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Delhi Wine Club
Chateau Ste. Michelle Strikes again

Posted: Thursday, 03 August 2017 17:26


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Passing By: Chateau Ste. Michelle Strikes again

Aug 03: David Andrews, Divisional Manager- Asia Pacific Region for Chateau St-Michelle Wine Estates was again in Delhi where he conducted a Master Class at Hotel Lodi, followed by a wine dinner at Megu Restaurant at the Leela Palace Hotel, known for its modern Japanese Cuisine, with wines from COW trinity matching food, writes Subhash Arora who had a long chat at the dinner table about several aspects of the third largest premium wine producer in the USA

Click For Large ViewReferring to Chateau Ste. Michelle as a COW would be neither religious nor sacrilegious. It is simply the Troika of wines in three American States- California, Oregon and Washington where they own several wineries -though in the chronological order of establishment of wineries the Chinese sounding WOC would be a more appropriate acronym.  

Based in Gold Coast Australia, David has been working as the Divisional Manager- Asia Pacific Region for about 4 years ago. I had first met him 3 years ago during a wine dinner at Prego, Gurgaon. Working earlier for ASC, the biggest importer in China, for 6 years and another 3 in Hong Kong, he is well trained to handle difficult markets like India.  This was his fourth trip to India; he was headed towards Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune after Delhi.

Chateau Ste. Michelle

David says they produce 17 variants of Riesling-perhaps the largest number of Rieslings made by a single company. They sell a million cases of the basic Riesling- the highest production globally for a single label. ‘We produce the highest number of bottles with 90+ ratings from Wine Spectator, he says proudly. The total production of 8 million cases is an impressive number but 7 million are produced in their Washington winery.

Credit for Renaissance of Riesling in Germany goes to Ernie Loosen, owner of Dr. Loosen Wines in Mosel. ‘He visited us in early 1990s and wondered how we could sell more Riesling in Germany than he could, even being a German producer. He looked at our facilities, grapes, winemaking process etc and said he wanted to partner with us and make special Riesling with us. This is how Eroica winery was set up in 1995.  A consistent 90+ scorer, the first 5 vintages of Eroica Riesling were included in the Top 100 of Wine Spectator.’ Eroica Riesling 2015 was a star performer at Megu too.


Click For Large ViewAnother interesting fact he shared was that the company is into a lot of cross distribution. It is no surprise that they distribute Torres products in the US whereas Torres China sells their wines in China. They market Antinori products in the US whereas his company in Italy imports and distributes the American wines.

Wine Tourism

Started in 1967, celebrating 50th year this year, the company has become a $ 900 million company and is an important entity in the Washington State. It is one of the 3 biggest producers of premium wine in the US, following Gallo and Constellation Brands, according to David. It attracts around half-a million tourists every year. This includes around 3,000 visitors to each of the 30 music concerts-called Summer Concert Series and are very popular weekend options for many people. It is the third most visited tourist attraction after the Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, says David, who shared that singers like John Legend have performed at the concert where wine is sold by the bottle at the winery rates.

Stag’s Leap, Stags’ Leap and Stags Leap

Click For Large ViewStag’s Leap Cellars was judged as the top wine in the fight between California and Bordeaux reds at the Judgment of Paris 1976. Many Americans mistakenly give credit to another winery with a similar name-Stags’ Leap Winery. There is also an AVA (American Viticulture Area) with similar name-Stags Leap District. Both wineries came up in the same year and opposed it tooth and nail. But the District was formed in 1989 as a sub-region of Napa Valley, with no apostrophe.

The Best Red Wine Award at Judgement at Paris was Stag’s Leap Cellar’s Cask 23-the top wine of the Estate. There are two other single vineyard wines below this level- S.L.V (Stag’s Leap Vineyard) and Fay (another vineyard) Reds. Artemis is the next down the line and might be viewed unfairly as the fourth wine.

In August 2007, the original owner had sold the winery to Chateau Ste. Michelle and Marchesi Antinori. David shares an interesting story that he had not when I met him first in 2014 at the wine dinner at Prego, Hotel Westin.

Warren Winiarski, the original owner had set up the winery in 1970 with the first vintage released in 1972. It was the Cask 23 from the second vintage 1973 that won the top accolade. He approached Marchesi Pierro Antinori in Tuscany in 2007 and asked him if he was interested in buying his winery as he was ‘fed up with California’ and wanted a change.

Antinori and Chateau Ste. Michelle (SMWE), who were already 50-50 partners in the Col Solare (shining hill) project in Red Mountain AVA District in Washington State, collaborated to buy the company, with 85% for SMWE and the rest by Antinori.’

Wines and Food and Wine Match

Another interesting anecdote that I might add is that during the dinner at Prego, Artemis Cabernet 2011 was served with a shrimp open Ravioli with mushroom. I was not pleased about the pairing and requested the waiter to serve me the next wine on the Menu- a Merlot 2009. David felt Cab Artemis was a better option with ravioli because of its higher acidity, but I loved the Merlot. Everyone on my table followed suit and thanked me for the suggestion. Despite the slight rough edges, Artemis was a better match for the braised leg of lamb, the last course before dessert, which was cooked just right.

Coincidentally, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis 2014 was served this evening with Japanese BBQ Lamb Chops which were excellent without any wine but with the Cabernet Sauvignon it became even more delicious. Rating with food and wine 98/100 Rating food 95/100 Rating Wine 90/100

Click For Large ViewDavid and I had been discussing the futility of excessive focus on food and wine match in a restaurant where one cannot order multiple bottles of wine to pair every dish (another case in favour of wine-by-the-glass concept that needs to be promoted as also such wine dinners). One needs to follow the basics to make sure there is no violent clash between food and wine on the palate and enjoy the occasional heavenly matches when they come your way.

Well, one such moment arrived soon as we were served Miso Black Cod with Ste Michelle Eroica 2015. Perfect example of perfect pairing of a super-duper dish with a matching quality Riesling! Perfect palate pleaser with nuanced minerality and subtle citrusy flavour and petrol-ly aroma, made this elegant wine delicious to drink on its own (rating 94/100). Miso marinated for 4 days, Black Cod was ‘SWAAD’ too and could be cut with a butter knife with sensuous flavour, thanks to the Miso marination for 4 days. Even the ‘sprig’ of tangy Japanese pickle added to the flavour. Food Rating 98/100. Cod-Eroica won the perfect and rare rating of 100/100 from me.

Other wines tasted and served with dinner were Arkadia Chardonnay from Napa (88/100), Pinot Noir Erath 2014 from the Oregon stable- a silky, smooth and sexy wine (Rating 91/100) which was an excellent match with the Sushi Platter (Combo Rating 95/100). Merlot 2009 from Ste Michelle was another beautiful wine that was an excellent match with the Charred Duck Confit on a baby bed of Barley Risotto (Combo Rating 94/100).

Quite a memorable and relaxing evening it was-and really fun chatting and catching up with David Andrews, Ambassador of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates!

Subhash Arora

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