Lake Chelan now has 23 wineries and tasting rooms, and it seems like more are popping up all the time! It's a great time to be a wine lover in the Chelan Valley. If you are planning to go wine tasting while visiting Lake Chelan, one way you might split up an itinerary is by doing the South Shore one day, and the North Shore the next. The South Shore of Lake Chelan boasts six wineries and two tasting rooms, and all are relatively close to one another.
If you're driving into town off of 97A from the direction of Wenatchee, you'll see Tunnel Hill winery on the right as you enter the city of Chelan. With it's charming stone exterior, and lovely landscaping off the back of the tasting room, this is a lovely place to taste. There is a beautiful water feature in their courtyard, and although it is right off the highway, they have managed to create a secret garden of sorts, and it's easy to feel like you're lost in the vineyard. Kids will enjoy racing rubber duckies down the stream, while adults taste and enjoy the serene atmosphere. Stop in at Sunshine Farm, which is on the opposite side of the parking lot, during the summer months for organic produce, local cheeses and other snack items to enjoy while you taste.
Directly across from Tunnel Hill it is the turn to the left that will get you heading up lake. Nefarious Cellars is right up the road, along with Chelan Estate, Karma, Fielding Hills tasting room and a new tasting room called Siren Song (open spring 2015).
Each of these is worth a visit, starting with Nefarious Cellars. They offer award winning wines with a beautiful view of the lake. The patio right off their tasting room is nestled among their vineyard, and has comfy Adirondack chairs where you can soak in the sun and the breathtaking view while enjoying a glass of wine. The tasting room staff is knowledgeable and friendly. Tasting fee is $5, but is refundable when you purchase a bottle of wine. They do have a grassy area as well, and a small playset that younger children will find entertaining.
As you drive up the hill to Nefarious, you'll pass right by the entrance to Fielding Hills tasting room. Fielding Hills has recently constructed a gorgeous tasting room with a wonderful view of Lake Chelan with the goal of making their wine easier to find and available to a wider audience. They are definitely in good company here at Lake Chelan. They do only red wines, and they do them very well. Fielding Hills has won numerous awards for many of their wines at the Seattle Wine Awards competition. The bottling facility is just south of Chelan in Wenatchee, and we are so glad they've made the trip north to share their wines with us! Tasting fee is $10.
There are many unique things about Karma Vineyards that may have you adding this to one of your "must-visit" wineries. For one thing, it is built right into the side of the mountain, with their restaurant inside the "cave". This makes for an intimate atmosphere inside, and an ideal spot for a romantic occasion. However, there is also a beautiful outdoor patio for those that would rather enjoy our Eastern Washington sunshine! As you're tasting along the South Shore, this is a lovely stop for lunch or a snack. They offer small bites, medium bites and large bites depending on your mood. Karma is one of only a few wine makers in the state of Washington that also bottles Methode Champenois -- a sparkling wine made in the French tradition, and for those that are not wine enthusiasts, you'll be happy to hear they also have beer on tap! Tasting fee $5.
Chelan Estate is one of the very first wineries to open their doors in Lake Chelan, so they've seen a lot of changes. Not the least of which is being a forerunner in what has become the Lake Chelan AVA. Their signature wine is their Pinot Noir, and it's a lovely wine to sip on their deck while enjoying a sweeping view up lake. Bring a picnic and enjoy an afternoon with Bob and Mary!
As you're tasting, you'll want an option for a meal. Tsillan Cellars and Sorrento's Ristorante makes a great stopping point. The tasting room is gorgeous, and will transport you to Italy as you sip their offering of both white and red wine. The Bellissima Rosa is a red blend, and always a favorite. As is the Syrah, which is their boldest wine. Enjoy lunch or dinner at Sorrento's where the chef makes homemade pasta, and other authentic Italian fare. Incidentally, this restaurant was recently voted one of the top scenic restaurants in America, so I can guarantee you the view will not disappoint! Tasting fee $5.
Mellisoni Vineyards is newly represented on the South Shore, and in fact their tasting room is still under construction. They are open for business, though, and offer 2 big reds and 4 white wines. The view from their new location is fantastic, and the tasting room staff is friendly and so helpful.
Siren Song has it's winery in West Seattle, but have recently turned their sites East of the Cascades, and their brand new tasting room is slated to open Spring 2015.
Here we are early into the New Year, starting fresh and working hard to stick with our resolutions – many of which revolve around health, diet, and exercise. Now that February has arrived, we are hit with our first big challenge! Valentine’s Day! Yes, it is about love and romance but there is also a huge emphasis on candy, especially chocolate. And what pairs exceptionally well with chocolate? Red wine! So, now the sabotage begins and it is only February. Fortunately, it is not ALL bad – at least that is what the research shows, and there is a lot of it.
February is also National Heart month, which led me to do some research into any health benefits to red wine, and hopefully chocolate too! The consensus seems to be that red wine, in moderation, has long been thought to be heart healthy. Red wine contains antioxidants such as flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol which is shown to have heart-healthy benefits. The highest flavonoids are found in dry red wines. The red wine with the highest amount of flavonoids is Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Petit Syrah, Syrah and Pinot Noir. Some of my favorites – great news! So what about chocolate? Chocolate has over 300 naturally occurring chemicals. Chocolate was also found to have potent antioxidants called phenols, which are the same types found in red wine. The highest amount of phenols are found in the darker chocolate – that is chocolate with 70% cocoa content or higher.
