“It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!” That’s what Sally and I told each other as we strolled down Woodin Ave. last Friday on our way to join the celebration at Rocky Pond Winery’s new tasting room in downtown Chelan. It was opening day, and the place was packed with people ready to welcome the Rocky Pond crew to Chelan! The renovation to the building is beautiful and elegant with a mix of natural materials like dark brick and light wood. They offer lots of seating, too. The tasting bar is long to accommodate those wishing to taste. Couches and tables are available for those that prefer to buy a bottle or a glass to enjoy while chatting, or watching the shoppers stroll by.
The tasting staff is very friendly, and worked hard to make everyone feel welcome. There are four wines on the tasting menu now, three whites, and one red. All are made from grapes grown in their Clos CheValle vineyard in the Lake Chelan AVA. Start with 2013 Glacial Treasure, a lovely blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Viognier. Next, try the 2013 Dry Riesling which has a crisp mineral taste highlighted with citrus. The 2013 Chardonnay will surprise you with notes of honey and fruit. The 2014 Syrah is the final wine on the tasting list, and is smooth, earthy and delicious.
The personal touches throughout the tasting room really give a sense of what is important to David and Michelle Duffenhorst, the owners of Rocky Pond Winery. They have a striking display of a picture of the Columbia River, which spans the depth of the tasting room, and have overlaid it with the route they took on a bicycle trip through France – bringing their inspiration for crafting great wines home to Washington, and our beautiful valley. We can definitely envision this tasting room quickly becoming a favorite place for shoppers to take a break, or a fun place to meet for a glass of wine before going out for dinner.
Sally and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the Rocky Pond Winery opening, and the whole Culinary Apple team is excited to welcome them to downtown Chelan!
It is just over a year since I authored my first wine blog. At that time there were right around 24 wineries within our Lake Chelan Wine Valley. We have now grown to 30 and expect to reach 33! Several of the wineries expanded to a second location, but the rest of the growth is new wineries popping up and sharing the fruits of their labors. It is so exciting to see the talent and passion of the new wine makers. So many are family run wineries with involvement of the entire family in the operation. A perfect example of that is Radiance Winery in Manson. Located in a renovated 100 year old red barn on Klate Road, Radiance Winery has created a warm and welcoming place to taste and enjoy their wines. On a recent visit to the winery I was greeted by the entire Crowder family, as I entered the tasting room. I felt so welcomed and comfortable – just like being at home. The purpose of my visit was to have a second taste of their Chardonnay since we had just added that to our selection of wines at the Culinary Apple. It was just as delicious as I remembered. Lightly oaked with a silky texture and clean finish, it is a very enjoyable Chardonnay. Equally enjoyable was the opportunity to visit with the Crowder family and hear their story. I am excited to watch them grow and develop their wines. Radiance Winery is a wonderful addition to the Lake Chelan Wine Valley and a great addition to the wine shelf at Culinary Apple.
With Chelan Nouveau quickly approaching, my excitement rises at the thought of all of the wonderful Rose’ wines about to be released. For me there is nothing better than a chilled glass of Rose’ on a beautiful spring or a hot summer afternoon. I first experienced a dry Rose’ while visiting in the south of France which is the epicenter of Rose’. Initially I insisted that I would not drink “pink wine” as it was way too sweet for my palate. After much persuasion I tried a glass and was immediately hooked. Rose’ was my beverage of choice for our long afternoon lunches. I was amazed at all of the different hues to the wines and the different characteristics of tastes. So when I returned to the states I made it my mission to find “French” Rose’ wines. Now that I live in the Chelan Valley, my mission is to seek out the Chelan valley Rose’ wines – and I have been having a great time doing it. Here in the Chelan Valley, the wine makers do a fabulous job of crafting Rose’ wines from many different varietals of grapes. The wine can be made from a single varietal or a blend of several. In the Chelan AVA the Syrah grape seems to dominate. Some winemakers use Syrah as a stand-alone varietal, others use it as a part of their blend. Grenache, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, and Mouvedre’ also play a strong role. Rose’ wine achieves some of its color from contact with the grape skins during fermentation. Also the amount of time the skins are in contact will determine the hue. The shorter the time on the skins during fermentation, the lighter the color. The grape varietal also plays a big role in determining the shade of pink which will vary in color from a very pale pink to a brilliant hot pink. Take my advice: grab a chilled bottle of Rose’, find a spot with a view, and enjoy!
Enjoy Chelan Nouveau for one more weekend April 25 - 26. And check out the Lake Chelan Wine Valley website for more information!
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!