In my Blog posting of 2 August, which was hastily put together, I meant to say more than that the Chateau Ste Michelle 40% cutback in wine grape purchases over five years was not good news but not really bad either. Since them there have been a lot more comments about the announcement. On Facebook, one commentator posted a circle with Ch Ste Michelle in it with a slash across. Another claimed growers were blindsided (I believe †he growers should have seen cutbacks on the horizon and prepared for them). For winemakers, this makes for an opportunity to pick up grapes from 30 to 40 year-old vines.

There is valid criticism of Sycamore Partners' management. The investment corporation is not really good at marketing. Ste Michelle Wine Estates (SWME) has too many brands, a case of too many products chasing not enough customers. One of the most balanced articles I have read has been that of W. Blake Gray in Wine-Searcher, "Saving Washington's Wine Industry." It points out that the commercial market, which SWME represents, is weakening in relationship to the strong boutique market. But I also happen to think a large part of SWME's role in the market should be in value wines such as those of Ste Michelle and Columbia Crest Grand Reserve. Also there is a part for higher end products including those of Northstar and Spring Valley. A flagship wine helps promote the other product tiers.

And there is a need for all Washington wineries to work together. The best analogy I've read it that of Erik McLaughlin (METIS) who wrote "...we are all pulling oars, if one side is more successful pulling those oars than the other, we'll just keep rowing in circles."

Here are a couple of new wines from Ste Michelle that illustrate this. Full reviews will be in the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines.

2022 Chateau Ste Michelle "Indian Wells" Rosé, Columbia Valley ($17.99 - Super 1) - This is a new entry in the Indian Wells lineup. It shows a light pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry and watermelon, with bright, fresh pink fruits and, on the back, red liqueurs and a nicely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points.

2020 Chateau Ste Michelle "Indian Wells" Red Blend, Columbia Valley ($18.99 - Super 1) - Deep ruby colored, this possesses engaging aromas and brims with dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, chocolate and black tea. The back picks up kirsch and cassis liqueurs, followed by s deliciously ripe moderate tannin and alcohol finish. 18.5/20 points.

Wine of the Week

One of the most iconic wineries of the Napa Valley is Beaulieu Vineyards which is famed for its flagship wine, the Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which was crafted by the legendary winemaker Andre Tellischeff. This wine normally sells for $150 a bottle, but I bought it from the winery three years ago at a 30% discount in a mixed case, which made it $105.

2014 Beaulieu Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Georges de Lateur ($150) - This is a monumental Cabernet. It exhibits a deep ruby color and an intoxicating nose of semi dried fruits - blackberries, dark cherries, black plums - with scents of red rose petals, aged cigar wrapper, sandalwood, dried herbs, violets and oriental incense. The flavors are bold yet velvety, with layers of dark fruits that are interwoven with licorice, 80% cacao, espresso, Rutherford Bench dusty earth. On the back, the wine gains more depth and complexity with maturing macerated fruits that are underlain by kirsch, cognac, roasted pecans, toasty integrated oak and mixed spices and herbs, followed by a lanolin coated ("legs") ultra-long finish that is rounding out into a maturing phase. 20/20 points.

This wine also shows how a winery uses its flagship wine to promote the rest of the product range.