So, what does this all mean? The healthiest indulgence would be a big red wine with a dark chocolate. It just so happens that the best match for a big red wine – high in tannins – is dark or bittersweet chocolate. To verify these results, I did some taste tests myself. I whole heartedly concur. This is great news for the upcoming Red Wine and Chocolate weekends here in the Lake Chelan Valley. Our winemakers are producing fabulous red wines and there is plenty of delicious chocolate to be found. But it is always best to keep in mind – Everything in Moderation!
Location, location, location. This is the most commonly used phrase when contemplating a change or a move. Two of Chelan Valley wineries have shown us how it also relates to them.
We all know Rio Vista as the “winery on the river.” Their unique and beautiful location is perfect for weddings, picnics and just unwinding in the summer sun. This is one location that is tough to improve on. However during the winter months, the tasting room on the river closes. The good news for all of us who love their wine, is John and Jan Little have just opened up a second tasting room in Manson! “The Cabin in Manson,” has quickly become a favorite winter escape for wine lovers. The warmth of the wood burning fireplace is so inviting on a winter day. It’s the perfect spot to cozy up with your sweetheart, and enjoy award winning wines during the cold winter months--or any time of year. You can find The Cabin at 224 E. Wapato Way in Manson.
Another winery that isn't afraid to rock the boat and grow into a new spot is Hard Row to Hoe. Don and Judy Phelps have expanded their enterprise by opening an additional tasting room in Leavenworth. Located downstairs in the basement at 837 Front Street, you’ll find their new space fits in with Hard Row’s “bordello” theme. For those of us who miss seeing Rudy at the Manson location, you can find him serving up the vast array of unique and award winning wines that Hard Row to Hoe has to offer in Leavenworth.
We are so fortunate here in the Chelan Valley to have two such stellar wineries expand their locations so that it is possible to enjoy their wines throughout the year. Whether you’re on the river, in the cabin, or you've found yourself in one of two tasting parlors, you’re in for a treat with Rio Vista and Hard Row to Hoe!
At Culinary Apple, we carry wines from all over the Lake Chelan AVA, including Rio Vista and Hard Row to Hoe. If you can't make it to their tasting rooms, or would like us to ship you a variety of wine from our AVA, take a look at what we have to offer on our website.
Summer is over – I’m “crushed”- and so are most of the grapes in the Chelan Valley.
This is a busy time of year for all of the wineries and winemakers. Opportunities abound for those interested in experiencing winemaking procedures. Each winery offers a little something different during the Crush event--check with the Chamber, or the local wineries for information on these events.
Benson (www.bensonwinery.com) sets out different varieties of grapes to try right off the vine. It’s really interesting to get a sense of each grape flavor, then go inside to taste the wines made from each variety.
Lake Chelan Winery (www.lakechelanwinery.com) allows willing visitors the chance to stomp grapes right in the barrel for a kind of “Lucille Ball” experience.
Other wineries allow you to watch the grapes crush as they pass through the press, and maybe even taste the raw juice. If you have never tasted wine before it is fermented and fully matured you don’t want to miss out – it is the best “grape juice” ever! Many wineries engage their Wine Club Members to help with crush. I have had that opportunity on a couple of occasions, and found it not only thoroughly enjoyable but extremely informative.
Several of the wineries also offered Winemaker’s Dinners with incredible menus and wine pairings – a true delight for all of those lovers of wine and food. Check with your favorite wineries to see which events they offer.
Events like this draw more and more visitors to our beautiful valley not only for the wine but also for the enjoyment of the gorgeous scenery and the luscious fragrances that fall brings to the Chelan Valley. As Crush winds down and all of that delicious “grape juice” ferments, the wineries are preparing for the next big event – “Fall Barrel Tasting”. I for one can hardly wait to taste the fruits of their labors.
About 10 years ago I decided to make the Chelan Valley my home. Warm weather, a gorgeous lake, and picturesque landscape were contributing factors. Although I do have to admit, that the emergence of a thriving wine industry caught my attention and added to the attraction. By the end of 2005, I found myself a homeowner and “part time resident” of Manson.
I was delighted to see new wineries springing up all around the valley. So, I decided to make it my personal mission to visit each and every one to sample their wares. The wines far exceeded my expectations and the winemakers were so engaging —they delighted in sharing their stories, and most importantly their wines.
By 2009, the Chelan Wineries were able to establish the Lake Chelan AVA – the 11th AVA in the state of Washington. It took more than four years to obtain the needed data to be put through the federal process. The Lake Chelan Wine Alliance states on their website, “A great deal of work and energy was put forward in accomplishing this momentous status and our growers and winemakers in the valley are quite proud to be acknowledged in this way.” The Chelan AVA continues to grow and produce top quality wines and gain recognition.
Now, it’s my pleasure to be the “Wine Enthusiast” for the Culinary Apple. I look forward to sharing the events, the stories and the unique wines of the Chelan AVA wineries with you. Of course, you can count on me to do extensive research, and try each of the new releases so I can give you an informed opinion!