Chateau Ste. Michelle (CSM) has the longest roots of any Washington winery. The beginning was soon after Repeal in 1933, when the Pomerelle Co. and the National Wine Company (still referred to as NaWiCo) were formed. They merged in 1954 to form American Wine Growers. Their product was almost entirely fortified sweet wines. In 1967, AWG began a new line of premium vinifera wines under the name Ste. Michelle, made by their winemaker Howard Somers with direction from their newly hired consultant Andre Tchelistcheff. These wines received good marks when released 2 years later. CSM's Woodinville winery uses BW-WA-8, inherited from AWG(?).
In 1972, a group of investors headed up by Wally Opdyke bought out AWG in it's entirety, and formed a new company under the name of Ste. Michelle Vintners -- it was very successful. Within a year, they were looking for an infusion of capital to expand, and in 1974 was bought by the U. S. Tobacco Co. (Interestingly, the second runner up was Labatt's). At this writing, it is still a subsidiary of Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates, which is owned by the U. S. Tobacco Co.
The current Woodinville winery was dedicated in 1976. It was built on the 1912 estate originally known as the Hollywood Farm owned by lumber baron Frederick Stimson and his wife Nellie. (This little area of the valley is still known as Hollywood to this day, although the historic Hollywood schoolhouse building is now used as a hall for weddings, meetings, etc.) The address of the farmhouse was on Stimson Lane, hence the name of the holding company.
Mike Grgich, a protege of Andre (now known by his own business, Grich Hills Winery in Napa CA) was to become CSM's first winemaker. At the last minute, they mutually agreed not to after all, and instead hired Joel Klein.
In 1983, an additional winery was built in Paterson, WA. I believe its was orignally intended to be simply the eastern WA facility of CSM, it has since become the entirely independent winery Columbia Crest Winery, with it's own winemaker. It is still a subsidiary of Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates, and facilities are and expertise are shared between the two.
The Grandview facility was opened in 1934(?) as NaWiCo(?) at W. 5th & Ave. B. In 1998 CSM closed this satelite tasting room, and dropped their membership in the Yakima Valley Winegrowers Associaton. The building is still in use by the winery, it is simply no longer staffed as a public tasting room.
In the early 1980's CSM opened a satellite tasting room in Greenbank, on Whidbey Island. The facility was on a lovely old logenberry farm, where they began producing Whidbey's Loganberry Liqueur (44% alcohol) a wonderful apertif. The tasting room had wonderful historic photos of turn of the century Whidbey Island, and they sold the Whidbey's Liqueur as well as the CSM line of wines. However they could not sample the Whidbey's liqueur there, only the CSM wines.
This anomaly is due to WA state law which requires that to serve liquor (greater than 18% alcohol) requires a liquor license. A liquor license requires the business be a bar or restaurant by requiring that a notable portion (I think 50%) of the business' income must come from food sales. (For more info, visit my Federal/Tax page and visit the WA Tax code and BATF pages.) (For more details, click on the Whidbeys Liqueur label above.)
In 1988(?) Stimson Lane also bought the troubled Snoqualmie Winery (see that page for details).
In 1990 they built a new facility for red wines about 10 miles west of the Columbia Crest facility -- at Canoe Ridge -- causing much confusion with their neighboring Canoe Ridge Winery of Walla Walla which is not part of Stimson Lane. In 1999, to help clear this up, the facility was renamed to River Ridge. Mike Haddox was a research winemaker at this facility 2001-2003, when he left to join Silver Lake as the winemaker at their new Roza facility.
In 1999 this facility was about to begin a major expansion to house a
new barrel room, case goods storage and bottling line. It includes a
tasting room/visitor facilities, which would dovetail nicely with a
possible planned expansion of the neighboring Canoe Ridge facility.
Although it's not expected to be open to the general public due to
staffing requirements, it will be available for tour groups. The new
head wine maker at this facility is Ron Bunnell, from Kendall Jackson
CSM is a huge producer with dozens of wines and 30 years of vintages -- I couldn't possibly track them here.
For more info their wines, visit their website (link near top of this page).
Ron Bunnell (Head Red Winemaker) 1999-present
Bob Bertheau (Head White Winemaker) 2003-present
Mike Haddox (Research Technician) 2001-2003
Erik Olsen (Woodinville & white wines) 1999-present
Andre Tchelistcheff (consultant) 1967-1990
Joel Klein 1975-1983
Kay Simon 1983-1985
Cheryl Barber-Jones 1985-1990
Mike Januik 1990-1999
Charlie Hoppes (River Ridge) 1990-1999
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