Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Deep ruby color; blackberry, dark cherry, chocolate on the nose; black cherry, black currant, blackberry, blueberry on the palate.

Medium-full body with soft mouthfeel for the style and grape; smoke, coffee on mid-palate and finish; nice minerality on finish; reserved acidity (3.86 pH), chewy tannins. Polished, impressive elegant, rich, deep, balanced. Mighty fine wine from Washington State and the Columbia Valley. Most of the grapes come from the Cold Creek Vineyard, a foundational vineyard for Chateau Ste. Michele planted in 1972; balance of the grapes come from Wahluke Slope AVA and the Red Mountain AVA; blend of 96% cabernet sauvignon, 4% merlot. Aged 22 months in French and American oak, 73% of the barrels new, which imparted subtle but significant oak. Benefits from time in glass or decanting, which allows it to become more round and evokes more of the chocolate and smoke elements.

Chateau Ste. Michelle started as a hunting retreat and rural farm (called “Hollywood Farm”) built by lumber baron Frederick Stimson. The wine operation started in 1954 as the “American Wine Company” after the merger of the National Wine Company, founded in 1934 (the date Ste. Michelle claims for its founding), and the Pomerelle Wine Company. Today, it is Washington’s oldest and largest winery. It is owned by Altria, the company formerly known as Phillip Morris.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the few premium wineries in the world that operates two wineries, one devoted to white wines and the other to reds. White wines are made at the original chateau in Woodinville; reds are made at the Canoe Ridge Estate winery in Horse Heaven Hill AVA in Eastern Washington, at an historic site in Walla Walla. Bob Bertheau is the head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle.

All the Chateau Ste. Michelle vineyards are located on the near-desert east side of the Cascade Mountains. Because of desert summer dryness and deep winter cold, the cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, and syrah vines at Canoe Ridge enjoy protection from mold and pests—particularly phylloxera. All vines are planted on their own rootstock, helping maintain the health and longevity of the vineyards and preserving the grape variety in its natural state without the influence of grafted roots. All vineyards earn certified sustainable agriculture and salmon safe recognition.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 shows power and finesse, nice balance, plenty of dark fruits and depth. A first-class, serious, well-made wine from one of America’s best large-scale wine producers. $38-48

Chateau Ste Michelle website

Photos: Chateau Ste. Michelle tasting room; Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker Bob Bertheau; Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard.