With the holiday season squarely upon us, it’s time to turn our attention to sparkling wine as we get ready to celebrate the season and bring in the New Year.
Domaine Ste. Michelle is Washington State’s sparkling wine leader, producing more than 300,000 cases of wine annually. More than half of this production is the Brut, the winery’s workhorse – and consistent standout.
As you might expect from the name, Domaine Ste. Michelle is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates (SMWE). Domaine Ste. Michelle released its first sparkling wine in 1978 – a 1974 vintage dated Blanc de Noirs. In 1990 they added a Brut to the lineup, in 1991 a Blanc de Blancs, and in 1993 the Extra Dry.
Rick Casqueiro serves as Domaine Ste. Michelle’s winemaker. Casqueiro was previously winemaker at Weibel Family Vineyards and Winery and then Coventry Vale. He joined Domaine Ste. Michelle in 1996.
Domaine Ste. Michelle’s sparkling wine production facility, located in Paterson, is a must visit. The facility, which is inside the production facility for Columbia Crest and other SMWE brands, takes up a football field-sized room that includes a bottling machine and forklifts that spin and turn cases of wine in an automated riddling process.
Domaine Ste. Michelle offers four standard sparkling wines. The first is the Blanc de Blancs, made primarily from Chardonnay; next is the Brut; then the Brut Rose, which is 100% Pinot Noir; and finally the Extra Dry. All of these wines are made in the traditional method made famous by the French.
As all things French must be somewhat confusing, determining the sweetness of sparkling wine can be a challenge. The Blanc de Blancs is the driest of these wines and is almost dry bone dry. Next is the Brut Rose and Brut, which are off-dry. Finally we have the Extra Dry, which is, as you might expect, medium sweet.
Wait, what? Yes, every time you’ve bought a bottle of Extra Dry sparkling wine because you don’t like sweet wines you have been fooled by the French. If you’re looking for dry wines go with Extra Brut or Brut wines (read more about sweetness levels of sparkling wines here).
All of the Domaine Ste. Michelle wines are consistently high quality and are ideal both for special occasions and for every day drinking. At $12 across the lineup, with the exception of the top end Luxe, the wines are price competitive with Cava, Prosecco, and other value sparkling wines. They are perfect for the holiday season.
But let’s forget for a moment that it’s December. Sparkling wines are great all year-round. They are also perhaps the most diverse wines in terms of food pairing. So you don’t have to wait for December to drink wines from Domaine Ste. Michelle. And with prices like these, you can afford to drink them on a Tuesday. And Wednesday. And Thursday.
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Sparkling Wine Columbia Valley NV $12
Rating: + (Good) Pleasing aromas of green apple, lime, and autolytic notes. The palate is just off dry with crisp citrus flavors. 12.1% alcohol. 1.19% Residual Sugar. 191,540 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended Reviewed November 21, 2011
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rose Sparkling Wine Columbia Valley NV $12
Rating: + (Good) Pale salmon colored. A light floral note along with lemon, raspberry, and green apple. The palate is crisp, dry, and refreshing with tart with lemon and apple flavors. 100% Pinot Noir. 12% alcohol. 1.15% Residual Sugar. 20,081 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended
Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine Columbia Valley NV $12
Rating: + (Good) Very lightly aromatic with pear, apple skin, and lime notes. The palate is fresh and clean, quite dry and full of apple flavors. 11.5% alcohol. 1.05% Residual Sugar. 32,640 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Domaine Ste. Michelle Extra Dry Sparkling Wine Columbia Valley NV $12
Rating: + (Good) An enjoyable wine full of pear and tropical fruit notes. The sweetest of the Domaine Ste. Michelle offerings, this wine steps just one toe over the line in terms of sweetness based on its acidity. 12.0% alcohol. 2.3% Residual Sugar. 51,919 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Intersting, I wonder where in the Columbia Valley enough Pinot Noir is grown to make 20,000 cases of wine?
Chris, I noticed that as well. I'll do some digging. Either the case number is wrong or the 100% Pinot is wrong I would say.
Re: that last note, I fear you may be correct about what's in it, but perhaps we're all missing some cache of PN somewhere.
In any case, I have to wholeheartedly agree. This is one of the things that Ste. Michelle has done very well without dips in quality, IMO. I'm always happy to snag some bubbles from the shelf when I see it, and after having had some of the Luxe from a few years back in the library room as a club member, I'll probably continue to do so. No complaints here, that's for sure. Good show, Mr. Sullivan.