Years ago this small town at the foot of Lake Chelan was known for its orchards. Then a decade ago acres of those orchards gave way to vineyards. Chelan is now one of the newest AVA's in Washington Wine Country.
You might call it ‘the’ destination on one of the state’s newest wine roads. We call it Joel’s hometown, so that makes it even more fun to write about:
Chelan, a town of under 4,000 residents, wraps itself around the foot of 55-mile long glacier-fed lake of the same name. Chelan -- along with its neighbor, Manson, a yet smaller town two miles down the road on the north side of the lake -- is home to more than a dozen wineries and half dozen wine tasting rooms.
Among our favorites, (starting on the lake’s south side):
*Nefarious Cellars, (495 S. Lakeshore Rd., 509-682-9505), tops our list because its tasting room and vineyard are on the property that was once the Smith family's orchard – Joel and his dad tended apples trees on that same land, so we have a homecoming of sorts each time we visit. (Sentimentality aside, we also love their white wine, Consequence).
A couple miles beyond Nefarious is Karma Vineyards (1681 S. Lakeshore Rd., 509-682-5538). Their restaurant, 18 Brix, is where we had one of the best meals we can recall eating in a long time. In good weather you can dine on their landscaped patio or sit inside by the fireplace when temperatures turn chilly.
On the other side (north side) of the lake, heading toward Manson from Chelan:
In one of the most picturesque settings – one that pays tribute to both the orchards and vineyards of the area – Vin du Lac, (105 Highway 150, Chelan, 509-682-2882) offers French bistro fare and glasses (bottles, too!) of its award-winning wines. With the old-farm-house-turned-tasting room painted Provence yellow and surrounded by rose beds and lavender plants, we find it difficult to leave the garden setting but you can’t miss. . .
Benson Vineyards (754 Winesap Ave., Manson, 509-687-0313). It's just a couple miles beyond Vin du Lac. Even if you don’t drink wine, you can drink in the spectacular lake views from this tasting room and manicured grounds set high on a hill. (Try their Rose, it’s a dry French-style – nothing better to sip on one of Chelan’s hot summer/fall days).
If you go:
Getting there: Chelan is about 3.5 hours from Seattle by car. The nearest airport is 35 miles away in Wenatchee. Horizon Airlines flies there from Seattle.
Accommodations/tourist attractions: Chelan Chamber of Commerce, www.lakechelan.com has information about hotels, motels and restaurants. (Or send an email and we'll make some recommendations).
Have you a favorite winery in Lake Chelan? Recommendations for visitors? If so, please leave a comment below.