Casual wine drinkers — let me know if you can relate. You’re in your local, where? I dunno — BevMo and they’re having that awesome 5 cent sale. Or Safeway/Vons and you grab one of those 6-pack cardboard crates so you can get an awesome discount on your liquor needs (yes needs). Or Costco because, let’s not lie to ourselves, their wine section is legit. Ok, wherever you are, you’re there buying somewhat in bulk because that’s how the discount works. But, like, what do you stock up on that you won’t regret later?

If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself in the predicament more often than not. And, again if you’re like me, you probably have your own list of wine staples. Well here’s mine: Chateau Ste. Michelle…umm…almost anything! My local Safeway almost always has the basics: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Reisling, and Pinot Noir. All good quality wines under $20. But the absolute standout is the Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Chardonnay.

Now, my Safeway doesn’t always have it. So when I find it, I basically load that 6-pack crate full of it. It’s something I always want in my cellar. It’s…a Cellar Keeper…

About the Wine: Ok, let’s just take a moment and talk about how huge Chateau Ste. Michelle really is. The original estate dates back to 1912 when a humble lumber jack built a modest winery in the heart of Seattle, Washington. Fast-forward over a hundred years and today the winery boasts two estate wineries (one for red and one for white), grows grapes on four very separate West Coast terroirs (Columbia Valley, Canoe Ridge, Cold Creek, and Horse Heaven), and has 8 different wine collections/labels — one of which is Indian Wells.

Another thing to note is that a bulk of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s wines — specifically those not found in average retail stores — do incorporate Old World (read: French) winemaking techniques as well as flavors. Not so here, the Indian Wells Chardonnay is a New World wine through and through which makes it a) affordable b) ready to drink at a young age and c) gives it that easy, fun drinkability West Coast wines are known for (at least in my book).

The 2013 Indian Wells Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes taken from the Indian Wells Vineyard along the warm-climate Wahluke Slope in Washington. It was fermented in 28% new American and French oak barrels. 14% ABV

Flavor Profile: I guess I can’t just say “yum” here. Ok, so in the glass this is an honest-to-goodness Chardonnay color (pale/straw yellow). It immediately emits a strong aroma of soft tropical fruits — I’m thinking more mango and papaya than hardcore pineapple here. On the palate, there’s something so soft and supple that passes from the tip of your tongue all the way down to the bottom of your belly. Yes, this wine is oaked and yes it went through malolactic fermentation (both of which will decrease acidity and bring forth that creamy taste and texture), but it’s important to note that while this wine is oaked, it’s not oaky — as in, it doesn’t have that overbearing taste of butter or popcorn that can sometimes happen (especially in California). It’s got body, it’s got depth. The smooth creaminess takes over and those ripe tropical fruits just whisper in the background with enough acid to let you know your’e drinking a real wine here. And those tropical fruits will continue to talk to you during the aftertaste; you’ll find yourself taking sip after sip so you can really listen to what they have to say.

Food Pairing: I definitely recommend having this wine with something that mimics the taste and texture of this wine. I’m thinking lobster risotto, shrimp scampi, poached halibut in beurre blanc. Because the wine is creamy, yet not excessively heavy with buttery notes, you can afford to pair this wine with a rich dish and savor the indulgence. And, as it’s a well rounded wine, the amount of acidity, though low to medium, is enough to balance out such a meal.

More Info: I buy this wine regularly at Safeway (Sale Price: $15.99). What I can’t buy are some of their more French-inspired wines. I didn’t even know they made a Semillon (PS I love Semillon and canNOT seem to find it anywhere). If anyone’s seen it at a major store, please let me know — would love love love to do a review.

For more information about Chateau Ste. Michelle and their complete wine selection please visit their website. If you’re local to the area (which I unfortunately am not), stop by their Woodinville tasting room — which honestly looks like a “chateau experience” with its historic, craftsman style building. If I’m ever lucky enough to make it up there, I know I’ll have tons of pictures and even more wine stories to tell.


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