My love affair with Chateau St. Michelle
I have always loved the elegant wines of Chateau St. Michelle, in Washington State. The winery makes fantastic wines at reasonable prices. Their Riesling is off-dry, with finesse and good acidity. A newer style of Riesling is Eroica--a fuller-bodied style with hints of minerals and peach (this wine is a joint effort between Chateau St. Michelle and Dr. Loosen). And their Gewurztraminer has just the right balance of fruit, spice, acid and sugar.
My absolute favorite Merlot is CSM's Columbia Valley Merlot. Restrained and elegant, made more in a Bordeaux style than a "New World" one, it has flavors of cherry and cedar, balanced by oak/tannin. At $15 a bottle it's an absolute steal.
CSM sources grapes from all over Washington State, but you can visit their tasting room and chateau (yes, one does exist, and it's lovely) 30 minutes north of Seattle in Woodinville. It's conveniently located across the street from both Columbia Crest winery, and Red Hook brewery and restaurant. A perfect day trip is to have lunch at Red Hook's pub, tour the brewery, then tour and taste at the wineries, before heading to one of the trendy, yet quaint restaurants in Woodinville for dinner.
If you go to CSM, be sure to pay a little extra and do the reserve tasting--it's definitely worth it.