Question: What do you get if you combine the Rhone region of France, with Spain, Germany and the California regions of Dry Creek & Paso Robles? Answer: I have no idea. And that’s the case with Lake Chelan’s wines. It’s still too young to tell what varietal will be king of the region. However that’s not to say there aren’t great wines to be had. You just have to know where to look.
The Lake Chelan AVA is only a year and a half old, officially, and, like sampling wine out of the barrel, one can only give their best estimate to how it will preform once it’s been through bottle shock. That being said, a good winemaker & vineyard manager can give a pretty good guesstimation to what that wine will do. Here’s a recap of my three-day whirlwind tasting through Lake Chelan’s wine district.
It’s new & growing (in a good way)
I must have tried about 15 different varietals over a three-day tasting around the like. All of the Spanish reds were there: Tempranillo & Grenache. There were a few Bordeaux blends present (though the Petit Verdot was MIA), a few Italians made their presence around the sloping waterfront hillsides, and nearly everyone had an Alsacian, a.k.a, a Riesling. In addition, the Pinot grape also made a cameo, alongside a Sparkling. In my thirst (no pun intended) to figure out which varietal does the best per the climate, I came away still not knowing. I figure with a few more years, a few gems will begin to emerge.
Wines by the glass
What through me for a loop was that all the wineries I visited had their wines available by the glass. It was something I had rarely seen in a winery, let alone in all wineries. I took up the offer, and finished off my evening on the first night kicking back underneath the misters at Hard Row to Hoe (and with the mercury pushing 85+ at 6:00 at night, the misters were quite enjoyable). With most wineries offering beautiful vistas of the lake, it’s easily to indulge your taste buds while getting lost in a kodak moment.
While it is a new AVA, certain wineries could have fooled me into thinking they have been around for a decade or longer (ok, for the record, Lake Chelan winery has been around for a decade). However with scenic vistas of grapes seeming to flow endlessly to the water’s edge, very hospitable staff members, and a myriad of varietals to choose from, Chelan ranks high on the desirability scale when choosing which AVA to vacation in. It is a drive to get to from the Seattle area (or anywhere else for that matter). But trust me. When you get here, you won’t want to leave. It’s just too gosh darn beautiful. Welcome to the big leagues Lake Chelan (AVA).
Haydn Adams is the author of the book, Wineries Beyond Napa Valley: Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, an insider’s tasting guide to the hidden gems region. He also contributes to the Beyond Napa Valley Wine Blog, writes for vinvillage.com, and can be found roaming the hills of Sonoma County looking for the next hidden gems. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org