A Visit to Lake Chelan AVA
This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit several wineries in the new Lake Chelan AVA (see links below for more info on this area). While the extremely cold weather might have forced one to stay inside and enjoy a few mugs of gluvine, I managed to venture out to sample local wines along the north shore of the lake.
On Friday, I visited Vin de Lac and Hard Row to How and then made trips on Saturday to Wapato Point Cellars, Benson Vineyards, and Lake Chelan Winery (reviews for each visit will be posted soon). At each stop, I primarily focused on wines crafted from local fruit, especially white varieties such as riesling, pinot gris, viognier, and gewürztraminer.
With these four varieties in particular, I found that Lake Chelan AVA fruit offered appealing floral notes, terrific acidity, and intriguing mineral characteristics to each wine, especially when little, if any, oak was used (too much seemed to be commonly used with most reds). For a region that is merely a decade old, this AVA has a lot going for it in the quality of wines produced thus far.
At the same time, it appears that Lake Chelan winemakers might be suffering a bit of an inferiority complex as a result of having larger, more established AVA neighbors. Frankly, I was overwhelmed by the over-the-top display of wine medals and frequent mention of points scored with each wine poured.
It's as if these producers want to prove that they are the real deal, that quality wines are indeed being made in this outpost of a wine region in Washington state. Even the official AVA pamphlet seems to feature a boiler plate, "award winning" description for most of the wineries, with one producer appearing to poke fun at this by stating, "And yes, we TOO have award-winning wines!".
Quite frankly, I found all of the hardware adorning bottles and the call out of 90+ point reviews not only distracting but unwarranted. There is some decent fruit being grown in the Lake Chelan AVA and some good wines being crafted from it. In fact, I came away impressed enough with the quality of these wines to bring home the following:
Hard Row to Hoe
2008 "Edelzwicker" Riesling/Gewürztraminer (13.5%) - $18
2006 Syrah Wahluke Slope (13.5%) - $28
Lake Chelan Winery
2007 Gewürztraminer (12.8%) - $18
Wapato Point Cellars
2008 "Harmony" Pinot Gris/Gewürztraminer (13.8%) - $19
2008 Pinot Grigio (13.8%) - $18
2008 Riesling (13.5%) - $15
2008 "Chelan Noveau" Pinot Noir (13.8%) - $15
For the record, none of these wines were purchased because they won a medal, garnered 90+ points, or were included in a "best of" list. I bought these wines because they appealed to my subjective palate, pure and simple. The true test as to whether or not I will re-purchase any of these wines will come in the weeks ahead as I open each bottle with a meal at my dinner table. Stay tuned for those experiences...