Those making wine around Lake Chelan have it made.
Virtually every other region in the Northwest first had to build up the wine industry. Next came the struggle of how to attract tourists.
It was the just the opposite for these pioneers whose young wineries ring one of the deepest lakes (1,486 feet) in North America.
And yet, perhaps no other region in the Pacific Northwest is as serious about providing a full wine touring experience. The number of wineries that feature on-premise restaurants shows that.
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This summer, one could visit five wineries and sit in their adjacent restaurant. That's remarkable considering there are only 16 wineries in the appellation.
Each offers outdoor seating, and it's the love of outdoor activities that lures the tourists as well as the talented winemakers.
For example, Katy Perry met her husband, Milum, on the chairlift at nearby Stevens Pass. The winery and vineyards they built together, Tildio, are along the Manson Scenic Loop Road, and the Perrys ride their bicycles on it spring, summer and fall. In the winter, they can use it for cross-country skiing.
At the northwest end of 50-mile long Lake Chelan is North Cascades National Park. The gateway to the park is the town of Stehekin, accessible only by boat or hiking boot.
In fact, more than half of the lake's shoreline cannot be reached by car.
All in all, what is happening here is remarkable, especially considering that Lake Chelan Winery was the first one to jump into the water just nine years ago.
Geographically, It's easy to separate the wineries into north and south, with the bridge over the Chelan River near Campbell's Resort serving as the boundary.
Tasting room hours at most wineries vary with the season, so call ahead to confirm. A growing number of these, particularly the smaller wineries, charge for tastings as a defense against those less-than-serious wine consumers.
Chelan Estate Winery
The new AVA designation might directly affect Rich Nester more than most in the appellation because he now is required to make all of the bottles under this label with at least 85% of the grapes coming from within the AVA. They've already achieved success with Pinot Noir. In the past, they made award-winning vineyard designate wines from Stillwater Creek in the Columbia Valley.
755 S. Lakeshore Road, Chelan, 98816, 509-682-5454, chelanestatewinery.com
The named is derived from the Pittsingers children, Karle and Matthew. Ray Sandidge makes the wines - including bubbles and estate Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir and Syrah - for this young operation, and the cozy tasting room is only the start of your experience. This stunning and almost secluded property features a restaurant and a man-made cave that serves as a primary barrel room when not being rented out for special occasions.
1681 S. Lakeshore Road, Chelan, 98816, 866-527-6225, goodkarmawines.com
A trip to Tuscany inspired Rob and Donna Mellison to launch a winery with an Italian-sounding name. Ironically, Tsillan Cellars is their nearest neighbor, but Mellisons' first releases feature German white varieties - Gewurztraminer and Riesling - from their steeply sloped 2-acre estate. Katy Perry of Tildio crafted those, which will be released late fall. Craig Mitrakul of St. Laurent made their Merlot and Syrah from Wahluke Slope fruit. They plan to debut those reds in spring 2010 at their new tasting room, which is in the development stages.
3155 Highway 97A, Chelan, 98816. Their Web site - mellisonivineyards.com - also is under construction.
If Dean and Heather Neff had waited one more week, they say the opportunity to buy this remarkable parcel from the Tunnel Hill family would have passed them. Now, they are earning acclaiming for their estate Syrah, Riesling and Viognier. He makes the reds. She runs the white program and the Web site. Together, they are raising two boys and make their home in the same building housing the winery and tasting room, which is in the middle of their expanding vineyard.
3495 S. Lakeshore Road, Chelan, 98816, 509-682-9505, nefariouscellars.com.
This Tuscan-themed showpiece of retired dentist Bob Jankelson - one of the largest wineries in the area at 7,000 cases - is a 135-acre parcel home to a 35-foot bell tower. It looks out across 40 acres of vines. Chelan native Shane Collins is in his second year as winemaker, but his work over the years with these vines has factored into this winery's quick success. Since 2003, it has produced some of the state's best Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and red blends. They are served in the on-premise restaurant, Sorrento's.
