Monday, July 12, 2010

Lake Chelan Wine Weekend - Chelan/Manson, WA

Over Memorial Day Weekend, I took a trip to one of my favorite places in Washington: Lake Chelan. This has been a favorite of mine for a number of years. Beautiful views, nice weather, and wine; lots and lots of wine! I had previously visited a few of the Lake Chelan AVA (@LakeChelanAVA) wineries over my birthday weekend in 2009 and was eager to get out and hit a few more on this go around. I stayed with family in Manson and split up my wine adventures over two days of the holiday weekend. I must have been on a Viognier kick that weekend (nice weather maybe?), because as you'll see, I picked up a few bottles of that along the way!

On Saturday we set out from Manson and headed up the hill to Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards (@hardrow), a winery that I was very eager to check out after meeting the owners, Don & Judy Phelps, at previous events in Seattle. I had also heard rumblings of an interesting wallpaper that was a "must see" in the bathroom at the tasting room (those of you who have been there know what I'm talking about). We drove up the hill toward the winery and saw Don hard at work on the tractor out in the vineyard. We arrived to the sun soaked patio at the winery and were able to taste at their outside tasting counter, which had been set up in the front of their warehouse. We started with the whites and rosés, and the 2009 Pinot Gris and the 2009 Shameless Hussy Sangiovese Dry Rosé were easily my favorites of the bunch (That Shameless Hussy wine went on to be great prizes for a tasting event I had with some friends the next week!). Of the reds, I really enjoyed the 2007 Iron Bed Red from the Wahluke Slope. Hard Row has a great set up where you can sit at a table and enjoy a bottle, or stroll around and check out the row boat (also available for photo ops!) and the views from the hill of the lake.

Next, we stayed in the Manson area and headed over to Four Lakes Winery (@FourLakesWinery), which has a fantastic location for their tasting room. The site sits on the top of a hill and you can quite literally see all four of the lakes in the area: Wapato Lake, Roses Lake, Dry Lake and Lake Chelan. Talk about a view. The day we visited, they happened to be having a party with live music, food off the BBQ and great wines! I headed to the outside counter first to try their nice chilled whites, and found a favorite in the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley. What a great summer wine for a beautiful sunny day like this one! I battled the crowds back into the tasting room to the counter and tasted through their reds also. The 2008 Estate Grown Syrah from the Columbia Valley was a quick favorite of most I was with (including myself!) and I ended up leaving there with a bottle of that. I was impressed with their wines, as this was a winery I had never tried before (or even heard much about before my visit!). They have an amazing deck and it's a great place to kick back and take in the views.

Our next stop was down Highway 150 a bit, and we headed up to Benson Vineyards Estate Winery (@bensonvineyards). What a beautiful winery, patio and view. I quickly put this on my top 10 dream wedding locations list. The Mediterranean-inspired architecture here is just stunning and the surroundings make you feel like you're straight out of Europe. I tasted through several of their wines, including the 2008 Chelan County Viognier, which was a big favorite. After the rest of the tasting, I ended up getting a glass of the Viognier to relax on the patio with, in addition to the bottle I bought to take home! I can't wait to drink this wine on a patio in Seattle somewhere too!

On Sunday, we started off at a winery where I am in one of my favorite wine clubs, the Sparkle Club at Karma Vineyards! I visited Karma in 2009 and fell instantly in love with their Methode Champenoise, which they make the old fashioned way in their cave (yes, they have a cave!). I was sold when they told me I could get two bottles of this twice a year. It has become my "special occasion" sparkling wine and used for past events like weddings, New Years and Valentine's Day! When we arrived at the winery, we grabbed a table in their outside bistro area. The tasting flights come in the cutest holders, and I need to find one of these for carrying three glasses at once at home. We tasted the 2006 Chardonnay, the 2006 Estate Pinot Noir, and the 2007 Zen, a 60% Syrah, 27% Grenache and 13% Mourvedre blend. Another red of Karma's that I really really enjoy is the 2007 Try, which is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec and 10% Merlot. I picked up a bottle of the Try last year and it was most certainly on my list again this year as well. After our tasting flights, we ordered a glass of the new 2007 release of Methode Champenoise, which is a 65% Smasne Vineyard Chardonnay. There is nothing better than sipping on some bubbles next to a creek on a nice day. Karma has a great location with great atmosphere!

After leaving Karma, we headed just down the road a bit to Nefarious Cellars (@NefariousWines), which is a winery that I had been hearing rave reviews from people about and was super excited to finally check out for myself! I was not disappointed in the slightest, what a fun place and fun people! We pulled into the parking lot outside the winery and were immediately greeted by the welcoming committee, Lucy. This golden retriever truly lives up to her name of "Head of Hospitality". She was at the side of the car before we could get the doors open and we watched as she ran off to greet the next car that pulled in shortly after us! We headed into the winery (after a few minutes, that dog was just too cute) and posted up to the tasting bar. I was so thrilled to meet Dean & Heather Neff, owners of Nefarious. It was another instance of putting a face to a name that I had previously corresponded with on twitter! I found another Viognier I liked here, and left with a bottle of the 2009 Defiance Vineyard Viognier. The new release of the 2009 Consequence was also quite wonderful. This is a blend of 55% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Aligote and 5% Viognier. I majorly lucked out on my red purchase at Nefarious. They had just a case left of their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Riverbend Vineyard Wahluke Slope on the day of my visit, and I managed to grab one of the last three bottles! So excited for this one, it's a beautiful Cab that will pair with just about anything. What a great experience here, I can't wait for my next trip back to Chelan to go visit with Heather and Dean again (and Lucy too!).

Our last stop was at Tunnel Hill Winery, another winery with great architecture for their building. We got in just at the end of the day and were able to taste quickly through their two Rieslings, Pinot Noir and Syrah. My favorite here was definitely the 2007 Estate Syrah. Great flavors and well balanced. If we had more time at Tunnel Hill, it would had been nice to sit our on their patio with a glass, but unfortunately for us we came up short on time! There's always next time!

It was another great wine weekend in the books. Even though I hit a good majority of the wineries in the area (both this trip and in the past), there are still a few left I have yet to try. I hope to make it out there again soon, possibly even the end of this month! Stay tuned...


  1. This post brought back memories of a trip I took the Chelan AVA a few years ago, back when Hard Row was called Tildio. You're right that the Chelan wineries are making some great stuff, and I can't wait to get back there again.

  2. Taryn, this is such a fantastic writeup of your trip. Reading this reminded me of both of our trips to the area. You did a great job of capturing the spirit of each place you visited. We didn't make it to Karma or Tunnel Hill on our last trip, but I'll be back there in September.

    Great work!


  3. Too bad you missed Tildio. That's one of my favourites down there. Great write up. I love Nefarious Cellars and Hard Road to Hoe as well!

  4. thanks for the great article. i've been wondering if it's worth visiting chelan for its wine or not - apparently it is. thanks!