A day in the life of a winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle constantly is in flux. Between tasting finished wines, trying fermentations, working with blends, and visiting the rolling vineyards of Eastern Washington, the only thing that remains constant is the level of excitement David Rosenthal feels for his job.
“You really get to use both sides of your brain,” Rosenthal said of the winemaking process and his daily duties. “There’s a lot of science when it comes to fermentation, microbiology, acid levels, and sugar levels, but then you get to the time of year where you might have a hundred barrels of Chardonnay, and they’re all very well-made, and it’s time for the artistry of blending.”
After working 20 harvests at a variety of vineyards in Napa, Oregon, and Australia, Rosenthal found his way to Woodinville-based Chateau Ste. Michelle.
“I’m very passionate about Washington wines to begin with,” Rosenthal said. “The wines we make here are really unique for the wine world, because we get this amazing balance of ripe fruit character. They also have a bit more freshness and acidity because of the climate.”
Within the Washington wine industry, Rosenthal believes that Chateau Ste. Michelle holds a unique position. Not only do winemakers get to develop fine wines made with rare grape varieties to be sold on the Woodinville property, but they also have the capacity to cater to households across the country by selling their bottles in grocery stores.
“We’re trying to make a product that makes people happy,” Rosenthal said. “You can get as pretentious as you want to about wine … but at the end of the day, for about 99 percent of people, it’s just about having a nice glass of wine and relaxing, and tasting something that’s enjoyable, and brings you a small moment of pleasure in a hectic world.” Turn the page to see a day in the life of this worldly winemaker.
Photos Courtesy David Rosenthal
5:30 a.m. | Our cat wakes up for the day, so, of course, my wife and I inevitably wake up, too.
7 a.m. | Wine may be the nectar of the gods, but coffee is the nectar of winemakers. A double shot Americano to start the day.
7:15 a.m. | Starting the work day off by answering some emails — yes, winemakers get emails, too.
9:30 a.m. | Today, I’m working on our Ethos Reserve Chardonnay. We evaluate hundreds of barrels to find the perfect combination of elegance and complexity.
11 a.m. | After creating several different blends, I taste each of them one at a time before choosing a final selection to bottle.
11:45 a.m. | After blending, I need to do a quality check on Columbia Valley Riesling before it is bottled. I am using a high-powered light to ensure the wine has perfect clarity.
12:30 a.m. | A quick dash out to the cellar to taste our newly blended Midsummer White blend. This will be bottled in a few weeks so it is ready for our annual summer concert series.
1 p.m. | Next, I head into our barrel room to taste some of our single-vineyard Chardonnay wines.
1:35 p.m. | I make a quick stop by the bottling line, where the latest vintage of Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc is being bottled.
2 p.m. | I try to take a lap through our new visitor center daily because our guest services staff, like Eric, always have new and interesting questions to ask.
6 p.m. | I received a beautiful shot of vines from Kari Smasne, vineyard manager at our Canoe Ridge Estate in Eastern Washington, who points out the vines are beginning to awaken for another season.
7 p.m. | After a busy day, I meet my wife and we wind down with dinner out.