Lake Chelan Wineries — First-time Visit!

Lake Chelan Wineries Having grown up visiting Lake Chelan during summers, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I haven’t visited much during the past 10 years. Turns out, I’ve been missing the impressive growth of one of the newest AVA’s in the state with spectacular views, some very good wines, and wonderful tasting rooms. With the crush in full swing, most wineries and tasting rooms were teeming with people ready to swirl, sniff and sip!

Day one Benson Vineyards Estate Winery was recommended to us as one of Lake Chelan’s oldest wineries (established in 1999 — it’s all relative) and on a day in October with temps in the 70’s, the place was packed! We liked their Sangiovese, but found no room on the deck. So we hit the road in search of the next stop, visiting Chelan Ridge Winery, complete with killer views and party-goers celebrating a birthday. Lynn and Henry Munneke are the nicest people you’ll meet. We enjoyed a bottle of their Merlot, and soaked up the sun and the views from their deck, closing down the tasting room and having a great time with these two!

Day two — 11am may seem early to start tasting, but we weren’t the only ones to stop by Nefarious Cellars at that hour. This was another recommended stop, and it didn’t disappoint. We found well-made wines with their tasting room surrounded by the vineyard literally bursting with syrah grapes, waiting to be picked. We liked their white wine, Consequence, a blend of sauvignon blanc, aligote, and viognier to go with seafood.

The highlight! Mellisoni Vineyards is highly recommended. We met Rob and Donna Mellison at the Seattle Wine Awards, (where they’ve won Double Golds for their entries) and after postponing our first visit (due to smoke from the fires) we were in for a definite treat! Mellisoni is by appointment only, and they are gracious hosts who want to share their wines and expand people’s ideas about what to drink, what to pair their wines with, and celebrate those ‘happy accidents’ of unexpected, but delicious combinations. Rob started us off with their 2010 Pinot Grigio paired with smoked salmon and crackers. This is one of the Double Gold winners and it is crisp, refreshing and delicious (and I’m not even a Pinot Grigio fan). We moved on to the 2008 Riesling, an off-dry, balanced wine paired with coconut cheese. Just imagine this combo! Melt in your mouth goodness. The Riesling is another Double Gold winner from SWA, while the 2009 Riesling walked off with Gold from the San Francisco International competition.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Rob brought out the 45º — a blend of 70% Riesling and 30% Gewurztraminer. This is another Double Gold winner! This wine is ‘zingy-er’ (yes — that’s a technical term) and more tart, but smooth and tasted wonderful paired with a Smoked Gouda cheese. Rob and Donna led us through pairings of Triple Cream Brie topped with Raspberry Chipotle sauce, or how about the Mango Habanero sauce over the brie? I preferred the 45º with the Mango Habanero sauce to cut the spice, until we tried it with a Yukon Gold cheese (think carmelized onion) topped with a 40 year old balsamic vinegar. Oh my — heaven! Absolutely delicious combinations, and Rob clearly enjoys bringing on new and creative combinations, looking for those ‘happy accidents!’

Moving into the Reds — by this time, it’s mid-afternoon, about 72 degrees and sunny, with a great view of the lake, and getting past the time we intended to head over the pass and battle traffic. The wine and food is terrific, and the conversation is even better! But we’re not done. Bring on the 2007 Syrah, a smooth, old-world wine that was a winner with truffle cheese, salami, and blue cheese. (I know — I told Rob I was going to have to walk back to Seattle just to burn off the calories consumed)! Finally, we try the 2006 Reserve Merlot. It’s aged 30 months in the barrel and so silky smooth, you can finish a bottle before you know it’s gone. By this time, we have tried them all, and are impressed with our hosts, the wines, the creative food pairings, and certainly don’t want to overstay our welcome! Needless to say, we’ll be back to Lake Chelan to visit our newfound friends, and likely, make more friends (and find more delicious wines) along the way!

Margo Myers, Principal