Built on the former estate owned by Frederick Stimson, a lumber businessman from the 1910s’, the Château Ste Michelle winery’s story dates back to the Era of Prohibition. Originally founded in 1934, it only started producing wine in 1967. The surrounding park with the fountains, the old trees, and its legendary peacock make of Ste. Michelle one of the most bucolic wineries of Woodinville – the perfect place to have a drink or to attend an outdoor concert in summer. Let’s dive into the past for a bit of local history…
… when Derby village became Hollywood!
Our story starts at the beginning of the 20th century, when two brothers, Frederick Spencer Stimson (1868-1921) and Charles Douglas Stimson (1857-1929) acquired a rural parcel at Derby, a small village near Woodinville, 18 miles from Seattle.
It initially served as a weekend getaway for hunting but the Stimson family soon preferred the country life-style to the noisy and fast-growing city of Seattle. Charles started the construction of the Willows Lodge on one portion of the land, then in 1910 Frederick built his Manor House on the other side of the road.
The ambitious industrialist Charles Stimson added a huge dairy operation and because the property was lined with more than 1,000 holly trees he named it “Hollywood Farm”.
The village of Derby was also renamed Hollywood and Frederick’s wife, Nellie Stimson (1868-1946), expanded her horticultural interests and launched a florist shop, Hollywood Gardens, in downtown Seattle.
The Stimsons also encouraged good deeds and supported many Seattle charities including Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington, and the Seattle Symphony. They also turned the old wooden Derby school, built in 1892, into a new large brick building in 1912, and renamed it… Hollywood Schoolhouse!
Frederick Stimson died in 1921 at the age of 54. Harold, his son, inherited the farm and stayed in it with his mother for almost another ten years. They sold it in 1931 and Nellie Stimson moved to Los Angeles in 1938.
From the unpopular Prohibition Era…
No one knows much about what happened on the site for the next decade. Rumor says the Manor House’s basement served as an illegal speakeasy during Prohibition (1919-1933). Nevertheless, by the early 1940s the Manor House was eventually abandoned for a while and started to fall into disrepair.
When Prohibition was repealed, interest in commercial wine making in Washington State led to the establishment of two Seattle wine companies: The National Wine Company (NAWICO) and The Pommerelle Wine Company. They produced mostly fruit wines made from different berries that were sold in local grocery stores.
In 1943, Philip Douglas Macbride and his wife Frances purchased most of the farm, including the look-a-like haunted Manor House. When they first viewed the abandoned residence, they found it in a very poor condition but were nevertheless able to restore it in its original state.
When World War II broke out, the MacBrides wanted the land to be self-sufficient. They quickly restored the overgrown surroundings by planting fruit trees, a vegetable garden and a greenhouse, which is still standing to the west of the Manor House.
They also raised cows, exotic birds and, according to the local folklore, the male peacock seen parading around the Château nowadays might be a descendant of the former MacBride family’s peacocks.
Frances MacBride lived on the Hollywood Farm property until her death in 1972. The next year, her family sold the property to Wally Opdycke, President of Ste. Michelle Vintners. The Manor House, the gardens with old trees, the old barns, the five-tier trout pond and the large fields had caught his eyes. He began breaking ground for a new winery in 1974.
…to the fanciful French-style Château Era!
In 1976, Wally Opdycke presided over the construction of the new winery in the French-Château-style designed by architect Paul Brenna. He changed its name to “Chateau Ste. Michelle” and opened it to the public. Its vast grounds, by then totaling 105 acres, still have several old trees, historic buildings, and a large outdoor amphitheater with a grass field for visitors.
The first vines were planted at Cold Creek Vineyard in Eastern Washington in 1972. The white wines have been made at the château since 1967, while the red wines are made at Canoe Ridge Estate winery where the vines were planted in 1991.
If you are looking for a restful breakaway in the countryside, Château Ste Michelle is the perfect spot to spend a warm sunny afternoon lying on the green lawn with your own picnic and a cool bottle of reasonably priced sparkling wine purchased directly from the winery’s shop.
Before enjoying a live concert in the outdoor amphitheater, you can also enhance your wine knowledge by getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of winemaking and experiment the Tasting Tour with a selected flight of five Reserve Wines.