Bob Bertheau - Chateau Ste Michelle Winery
When you start typing in ‘chateau’ into a search engine, Chateau Ste Michelle is the first suggestion to generate. This should not be a surprise seeing how the Washington winery has made countless appearances on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list and produces Rieslings that are so sought after that the winery can hardly keep up with the demand, despite producing well over one million cases each vintage. Tradition, innovation, and the highest winemaking standards form the essence of Chateau Ste. Michelle and an important part of creating great wines is cultivating a passion for them. Bob Bertheau is the man behind the passion.
A Washington native and UC Davis graduate, Bertheau joined the Chateau Ste Michelle cast in 2003 as the winemaker in charge of the white wine program, only to be promoted to head winemaker one year later. Bob’s overall goal as the winemaker in charge of both the white and red wine programs is to “use winemaking to bring out the natural varietal character and the regional expression in the wines”.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the few premium wineries in the world with two state-of-the-art wineries, one devoted to whites and another to reds. This dedicated approach to winemaking allows winemaker Bob Bertheau to build programs to the unique specifications of red and white wines. While all of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s vineyards are located on the east side of the Cascade Mountains where the climate is dry and sunny, Bertheau makes the award winning white wines in Woodinville, near Seattle. The red wines are made at their Canoe Ridge Estate winery in Eastern Washington.
Bob has maintained Chateau Ste. Michelle’s legacy of crafting awarding-winning Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, while putting his own signature on the wines. “I have learned from Ernst Loosen, our German winemaking partner on Eroica Riesling, how to protect fruit purity and produce fresh, fruit-driven Rieslings.
“For Chardonnay,” Bob adds, “I’m using more Burgundian yeasts and have changed our lees stirring and oak regimes for better integration of oak flavors and more harmonious, soft Chardonnays. Washington’s red varieties have great structure and intense fruit. My goal with the reds is to harness the tannins for more accessible red wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle.”
Prior to joining Chateau Ste. Michelle, Bob made his mark at Hambrecht Vineyards and Wineries with their Belvedere and Bradford Mountain labels. In his formative years out of UC Davis, he gained valuable mentoring from such renowned winemakers as Bob Sessions at Hanzell Vineyards and David Ramey at Chalk Hill. Wanting to gain an even broader experience with a wide variety of grapes and viticulture areas, Bob also worked at Gallo of Sonoma for five years, helping to bring a smaller winery mentality to the larger facility.
For Bob, the move to Chateau Ste. Michelle in 2003 was not only the chance to make wine for Washington’s most acclaimed winery, it was a chance to experience the difference in winemaking that Washington State had to offer. "We have such unique growing conditions here: low rainfall, extra sunshine during the growing season, cooler days at the end of harvest for longer hang time, and a pioneer spirit of the local growers and winemakers. These conditions help us grow world-class fruit and make wines of character, complexity and quality."
The winery has spent decades investing in quality vineyards, the finest winemaking equipment, and world-class, top winemaking talent such as Bob Bertheau. His commitment to quality has led Chateau Ste. Michelle to earn some of the highest accolades in the industry today.
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