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Cheers To You » Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot

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An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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What we’re drinking: Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Brynn writes:

Here’s another wine that’s been sitting in our wine rack for a while (OK, more than a while…we bought this wine back in 2010 and only now did I open it).

I remember buying the wine, I asked a wine steward at the Albertsons in Gig Harbor to recommend a good merlot — I wanted something that wouldn’t break the bank, but that was also a nice introduction to Washington merlot. For whatever reason I had this misconception that I didn’t like merlot — maybe I watched the movie Sideways one too many times (insert Miles Raymond’s quote here: “No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any f***ing Merlot!”)

Turns out I actually really like the stuff. And this 2008 Indian Wells Merlot was a great reminder that I need to buy more Washington merlot for our wine library.

I didn’t mean to let this wine age for a couple of years on the rack, but you know how it goes, you put the wine down, then others come along that catch your eye first…then you get pregnant…then the next thing you know two years have passed and you still haven’t popped the cork on that 2008 merlot.

Saturday while making a homemade lasagna — complete with homemade tomato sauce, sliced zucchini and yellow squash, mushrooms and broccoli and a healthy layering of fresh mozzarella cheese — I decide it was time to finally try the Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot.

The wine had a typical merlot aroma — ripe fruit and vanilla swirled into my nostrils — followed by that wonderful merlot taste I’d all but forgotten about. This wine was fruit-forward with a velvet texture and a deep purple/red color. Hints of oak (that’s that vanilla flavor) linger on the finish.

As I sipped it, I was thinking the wine sort of reminded me of syrah because of its floral characteristics. When I went to the winery’s website to read more about the 2008 vintage I learned there’s good reason for why I thought I tasted syrah. The wine is actually a blend of 78 percent merlot, 18 percent syrah, 2 percent cab and 2 percent malbec. But because the dominant grape is merlot (it’s more than 75 percent of the total wine), they don’t have to list the other varietals.

This was definitely a wonderful wine. My only complaint? After about an hour or so in my glass the wine faded. The intense floral nose and rich textured mouthfeel were replaced with a flat bouquet and chewy finish. Maybe this is because the wine was four years old, but still it shouldn’t have faded so fast. I’m guessing that a 2009 Indian Wells won’t do that, seeing as it’s newer.

The wine paired nicely with the homemade lasagna, and then on Sunday night I made homemade chicken noodle soup — with homemade egg noddles and using up the last of our turkey stock from last December. The merlot also paired deliciously with the soup, and the Rosemary Diamante bread we used to mop up the broth.

I like to think of the Indian Wells series from Chateau Ste. Michelle as the middle of the road wine, as far as price points are concerned. It’s not as expensive as the single-vineyard wines which are closer to the $30 price point, but for only a few dollars more than the Columbia Valley series you’re buying a wine that tastes more refined (read: like it cost more money).

The Indian Wells Merlot sells for $18 (but I’m pretty sure we paid around $15 for it at the grocery store with all the wine deals they always offer).


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