Chef John Sarich: The Master Matchmaker of Chateau Ste Michelle

The Washington State wine industry is truly blessed by the many remarkable chefs who have chosen to make the beautiful Pacific Northwest their professional home. Chief among them is Chef John Sarich, the Culinary Director of Chateau Ste Michelle.

Chef Sarich is an exceptionally skilled master of matching food and wine together. Whether overseeing his staff as they welcome hundreds of guests to the summer concerts at Chateau Ste Michelle or conducting wine seminars aboard the legendary Cunard Cruise Line, his insightful combinations of wine and food enhance and enrich each culinary experience.

Yet as one walks the stunning grounds of the Chateau Ste Michelle winery just north of Seattle with Chef Sarich, he is quick to give credit to the many individuals who created the Washington State wine story.

Wine vines were first introduced to Washington State in the 1860s by Italian and German immigrants who planted their vines in the drier eastern half side of the state. There they discovered that the longer sunlight hours (two more hours per day than in California) and the more consistent temperatures could produce a unique harvest and remarkable wines.

But all production stopped in 1916 when Washington State became one of the first states to enact Prohibition. Healthy vines were plowed under and the entire state went dry. Oh sad days! Then there was the Great Depression and World War II to survive and still no wine.

But you can't keep a great state down. By the mid-1950s, the grandfather of the Washington wine industry, Dr. Walter Clore, working at Washington State University, rediscovered how well the state's weather and soil suited the production of great wines.  Chateau Ste Michelle was created not longer after that in 1954 when the National Wine Company and the Pomerelle Wine Company merged.

The original warehouse space quickly became inappropriate to receive the many new wine fans seeking to learn more. The decision was made to purchase the elegant French-style chateau built by the lumber baron Frederick Stimson as the new operation base for Chateau Ste Michelle winery.

That was the beginning and Chef Sarich was there walking the grounds, envisioning what would be not merely wine, but wine WITH food the way wine has always meant to be enjoyed. Some beverages like vodka and rum, to mention only a few, can be enjoyed solo without food and even without companionship. 

But wine is different: wine was meant to be enjoyed with friends and foods that widen and extend not only the wine but also the experience.

That meaningful sense of experience enabled Chef Sarich to move from working as a young wine guide at Chateau Ste Michelle to being today a master chef known throughout the culinary world for his dedication to memorable dining.

If you are lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest or visit there, be sure to contact Chateau Ste Michelle and inquire about events, tastings and tours.

You will sense the care and commitment that Chef Sarich and all the staff at winery give to their ever effort.  But if you are unable to stroll on the grounds of Chateau Ste Michelle, consider purchasing Chef Sarich's newest book, Chef in the Vineyard. Chef Sarich has selected Washington State's leading wineries and reviewed what makes their wines unique. Each wine summary is followed by recipes personally created by Chef Sarich to ideally match with that wine.

The book is a delight, informative and charming. It demystifies which-wine-with-what-food and makes it all fun and easy - all thanks to Chef Sarich, the perfect matchmaker of Chateau Ste Michelle.

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2010

Posted on October 25, 2010 .