Prior to the start of the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia, I attended a pre-conference excursion to Lake Chelan. If you haven’t attended a pre-conference excursion before, it’s a wonderful opportunity to visit a different area from the conference and get to learn about the wines and the region. Another nice aspect of a pre-conference excursion is that it is a smaller group of people, so you have time to really get to know some of your fellow conference attendees. I chose this particular excursion because I have never been to Lake Chelan and I was not familiar with the wines that they produce, so it was a great choice for me.
The excursion was arranged by Erin McCardle, Executive Director of the Lake Chelan Wine Alliance and Nicole Campbell, PR & Social Media Manager of the Lake Chelan Wine Alliance. We spent two days and one night in Lake Chelan, experiencing the wonderful hospitality of several local wineries. I have decided to break up the highlights of this excursion into two blog posts because there was so much packed into two days and I have many beautiful pics to share.
We all flew into Seattle and were greeted at the airport by Erin and Nicole. We were wined and dined from the moment we set foot on the bus. Erin and Nicole had delicious, gourmet lunches waiting for us as well as a flight of wines from some of the local wineries we would be visiting during the excursion. They had a very busy two days planned for us, filled with great food and wine.
The Lake Chelan AVA is encompassed within the Columbia Valley AVA and is made up of 17 wineries. Their AVA status was granted in 2009. The Lake Chelan AVA has a unique climate that makes it different from surrounding AVAs allowing it to produce a diverse selection of wines. You will find anything from Italian varieties such as Sangiovese to Spanish varieties like Tempranillo and classics like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, with several other varieties in between.
As soon as we arrived in Lake Chelan, our first stop was to Rio Vista Wines for a welcome reception and optional seaplane ride. This lovely winery on the lake, provides some breath-taking views of Lake Chelan. We were greeted by owners/winemakers John and Jan Little who had a beautiful spread of meats and cheeses for us as well as all of their wines for us to taste. John was also kind enough to take us to do some barrel tasting of his upcoming releases. My favorites in the tasting line-up were the 2012 Wild Rose Rosé Estate, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2011 Tempranillo. Rio Vista produces approximately 600 cases annually.
After spending the afternoon at Rio Vista, we made our way to our hotel, Campbell’s Resort to check-in and get ready for dinner. Unfortunately there was not a lot of time to admire the beautiful lake views from my balcony since we were quickly off to a grand tasting and dinner at Tsillan Cellars.
Tsillan Cellars is an Italian country retreat in Lake Chelan. They grow a wide assortment of grapes such as Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Grenache for the reds, as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Gewurtztraminer for the whites. Tsillan prides itself as an award-winning winery. Their Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah have won gold medals and their Estate Pinot Grigio and Estate Gewurtztraminer have won double gold and platinum medals in both regional and national wine competitions.
Prior to dinner, there was a Grand Tasting of wines from Lake Chelan held at Tsillan Cellars. Several wineries were pouring in their courtyard. Some of the wineries included Hard Row To Hoe Vineyards, Mellisoni Vineyards, and Nefarious Cellars. This was a wonderful introduction to the wines being produced in Lake Chelan.
Dinner was hosted by Tsillan Cellars at their onsite restaurant, Sorrento’s Ristorante. We were treated to a lavish four-course dinner complemented with various wines from Tsillan Cellars. The winemakers pouring at the Grand Tasting also joined us for dinner and provided us with a memorable and enjoyable experience. Bob Jankelson, owner of Tsillan Cellars warmly welcomed us into his winery and restaurant and made us feel like part of the family. His staff made sure our glasses were always full and took wonderful care of us.
After a wonderful night of wine, food, and friends, we were back at the hotel for a MUCH needed night of rest. The next day had much in store for us. Keep an eye out for the last post covering our excursion to Lake Chelan with highlights from Karma Vineyards and Vin Du Lac, ending with more food and wine on the bus ride across the border into Canada.