Vintage Lake Chelan

Chelan is a Salish word meaning “deep water.” And it’s no wonder, Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States. It has long had an excellent reputation for fishing and other water related activities. Today, Lake Chelan also has an excellent reputation for wine.

The first grape vines were planted along the shores of Lake Chelan in 1891. But it wasn’t until almost 100 years later, that Bob Christopher and Steve Kludt planted a vineyard that was the beginning of something big.

In the years leading up to that momentous occasion, Lake Chelan had been a successful orchard region but when the apple market collapsed in the 1990s, orchards in eastern Washington were taken out and grape vines went in.

By 2001, Lake Chelan Winery had become the first bonded winery in the area. It would only be eight years later when Lake Chelan became Washington’s 11th American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Granted by the federal government, an AVA is an appellation of indicating an area with distinguishing climate, soil and physical features that makes it unique. The Lake Chelan AVA encompasses the southernmost and easternmost areas of the lake and the surrounding lands that are at or below 2,000 feet in elevation.

Lake Chelan’s soil is a coarse, sandy sediment with significant amounts of quartz and mica that lend a certain minerality to the wines. The AVA is also notable for the significant “lake effect” that fosters mild temperatures resulting in a longer growing season.

In the ensuing decade, more pioneers followed Christopher and Kludt’s lead and more vineyards were planted and wineries bonded.  Paul Benson of Benson Vineyards, Mary and Bob Broderick opened Chelan Estate, Denny Evans started Tunnel Hill Winery, Bob Jankelson introduced Tsillan (pronounced Chelan) Cellars, Larry Lehmbecker launched Vin du Lac, Lynn and Henry Munneke introduced Chelan Ridge Winery, Dean and Heather Neff instigated Nefarious Cellars, Katy and Milum Perry began Tildio Winery, Ray Sandidge unveiled C. R. Sandidge  and Don and Judy Phelps unveiled Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards.

In 2015, vineyards had grown to 140 acres with 15 bonded wineries and a Wine Grape Growers Association. In 2018, the Lake Chelan AVA had over 30 wineries with about 300 acres planted to Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Clairette Blanche, Counoise, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Syrah, and Viognier.

On June 7th and 8th, Lake Chelan celebrates 10 years as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA). The Lake Chelan Wine Valley and members of the Lake Chelan community invite you to join the festivities dubbed “Vintage Lake Chelan.”

At Vintage Lake Chelan, you’ll have the opportunity to taste delectable wines at the welcome reception, two seminars and a grand tasting at Larc Hill Vineyard Ranch on the South Shore.

The inaugural Vintage Lake Chelan will kick off with a welcome reception on Friday, June 7 from 6-8 p.m. at the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. This is a great  opportunity to earn about this exciting AVA while tasting a selection of wines and bubblies, and talking with the wine industry folks.

The next day, Vintage Lake Chelan features two tasting seminars, led by representatives of the Walter Clore Center, and a grand tasting event.

“The Pioneers of the Lake Chelan AVA” will delve into those visionaries of the Lake Chelan AVA. Panelists include Alan Busacca, the geologist that studied the region and filed the official petition for the Lake Chelan AVA, Steve Kludt of Lake Chelan Winery, Bob Broderick of Chelan Estate Winery, Judy Phelps of Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards, Heather Neff of Nefarious Cellars, and Larry Lehmbecker of Vin du Lac Winery.

“Lake Chelan AVA – A Balancing Act from North to South” is a deep dive into the most extensively planted varietals on both the north and south shores, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

Panelists and their wines include Rocky Pond Winery’s Shane Collins and his 2017 Riesling; Jason Morin with Ancestry Cellars 2016 Reunion Dry Lake Vineyard Chardonnay; a 2016 Estate Pinot Noir presented by Michelle Fanton of Tunnel Hill Winery; a 2016 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir offered by winemaker Oscar Castillo of Lake Chelan Winery; Dean Neff of Nefarious Cellars will pour his Defiance Vineyard Syrah, and founder/winemaker Angela Jacobs of WineGirl Wines will pour her Tildio Vineyards Syrah.

A grand tasting with 20+ wineries culminates that evening with delectable bites and delicious wines of the Lake Chelan Wine Valley. You can see the full lineup at http://lakechelanwinevalley.com/vintage-lake-chelan

A couple of highlights – CR Sandidge’s 2018 Sabrina is a white blend made by co-fermenting Gewurztraminer and Riesling.

Early on this Washington winemaker also worked at Weingut Georg Breuer in Germany. While there, Sandidge helped produce the highly acclaimed 1989 Georg Breuer Berg Rottland Trockenbeerenauslese. Winemaker Ray Sandidge has produced highly rated wines both red and white that have earned many awards in many competitions up and down the west coast.

Also high on my favorite Washington wineries is Cairdeas (say ‘Cardis’), an ancient Gaelic word meaning friendship, goodwill or alliance. West Seattle transplants Charlie and Lacey Lybecker believe good wine should be shared with friends, goodwill spread at every opportunity, and the alliances created have brought their flair for Rhone-styled wines to Lake Chelan.

The Lybecker’s dedication to Rhône Valley varietals is evident in their estate vineyard, planted to Syrah and two unusual white varietals: Clairette Blanche and Picardan. Both are widely planted in the renowned Châteauneuf-du- Pape appellation of France.

Tickets for single-day and weekend passes range from $45 to $275, and can be purchased online. For more information and details on Vintage Lake Chelan, check it out at www.vintagelakechelan.com

 

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