After earning a marine biology degree at the University of Puget Sound, the 38-year-old took a different path to winemaking.

Share story

DAVID ROSENTHAL never imagined winemaking as a profession, certainly not while he was earning a degree in marine biology at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Now, as the white-winemaker for Washington behemoth Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, he’s in charge of more than 3 million cases of wine.

After graduation in 2001, Rosenthal was waiting tables in his hometown of Denver as he tried to launch his career, perhaps as an environmental consultant. A friend working at Napa Valley’s Opus One called out of the blue and said wineries in the heart of America’s wine industry needed harvest help, and someone with Rosenthal’s background in science could catch on quickly. When he landed a job at famed Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, Calif., Rosenthal packed up his car, and his father drove while he studied books on winemaking basics.

“I was fairly certain wine was made with grapes,” Rosenthal recalls with a laugh. “But I had to be certain.”

Three Ste. Michelle whites to try:

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Ethos Reserve chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $32: Aromas of butter rum, white pepper and ginger gold apple are followed by flavors of baked pear. The creamy mouth feel is backed by exhilarating acidity.

Eroica 2013 Gold riesling, Columbia Valley, $30: Loaded with aromas and flavors of kiwi, star fruit, pear and Granny Smith apples; the extraordinary acidity fully balances the 6.64 percent residual sweetness.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2016 grüner veltliner, Yakima Valley ($26, wine club only): This rare Washington grüner is an extraordinary white with aromas of mandarin orange, kiwi and green apple, followed by flavors of crisp, clean fruit, including spice, slate, a hint of ginger and fresh-cut Golden Delicious apples.

Humble beginnings for one of Washington’s rising stars of winemaking.

While in Napa, he had the opportunity to meet Mondavi, a true legend of American wine. He also had the chance to taste Ste. Michelle wines. After harvest, he moved up the coast, first to Domaine Serene in Oregon’s Dundee Hills, then to Seattle, ultimately landing a job in the lab at Ste. Michelle.

When Bob Bertheau arrived in 2002 as white-winemaker — and later head winemaker — Rosenthal moved into the cellar as an enologist. When white-winemaker Wendy Stuckey moved back to her native New Zealand in 2015, Rosenthal was promoted to white-winemaker, overseeing the production of more than a million cases of riesling (more than any other winery on Earth) and chardonnay, which has been growing in production and importance for Ste. Michelle as consumer interest surges. In all, he makes 30 white wines each vintage.

Rosenthal, 38, has more than the opportunity to lead the winemaking team at Washington’s oldest and largest winery. He also gets to work with internationally renowned winemakers like Ernest Loosen, Ste. Michelle’s partner on Eroica Riesling and Germany’s most famous winemaker.

Rosenthal’s wife is a corporate officer at Starbucks. Together, they have most of Washington’s beverage choices covered.