“Luxury travel” can be defined in many ways, but for me it is less defined by thread count and critic scores and more by access to the people, places and experiences that represent all that is authentic and heartfelt about a destination.
There’s no denying that upscale comfort factors still apply. Elevated standards of accommodation and dining will always show up on the luxury traveler’s itinerary, however today’s luxury traveler seeks a broader depth of understanding and engagement to local culture than ever before. People don’t just want to see – they want to absorb and engage with their destination through unique offerings.
Not long ago Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State celebrated the 20th year of its Artist Series with a weekend of upscale festivities any luxury traveler would be honored to be part of. The themed weekend was full of wonderfully soulful and spirited experiences and is one wine and art lovers can celebrate themselves.
The flagship winery for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates launched an “Artist Series” of wines with its 1993 vintage. At the time Chateau Ste. Michelle was a small winery with notable ambition and visionary thinking. They teamed up with world-renowned Northwest based glass artist Dale Chihuly to create a memorable line of labels for wine the “Artist Series.” The Meritage style project featured a different artist each year, but always the same winemaker, Bob Bertheau.
According to artist Chihuly, the label of the Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Artist Series Red Wine illustrates his Cast Silver Venetian, a sculpture created by Chihuly and then cast in sterling silver at the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington State. It is inspired by Italian Art Deco. Chihuly started his Venetian series in 1988 with Italian glassblower Lino Tagliapietra. It’s elegant, sophisticated and whimsical all at once.
According to winemaker Bob Bertheau, the Artist Series wines are the first wines to be made each year. They represent the best grapes and creativity the winery has to offer. “I want the best the entire state of Washington has to offer right in front of me.” In terms of the finished product Mr. Bertheau shares, “It takes about two weeks of straight blending to come to the final blend decision.” As expected, the wine already has received scores in the 90’s and praise from critics.
Each year, head winemaker Bertheau’s red wine team, headed by Raymon McKee, develops the Artist Series before the rest of the Chateau Ste. Michelle portfolio. The vision for this wine series is to be an artistic representation of what the grapes have to offer such as complexity and nuance and layering of flavors within the context of Washington state fruit.
The 2012 Artist Series ($55) incorporates grapes from four sites which include Canoe Ridge Estate (72 percent) in the Horse Heaven Hills, Cold Creek Vineyard (16 percent) across the Columbia River from the Wahluke Slope, Zephyr Ridge Vineyard (10 percent) in the Horse Heaven Hills and Indian Wells on the Wahluke Slope. Case production is set around the 4,300 mark with Cabernet Sauvignon dominating the offerings with 70 percent, followed by Merlot at 26 percent. Bertheau uses Cabernet Franc (2 percent) and Malbec (2 percent) like a chef might use a spice, but always allowing the grapes to speak for themselves. The barrel program consists of about 69 percent new French oak for 22 months. The 2012 grapes were sourced in an “average vintage” in terms of heat units.
In terms of taste, this remarkable Bordeaux-style blend showcases unique power and character. The 2012 vintage is a blend of 70% Cabernet, 26% Merlot, 2% Cab Franc and 2% Malbec. Think elegant fruit forward structure back-boned by smoothish tannins…all built for aging. According to the winemaker, “My goal is to capture Old World refinement, while harnessing the power and concentration of Washington fruit.” Think layers of premium blends leading to stratums of enticing aromas and flavors…and that is right now. Think what this wine will become in the years to come. Art in a bottle, on many levels.
Although the grand festivities have come and gone, any art and wine lover can be part of the celebration by visiting Seattle, WA. Here are my suggestions for indulging your sense of taste and place.
Lodging: Begin by booking a two-day stay at Hotel Vintage Park (A Kimpton property) in downtown Seattle. It’s a high-end boutique-style hotel with all the amenities a guest could want. Rooms are spacious and updated in understated wine colors for an urban elegance feel. Room service and concierge assistance is available. Tulio Restaurant is adjacent to the hotel bringing Italian cuisine to its highest level, and an afternoon wine reception completes the picture of guest-pampered comforts. This is a pet friendly hotel where each pet is truly welcomed and celebrated. Centrally located for whatever the guest has in mind to experience.
Chateau Ste. Michelle: The Hotel Vintage Concierge will be able to assist you in your plans, or call Uber for transport. It’s about a 30 minute ride (without traffic) to the winery from the hotel. Book the Ultimate Tour & Tasting ($85-$100 PER PERSON) to get a real feel for what this winery has to offer. About 90 minutes and by appointment only. Be sure to mention you would like to taste the 2012 Artist Series. There may be an upcharge, but it will be worth it.
Take home a few bottles of wine (can be shipped to many states) including the gorgeous commemorative set of three 2012 Artist Series wines. Check the Ste. Michelle web site for additional onsite events, like outdoor concerts featuring famous name artists. This place knows how to treat its guests. Even if you are an “old hand” at visiting wineries, this place has a rich history and future you’ll enjoy being a part of.
Chihuly Art: Plan a day to spend at Seattle Center immersing yourself in this artist’s glass art. It is like nothing you have ever seen or experienced before. Dale Chihuly’s path to international fame is a fun and quirky one. He is definitely the captain of his own ship.
Seattle Center is about 10 minutes from the hotel. Book an early lunch at the Collection’s Café. Reservations are a must. As Dale Chihuly says, “I discovered my first collection of beach glass on the shores of Puget Sound when I was four or five years old. I’ve never stopped collecting since.” During lunch you will be part of his extensive collections. Each table has an inset where one of his collections is featured. Think vintage string dolls, radios, pocket knives, inkwells, tin toys, accordions and more. By the way, the food is fabulous.
Just across from the restaurant is where the real magic begins at the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. Book a private docent lead tour for the best experience. This place is a set of rooms that explore the various art stages of the artist providing a look at the inspiration and influences that formed the career of artist Dale Chihuly. The Exhibition includes eight Galleries, the centerpiece Glasshouse and a lush Garden. It’s an experience you will not forget. The exhibit has a run time of 30 years, so while it will eventually end, it’s here for you to indulge in right now.