3875 Highway 97-A, Chelan, 98816, 509-682-9463, tsillancellars.com.
Tunnel Hill Winery
While the multi-generation Sunshine Farm might be more famous, Denny Evans is raising the profile of the family winery with his bottlings of estate Pinot Noir, Syrah and Riesling. The new tasting room appears inspired by Thomas Kinkade and has the feel of a mountain lodge on the inside. Beyond those doors is a beautiful garden and stunning waterfall. Denny's son, Guy, made the Emmy-nominated documentary Broken Limbs on the decline of family farms.
37 Highway 97-A, Chelan, 98816, 509-682-5695, tunnelhillwinery.com.
Benson Vineyards Estate Winery
The Benson family began planting its vineyards in 1999 and opened the winery in 2005. Extensive building has created an edifice that would not be out of place in Napa Valley. However, the Bensons also can boast of a sweeping and stunning view of the lake and 30 acres of south-facing vineyards. The winery uses only estate fruit, making it the first one in the valley to do so. Oregon-trained Scott Benson's 2006 Sangiovese is particularly stunning, earning a Platinum from us in 2008.
754 Winesap Ave., Manson, 98831, 509-687-0313, bensonvineyards.com.
Jim Berg launched this winery with a clever name in 2004. His case production of 300 ranks with the smallest in the state and includes fruit wines. He's also produced wines from his 3.6-acres estate. Among them is Grandpa's Dirty Belly Gewurztraminer.
3310 Manson Blvd., Manson, 509-687-9746.
Chelan Ridge Winery
This new winery by winemaker Lynn Munneke and her husband, Henry, anticipates a soft launch of its new tasting room in late 2009. They lost their entire inventory to a fire in July 2008, so their first release will be of 2008 estate Chardonnay. In 2002, they converted nine acres of their orchard to vineyards, which are planted next to the winery.
900 Swartout Road, Manson, 98831, 509-687-4455, chelanridgewinery.com.
Four Lakes Winery
Young winemaker Karl Koester quickly gained attention with award-winning reds from the 2004 vintage. Here is another stunning location as you can see all four lakes from the tasting room, but the road to it tests the best limo drivers. Tasting is by appointment.
223 Howard Flats Road, Chelan, 98816, 509-682-9028, fourlakeschelanwinery.com.
Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards
Judy Phelps opened the winery with husband Don in 2006 as Balsamroot Winery. While her wines brought home many awards, visitors struggled to remember the name of the indigenous plant. So they rebranded the winery in reference to lore that a man operated a rowboat service to a house of ill repute at Point Lovely. The Phelps are having fun and success with the new concept. Judy's Barbera and Zinfandel are particularly racy.
300 Ivan Morse Rd., Manson, 509-687-3000, hardrow.com.
Lake Chelan Winery
Steve and Bobbi Kludt were among the first to rip out their orchards and plant vineyards, starting 1998. Theirs was the first bonded winery in the county (2000), and they've transformed the historic Harding apple-packing house into a remarkable operation combining winery, tasting room and their BBQ in the Vineyard restaurant. Ray Sandidge also makes these wines, and LCW's wine club parties often draw more than 1,000 folks. John Abbott, owner of Rivers Bend Vineyard in Benton City, is general manager/partner.
3519 Highway 150, Chelan, 509-687-9463, lakechelanwinery.com.
C.R. Sandidge Wines
Ray Sandidge graduated from Washington State University, left for the Rheingau to train as a winemaker, and returned in 1991.
He made his first Washington wines with Brian Carter at Washington Hills in Sunnyside before putting Kestrel Vintners in Prosser, Wash., on the map. Sandidge now makes wines for several folks in the Chelan Valley, but he also sells award-winning wines made under his family label. The new tasting room opens this fall in a historic building in Manson.
