Wine: Chelan Ridge 2009 Chardonnay
Appellation: Columbia Valley (but sold in the Lake Chelan AVA area)
Haydn gives this wine: 96pts
You can buy this wine: Give Chelan Ridge a call at (509) 687-4455. The website is on its way.
I had the fortunate good luck to be able to attend Chelan Ridge’s soft grand opening in August in Lake Chelan. The winery had literally just put up their large “open” sign outside of the winery. The gardeners were still landscaping the fairly steep driveway as we crept around to the top. It’s still getting a bit of polish, but overall, this winery is ready for business.
The winery is located in the Lake Chelan AVA, a new wine region encompassing parts of Lake Chelan, which is located about 200 miles east of Seattle, Washington. The Lake Chelan AVA is a sub-AVA of the Columbia Valley AVA.
Chelan Ridge features four wines, complimentary, as part of their tasting schedule. The tasting room sits atop, well, a ridge overlooking Lake Chelan. To the left of the winery are rows running all along the hillside. On the other side of the tasting room is the barrel room, where you can see the various oak barrels interspersed with the stainless steel tanks.
Among the wines, the Chardonnay was the most impressive (96pts). The wine showcased ripe granny smith apples that danced around the mid-palate along with honeysuckle and a bit of vanilla. The honeysuckle was also present on the bouquet of the Chardonnay, to which I must have spent a good minute or two simply smelling it. In addition, you can also find a bit of apricot upfront. The secret to this magical Chardonnay is in the winemaking. Lynn and Henry Munneke, winemakers and owners, chose to use a combination of 50% new French Oak and 50% neutral French Oak. But wait, there’s more. They blended the two in a stainless steel tank, stabilized it and then put it in bottle. The stainless steel prevents the wine from continuing to soak up the oak from the barrel, and allows the two to harmonize in essentially a cold bath.
In Lynn’s words, “We were striving to produce a delicate, fruit-forward Chardonnay, with subtle toasted oak”. And she nailed it. The Chardonnay, among all the intricate descriptive adjectives, is simply gorgeous. You can taste the delicate craftsmanship in the wine. This might be the wine that is leading the charge to a new Chardonnay day. The amount of light oak combined with the stainless steel tank makes the Chardonnay blossom to what it should be—a Chardonnay. Not a butterball oakmonster.
Lake Chelan currently goes everything from Cab Franc to Pinot Noir to Grenache. It’s still a young wine region, and it remains to be seen what varietals will thrive here. Aside from Riesling which is a likely shoe-in, with the cooler winters mixed with the lake-effect that keeps the area from a total freeze-zone, I suspect that various more resilient grapes, such as the Chardonnay will do well in the area. And great winemaking will only add to the splendor that is Lake Chelan and Chelan Ridge Winery.
And on a personal note, kudos to Lynn and Henry Munneke on their excellent winemaking and congratulations on the opening of your winery. I can’t wait to see how the wine progresses over the years. I was honored to be at your soft grand opening and to taste your wines.
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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 (and Lake Chelan) looking for the next hidden gems. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org