Hilton Explores Washington Wine Country
September 01, 2023 | By Lindsey Eisenlohr, Junior Account Manager, IMI Agency
Last month, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates hosted five of Hilton’s top-selling Catering & Events managers for an exciting week of exploring some of their most beloved Washington wines. Based in eastern Washington, the Tri-Cities, for three days, these ladies observed the small- and large-scale production of key wineries before heading west and ending the week at Chateau Ste. Michelle just outside of Seattle.
Day One – Dinner with a View
The trip kicked off with dinner at Col Solare, situated atop Red Mountain and providing stunning views of the rolling vineyards and surrounding valley. The vantage point showcased the strategic planting of vineyards that occurs in the region, and being there in the evening, as the sun was setting, allowed us to see the shade provided by neighboring vines and feel the cooler air settling in for the evening, which preserves the grapes’ acidity. We compared the 2018 and 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon while dining on caprese salad and beef tenderloin. We capped off the evening with decadent tiramisu accompanied by the 2017 Component Collection Syrah.
Day Two – Small but Mighty
Heading further east on day two, our morning drive took us along the Columbia River where we saw the clear distinction between the three types of land: the fertile, naturally watered ground along the riverbank, the expansive arid land that makes up most of the region and the irrigated land of the vineyards and agricultural fields that are dotted throughout.
We were welcomed to Northstar with a glass of rosé and a walk around the vineyards. Bottling was taking place that day via the mobile bottling truck, which makes its way around the region to assist smaller wineries. We participated in the Northstar Blending Experience, comparing the Merlot from four different AVAs and ultimately blending them with a Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot to create our own unique bottle of wine. After lunch on the patio, we were off to our next stop.
After passing through acres upon acres of winter wheat on a dirt road, we made it to Spring Valley Vineyard where we were greeted by the winemaker herself, Kate Derby. Kate shared the vineyard’s rich family history and brought to life the namesakes of the wines we tasted. After a walk to the vineyard and the garden, we ended the day with dinner at Walla Walla Steak Co.
Day Three – Southbound for Innovation
Day three took us south to the Oregon border where we saw the bigger production sites: Columbia Crest, Canoe Ridge and 14 Hands. All of these sites showed off a variety of ways they’re making wine and experimenting with new styles and flavors.
At Columbia Crest we tried our hand at the manual stirring of the barrels, realizing how much arm strength and labor is needed to complete this important task. After an extensive tour, we had lunch with the head winemaker and the assistant winemaker who is focused on their red wines.
At Canoe Ridge, which earned it’s name due to the upside-down canoe appearance of the hill, we drove to the top of the ridge where we had 360-degree views of the vineyards, the winding Columbia River and Oregon across the way. This production site is not open to the public so being able to taste straight from the barrel some of the Chateau Ste. Michelle Artist Series as well as a port was truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
The day ended at 14 Hands where we received a deep dive into the science and math involved in winemaking as we toured the laboratory. We tried a white Cabernet Sauvignon, only available at the tasting room, and reflected on our educational and memorable week while we had dinner and shared more wine.
Day Four – All I Wanna Do…is tell everyone about Washington wine!
On the final day of this whirlwind week, we flew to Seattle, with a fun night waiting for us at Chateau Ste. Michelle, the mothership, in Woodinville. The evening kicked off with another opportunity to make our own bottle of wine through the BLEND: Winemaker for a Day program. This let us try a variety of wines, specifically comparing Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Cold Creek Vineyard and Canoe Ridge Estate while also tasting Columbia Valley Malbec and Cold Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc. After the BLEND, we were treated to a VIP experience: a dinner reception followed by a Sheryl Crow concert!
After a week of learning and seeing first-hand the unique and special place that is eastern Washington wine country, these ladies were ready to return to their properties and encourage their clients to choose these wines for their next event.
Lindsey Eisenlohr, Junior Account Manager, IMI Agency
Lindsey Eisenlohr is a 17-year professional with experience across the consumer marketing and public relations space. She joined IMI Agency in October 2019, bringing her communications and project management expertise to the Hilton Managed Estate as a Project Manager and spearheading the client’s seasonal beverage promotions. Recently promoted to Junior Account Manager, Lindsey’s focus is shifting to account management and working more closely with suppliers and distributors.
Lindsey is an Army spouse and mom to Evelyn (3) and Benjamin (6 months). She currently resides in Detroit but is waiting to see where the Army sends them next!