145 Wapato Way, Manson, 98831, 509-682-3704, crsandidgewines.com.
Vin du Lac of Chelan
Larry Lehmbecker somehow manages to craft some of the Northwest's best Cabernet Franc here while practicing law in the Seattle area. His partner, Michaela Markusson, helps make it possible as they manage the winery, vineyards and the state wine industry's first on-premise restaurant. They also book live music every Saturday during the summer. In 2002, they replanted half of the 80-year-old orchard with 7 acres of vines. The Lehm series represents wines made from local grapes.
105 Highway 150, Chelan, 509-682-2882, vindulac.com.
Seattle native Katy Perry worked at Stag's Leap and Ste. Michelle before moving to Chelan. She made Tsillan Cellars' first award-winning wines before she and husband Milum opened their winery in 2005. Cyclists will find kindred spirits (and racing bibs) here. Live music is featured on the patio that overlooks Roses Lake and Katy's mammoth lavender plantation. But it is her continued success with both reds and whites that prompted Wine Press Northwest to name Tildio as the Washington Winery to Watch in 2008.
70 E. Wapato Lake Road, Manson, 98831, 509-687-8463, tildio.com.
Wapato Point Cellars
Here is the Kludts' other winery, which they opened in 2003. It's a short walk from the Wapato Point Resort. Their son, Jonathon, is the winemaker, and his reserve wines bear the Kludt Family Winery label. Their daughter, April, handles marketing and events. A growing number of WPC wines are coming from within the AVA, and they are proudly served in the adjacent Winemaker's Grill, which the Kludts also own.
200 Quetilquasoon Road, Manson, 98831, 509-687-4000, wapatopointcellars.com.
Outside the AVA
Rio Vista Wines
John Little retired from the Wenatchee School District and constructed what is believed to the only boat-accessible winery in Washington. His small vineyard is on the west shore of the Columbia River, just downstream from Wells Dam. Car travelers need to take Highway 97 out of Chelan and head north. Paintings by acclaimed artist Kerry Siderius - their daughter - hang in the tasting room, which includes a shuffleboard table.
24415 Highway 97, Chelan, 509-682-9713, riovistawines.com.
Chelan Red Apple Market
Many wine tourists buzz by not knowing this neighborhood supermarket ranks among the best-hidden gems for wines. And it's open at 7 a.m. each day.
310 Manson, Chelan, 509-682-4521
Manson Red Apple Market
This shop near Wapato Point Cellars boasts the largest selection of wines in the Chelan Valley.
1610 Wapato Way, Manson, 509-687-9333
The Vogue: A Liquid Lounge
It's a wine shop and wine bar with free wi-fi and much more. (See the Restaurant section).
117 E. Woodin Ave., Chelan, 509-888-5282, thevoguelounge.com.
A click on the Lake Chelan Tourism site for lodging will bring up more than 20 attractive lodging options, ranging from hotels to lake cabin rentals. There's also a separate page for bed & breakfast options, but here are two places to stay that we can personally recommend.
The Lake House at Chelan
The Lake House at Chelan, a new property, served as Wine Press Northwest's headquarters while we researched the region.
It's been embraced by winemakers, who occasionally stage their monthly socials in the pool house. The location is ideal. It's between the south and north shores along Highway 150 and just a five-minute walk through a neighborhood to downtown Chelan. Don Morse Park and the lake are just across the road.
Units are available to own or acquire as time-shares or rentals with full-service concierge. A three-bedroom/two-bath suite with full kitchen was large enough to stage a 50-bottle wine judging.
Brian Merrill's staff will make your restaurant reservations and even see to it that the fridge is full of provisions upon your arrival.
And if you need to quickly buy a bottle of Washington wine, the Chelan Red Apple Market is next door.
The Lake House at Chelan, 402 W. Manson Highway, Chelan, 98816, 509-293-5982, thelakehousechelan.com.
