hot day and the wines were, in a word, refreshing. Formerly the Australia native crafted wines at Wolf Blass Winery in South Australia’s Barossa Valley – and her move to Washington five years ago, with her family in tow, had everything to do with Riesling.

Here were some of my favorites, costing under $20 and of excellent value. If you’re ever out in Seattle, consider dropping by the winery’s Woodinville tasting room, which is 40 minutes from Seattle and part of a regional trend (wineries opening satellite tasting rooms closer to that city).

2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc (Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $16) expresses gooseberry notes with a kiss of lime on the finish, and would pair well with oysters or seafood.

2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington, $20) is a joint venture with Dr. Loosen each year, linking the Old World (Mosel Valley, Germany) with the New World (Washington). Nectarine and white-peach notes lead into effervescence and light, crisp acidity in this off-dry style of Riesling.

2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington, $16) begins with a nose of damp slate, followed by a full-bodied palate of mineral, spiced-apple notes as well as mandarin oranges.

2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Chardonnay (Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $20) is a complex Chardonnay well worth its value. It kicks off with an intriguing aroma of smoke, then spicy apples and pear flavors, followed by elegant, dusty tannins.

Grafton is celebrating food and wine this weekend. Will you be there? The one-evening-only event – called “A Grand Night Out: A Taste of Grafton,” sponsored by the Grafton Chamber of Commerce – is from 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Aug. 25. It’s hosted at Flannery’s at Fire Ridge Golf Club, and will reportedly include – for the ticket price of $45 – unlimited hors d’oeuvres, as well as wine, beer and spirits tastings. (Think 75 wines and mini versions of dishes prepared by Grafton-area restaurants and caterers.) If you have a friend who lives in Grafton, you may want to give him or her a holler: The festival is offering free shuttle service to Grafton homes, sponsored by Mueller Funeral Home from 5 p.m. to midnight. Or, spring for a hotel room that’s linked to this festival and offering a break on the nightly room cost. The “Grand Night Hotel Package” at Hampton Inn & Suites) starts at $169 per couple and includes tickets to the main event as well as a free shuttle and make-your-own waffles the morning after. Is that a sweet staycation or what? 

Many happy-hour deals are offered just one night of the week only. Roots Restaurant and Cellar in Brewers Hill believes every night should have a happy hour.  From 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday you can order a $5 pour of wine, from eight different varietals, including Malbec and Pinot Grigio. But that’s not all. A line-up of $5-$8 appetizers is also available. Insert these food images into your daydreams at the office: How about glazed pork-belly skewer with Thai caramel sauce? Chicken wings with North African curry? Are you hungry yet? 

Recently one of my Facebook friends quoted what I feel is one of the best movie lines of all time, from the 2004 film Sideways: “No, I’ll stay, if anybody orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any (insert expletive here) Merlot.” Well, maybe Miles hadn’t tried out Duckhorn Merlot, because I’m telling you, this is the best Merlot coming out of California. 2009 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot (Napa Valley, California, $52) features bright dark-cherry and raspberry notes and layers of baking spices, culminating in a luscious wine that leaves you with a lengthy finish and wanting more. (That’s because it’s restrained and elegant, almost flirting with your palate.) Be sure to give the wine time in either the glass or a decanter because it needs time to open up, and get some air.

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