As part of the 2013 North American Wine Bloggers’ Conference, I had the opportunity to travel inbound to Penticton, British Columbia as part of a pre-conference excursion to Lake Chelan, Washington. I spent about 24 hours there and discovered what an untapped gem of an area it is for wine tasting and other activities. It’s one of those destinations, like the Finger Lakes, New York, that merits more attention and at least a weekend visit.
About Lake Chelan
Lake Chelan is Washington State’s largest lake, at 50.5 miles long, 1.5 miles wide at its widest point, and 1486 feet deep at its deepest point. It is one of the state’s premier vacation destinations. Activities include swimming, boating, fishing, seaplane tours, dining, shopping, golf, wellness, and, of course, wine tasting.
The Lake Chelan AVA is relatively new, with the first production vineyards being planted in 1998. The Kludt Family (Lake Chelan Winery) licensed and bonded their winery in 2000, bottled their first wines in 2001, and sold their first wines in 2002. In 2009, the area was officially recognized as an AVA. Today it boasts 20 wineries and over 250 acres of vineyards.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the lovely, family-owned Campbell’s Resort on Lake Chelan. My one regret was that I didn’t have the opportunity to spend more than one night at Campbell’s.
According to the website, “The resort — constructed in 1901 by enterprising pioneer C.C. Campbell and originally known as the Campbell Hotel — has seen five generations of the Campbell family and six major renovations, while the Chelan Valley has grown into one of the Pacific Northwest’s must-visit travel gems.”
When I return to Lake Chelan, my trip will involve relaxing on the beach, a spa visit to River Room Spa, and enjoying meals in the 2nd Floor Pub & Veranda and Campbell’s Bistro.
Wineries to Visit
During my 24-hour tour, I had the opportunity to visit four wineries, one for dinner only. Our first stop was Rio Vista Wines to nibble on hors d’oeuvres and taste their award-winning wines. Rio Vista is located on the Columbia River and is the area’s only waterfront winery. We stopped there as many of us had signed up for a seaplane tour provided by Chelan Seaplanes, and there is a place for the plane to land and take off on the winery’s waterfront. The seaplane tour is a must-do when you visit Lake Chelan. The views are spectacular, and it is a good introduction to the area’s wineries and landmarks.
At Tsillan Cellars, we enjoyed a grand tasting of wines from multiple Lake Chelan wineries, as well as a four-course dinner at the winery’s on-site restaurant, Sorrento’s Ristorante. Our meal included Oysters Rockefeller paired with 2010 Estate Chardonnay, Roasted Roma Tomato Basil Soup paired with 2010 Estate Sinistra, Chicken Marsala paired with 2009 Estate Bellissima, and Tiramisu paired with Méthode Champenoise Brut. The lake view at sunset and cool evening air were equally beautiful and refreshing.
The following day we visited Karma Vineyards, best known for their méthode champenoise sparkling wines. The winery also boasts amazing views and is a prime destination wedding location. During our morning there, the owner and winemaker gave us an overview of the winemaking process in the caves prior to a scrumptious brunch paired with Karma Vineyards 2010 Brut de Brut (Méthode Champenoise), Cairdeas Winery 2012 Sparkling Viognier, and Hard Row to Hoe 2011 Good in Bed Blanc de Noirs (méthode champenoise). Our visit also included a ride up to the top of the property, which overlooks Lake Chelan and the vineyards.
I spent the most time at Hard Row to Hoe Vineyard. The winery’s name and theme pays homage to the story of early 20th century “entrepreneurs” who offered row boat service to men in Lucerne at Lightening Creek to travel to the Edgemont Lodge, a brothel in Point Lovely. The story ends with the wives eventually taking charge and burning down the brothel. The wines are aptly named: Good in Bed, Burning Desire, The Coquette, Iron Bed Red, Shameless Hussy (a series of wines), Nauti Buoy, Ice Breaker, Double Dip Magnum, and Afternoon Delight, as well as the wine club, the Oar House, where “members get it regularly.” The wines have also garnered much critical acclaim.
During my visit, I tasted the 2012 White Meritage, 2012 Nauti Buoy (95% Riesling, 5% Gewürztraminer), 2009 Burning Desire Estate Cabernet Franc, and the Ice Breaker apple ice cider. My personal favorite was the Cabernet Franc, with its lovely aromas and flavors of juicy red berries, baking spices, and pepper. The Cabernet Franc has won numerous awards, including double gold at the Washington State Wine Competition and Wine Press Northwest’s Platinum recognition in the Best of the Best: Results of the 2012 Platinum Judging.
How to Travel to Lake Chelan
I traveled to Lake Chelan by chartered motor coach, which took about four hours including construction traffic and one stop. If arriving from destinations that are farther away, you can connect in Seattle to Pangborn Memorial Airport in East Wenatchee, Washington (airport code EAT), on Alaska Airlines. Next time I will definitely fly to EAT. Doesn’t that sound delicious?
All photos are courtesy of the author.