Campbell's Resort on Lake Chelan
When you drive from the south to the north shore, you pass by this downtown landmark near the headwaters of the Chelan River. Iowa native C.C. Campbell built it in 1901, and it has grown to 170 rooms. Last year, Campbell's great grandsons made a $3 million investment for renovations.
The expansive property buzzes like a beehive with activity and caters to families, but there's also the River Room Spa for adult relaxation. And the restaurant features one of the state's most remarkable wine lists.
104 W. Woodin, Chelan, 98816, 800-553-8225, campbellsresort.com.
Many of the top restaurants in Chelan and Manson are found at wineries. It's a concept some proprietors say was influenced by their touring of British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, primarily the Naramata Bench.
However, the winery-based restaurants aren't the only dining rooms to see a benefit from the newly established AVA.
"The Lake Chelan AVA has generated a budding interest in Chelan Valley wineries," said George Van Over, wine director at Campbell's Resort. "We started a wine and cocktail bar in the Campbell's Bistro for the summer season, and there was definitely an increased interest in the wines from and of the valley."
Barbecue in the Vineyard
The Kludts take the pretense out of a winery restaurant with this open-air, family-friendly eatery near the vines at Lake Chelan Winery. Wine suggestions are listed on the menu for each dish, including dessert. Their pork ribs fall off the bone. It's open daily from 4 to 8 p.m. from May to October, and reservations are NOT accepted.
Lake Chelan Winery, 3519 Highway 150, Chelan, 98816, 509-687-9463.
If you plan a morning tour of the north shore, this family eatery in the middle of a blueberry farm should be your first stop. The coffee isn't the greatest, but their eggs Benedict makes up for it. Place your order, grab a table, then look around at the display of Sorensen family relics. It's hard to pass up the homemade pies and preserves.
1315 Washington St., Manson, 98831, 509-687-2379, wildaboutberries.com.
Innamorata Dinner Cruise
This may well be the quintessential Lake Chelan experience.
The late Dean Martin owned this 56-foot mahogany Chris Craft that was built in 1956 and seats 24. The yacht is named "Innamorata," a song written for the movie "Artists and Models" starring Martin and Jerry Lewis.
Shelly Ward and Danny Lockhart captain the boat up and down the lake as a dinner cruise or private charter. Public dinners are $75 per person. Only Chelan-area wines are poured. During the ride, you will hear a recording of Martin singing Innamorata, an Italian term for sweetheart. It's an unforgettable trip, and your captains are special. You board the charter in Chelan or Manson.
Call 509-682-9550 or go to innamoratacruise.com.
The seasonal operation features small bites and big bites, including rack of lamb served with a Karma Pinot Noir reduction sauce.
A $5 wine sampler flight includes bread and cheese. They serve outdoors, with seating under shade screen near the landscaping and water features.
1681 S. Lakeshore Road, Chelan, 98816, 866-527-6225, goodkarmawines.com
Word travels quickly around the lake, and Jerry Criscuolo's restaurant inside Tsillan Cellars has people thrilled with his Italian cuisine. The cream of tomato basil soup alone is worth the visit. You might receive two bills, one for the meal, one for the wine.
3875 Highway 97A, Chelan, 98816, 509-682-5409, tsillancellars.com.
Tanti Baci Ristorante
If you enjoy the food at Sorrento's, then you should like it here, too. Christina Criscuolo followed her father in the Lake Chelan restaurant business, only she opened hers across the lake. It's dinner-only, but very filling and vegan friendly.
120 Wapato Way, Manson, 98831, 509-888-4868, tantibaci.org.
The Bistro at Vin du Lac
The concept here is modeled after a country bistro in Provence, and the menu leans toward lighter fare such as specialty meats, cheeses, breads and salads. You dine on the patio. Entertain yourself by watching the tasting room traffic or relax with views of the estate orchard and downtown Chelan.
