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. My blogger cost was $100 and included transportation, meals, lodging, a seaplane tour, and winery visits. As part of my discounted cost, I am required to write at least one blog post. It is below.
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.
The schedule of the pre-conference excursion was as follows and was simply amazing except for the broken air conditioner on our motor coach both days. Can you say hot and sweaty?!
Wednesday, June 5
Motor coach transportation to Lake Chelan, including box lunch, wine, and introduction to the region by representatives from Lake Chelan Wine Valley
Seaplane Tour of Lake Chelan
Welcome Reception at Rio Vista Wines
Grand Tasting at Tsillan Cellars
Four-Course Italian Dinner at Sorrento’s Ristorante at Tsillan Cellars
Thursday, June 6
Brunch and Bubbly Tasting and Tour at Karma Vineyards
Winery Excursion to Hard Row to Hoe Vineyard
Motor coach transportation to the Canadian border with representatives from Veranda Beach Resort and Cellars, Lake Osoyoos, including lunch and wine
Continued motor coach transportation to Penticton, British Columbia
As an avid frequent flyer, one of the excursion highlights was the seaplane tour provided by Chelan Seaplanes. The views were spectacular and we had a wonderful tour guide, Heather Neff, White Winemaker at Nefarious Cellars, who showed us where wineries and other landmarks were from the air. It was a great overview of the region to kick off our 24 hours in Lake Chelan. We went up in groups, so while other groups were in the air, we enjoyed delectable hors d’oeuvres and award-winning wines at Rio Vista Wines.
We quickly stopped at our hotel, the lovely, family-owned Campbell’s Resort on Lake Chelan. If I had only one regret on this whirlwind tour (besides the broken AC on the motor coach), it was that we didn’t spend enough time 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.” I must concur that it is indeed a gem and I would love to return. Of course, a return trip would involve not only wine tasting, but relaxing on the beach, a spa visit to River Room Spa, and enjoying meals in the 2nd Floor Pub & Veranda and Campbell’s Bistro.
After checking in and dropping off luggage, we departed for a Grand Tasting of wines from multiple Lake Chelan wineries at Tsillan Cellars, as well as a four-course dinner at Sorrento’s Ristorante. We enjoyed a lovely meal of 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. I’m not really an oyster gal, but my favorite pairing was the the oysters and Chardonnay. The lake view at sunset and cool evening air were equally beautiful and refreshing.
The following day we visited Karma Vineyards, where we enjoyed brunch and sparkling wines: 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). All three of the sparkling wines were simply gorgeous and the brunch was scrumptious. Our visit also included a tour of the sparkling wine cave and a ride up to the top of the property, which overlooks Lake Chelan and the vineyards.
We departed Karma Vineyards in a limo (air conditioned, yay!) and my group visited 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 uplake to the Edgemont Lodge, a brothel in Point Lovely. The story ends with the wives eventually taking charge and burning down the brothel.
The owners, Don and Judy Phelps, have made this story into a full-service, if you will, winery and experience. The wines are aptly named, such as the aforementioned 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.” Thankfully for us, the wines also rise to the occasion, so to speak, having garnered much critical acclaim.
During our visit, the other “hoes” (self-proclaimed, don’t worry!) and 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, all paired with artisanal cheeses and light appetizers. Of these wines, my favorite was the Cabernet Franc, which left me yearning for more 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.
We finished our excursion on our “hawt” motor coach with representatives from Veranda Beach Resort and Cellars, who delighted and distracted us with tasty pairings of food and a few of their wines.
I hope to return to Lake Chelan in the near future. However, the frequent flyer in me is thinking, “Fly to EAT!” That is, fly to Pangborn Memorial Airport in East Wenatchee, Washington, on Alaska Airlines. That sounds delicious, don’t you think?