A few weeks ago in this column, I mentioned the connection between Chateau Ste. Michelle and the tobacco industry, a relationship that has been widely reported in wine magazines. To recap: Ste. Michelle (and its sister winery Columbia Crest) are both owned by a holding company called Stimson Lane, which itself is owned by US Tobacco. My question to you was, Do you give a shit? Well, I wouldn't exactly say the e-mails flooded in, but the results are interesting anyway. Of 87 respondents, 64 were not aware of the connection and were now unlikely ever to purchase Ste. Michelle wines again. Fifteen of you were aware and will continue not buying the wines. Seven of you don't really care about the connection. And to James in Woodinville, what you suggested I do is physiologically impossible.
A great week for cheapskates
As if we needed more proof that there is absolutely no correlation between the cost of making wine and its eventual sale price. For example, a $20 cabernet doesn't cost much less to make than a $100 cabernet. What got me thinking about this recently is watching the cost of my beloved zinfandels and syrahs skyrocket as their popularity has exploded. Used to be you could get a top-notch bottle of Ridge Zin for about 15 smackers. Now you're lucky to get it for under $35.
Still, there are some wineries that aren't yet full of themselves. One case in point is Zaca Mesa in California. I've loved their affordable wines for years, and their recent release of the '97 Zaca Mesa Santa Barbara County Syrah ($16) gives me hope that this hobby of mine isn't turning into a rich man's folly. The wine is dark and ripe, offering zippy flavors of fresh berries, black cherry, and a touch of earth.