105 Highway 150, Chelan, 98816, 509-682-2882, vindulac.com.
The Veranda Grill and Pub
Campbell's Resort renamed its fine-dining restaurant, but Troy Nevascil, whose talents were profiled in Wine Press Northwest in 2006, remains as the chef. And George Van Over still lords over the wine list, which Wine Press Northwest has named as the Best Washington Wine List for six straight years. Local support and low prices are constant in his wine program. "I kind of like the idea of people like myself being able to go out and be able to buy a memory wine without going to the mortgage company first," Van Over said.
104 W. Woodin, Chelan, 98816, 800-553-8225, campbellsresort.com.
Gonzaga University grads Mike and Janice Cooney left Seattle to open this wine bar, coffee bar and market in the spring of 2005.
Food was in his business background. She taught preschool for nearly two decades. And they both seem to enjoy running this local gathering place.
On Friday and Saturday, you could do breakfast, lunch, dinner, live music and dance at this "liquid lounge." Morning coffee and local wines are spotlighted, which explains why it's a favorite among vintners.
117 E. Woodin Ave., Chelan, 509-888-5282, thevoguelounge.com.
Winemaker's Grill, Manson
It's the on-premise restaurant that shares two doors with Wapato Point Cellars. White linen tablecloth sets the mood here in what used to be the Katzenjammers restaurant. The chef, Sean Akin, loves pairing estate wines with Nebraska corn-fed beef.
200 Quetilquasoon Road, Manson, 98831, 509-687-4000, wapatopointcellars.com
Enjoy a 20-minute vineyard tour via floatplane. Fees are not prohibitive. Each seat in the DeHavilland Beaver comes with a headset that's patched into the tour guide and/or pilot. Pay a winemaker to join you.
Call 509-682-5555 or go to chelanseaplanes.com.
Chelan Valley Tours
Want to go on a wine safari? Call Mike Stowe and ask for the WAVE - his Winery Assault Vehicle Excursion.
You and up to eight of your pals will ride in his open-air Pinzgauer, a Swiss military transport. He's developed relationships with eight wineries, and he'll appreciate it if you finish at Lake Chelan Winery.
Go to chelanvalleytours.com.
Roger Stockdale can steer you toward one of several packages, including the "Wild Women Wine Tour" and a stop at Hard Row to Hoe. Satellite radio is available.
Go to chelanlimo.com.
The Colville Confederate Tribes operates Mill Bay Casino in Manson, and all-season Wapato Point Resort has a long-term land lease with the tribe.
Go to colvillecasinos.com.
Bear Mountain Ranch Golf Course, a residential development on the south shore, provides not only a bird's-eye view of the lake, but also a stern test. Mary Pat Scofield's vision opened in 2005, and the PGA Professionals Guide to Travel last year voted it among the nation's top six new courses with green fees less than $125. Von Smith, the director of golf, has lived in the Chelan Valley for more than 20 years and worked at all three courses.
Lake Chelan Municipal Golf Course, on the north shore, is the oldest in the area and not far from Vin du Lac. Green fees at this 6,400-yard track top out at $37.
Desert Canyon Golf Resort is in Orondo, a 20-minute drive. The 15-year-old course once ranked as the No. 2 public course in the state.
Lake Chelan Wine Valley Association
Most of the Lake Chelan area wineries organized to establish the Lake Chelan Wine Valley Association and created a slick site that covers many aspects of touring.
Go to lakechelanwinevalley.com.
Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce
Perhaps no chamber of commerce is as tied into its area as Lake Chelan's, and Hard Row to Hoe winemaker Judy Phelps is a board member. Its Web site is a great portal from which to start planning your trip.
An event schedule and map are available at lakechelan.com.
Lake Chelan Tourism
And then there's the Lake Chelan Tourism site. The first tab on its home page is "101 Things To Do." Sign up for the electronic newsletter to receive updates for wine-related events in the region.
Go to cometothelake.com.
Eric Degerman is managing editor of Wine Press Northwest. Email him at email@example.com.