It’s summer and you’re on a bus traveling to Washington’s wine country. Suddenly, the air conditioning gives out. You: a) Open a window b) Peel off a few layers or c) Pour yourself a glass of wine.
When the windows don’t open and you have but one layer to peel, it’s vino to the rescue. Wine was the glue that brought 40 already-sticky wine bloggers together on a recent excursion to Washington State’s Lake Chelan (locals pronounce it shuh-LAN) wine region, a three-hour bus ride from Seattle.
As wine regions go, Lake Chelan is refreshingly down-to-earth. Approachable winemakers, easy-drinking wines and an unpretentious, casual vibe make this a perfect jaunt for wine newbies or anyone who’s craving a snob-free wine country experience.
Before we explore Lake Chelan, I give you El Full Disclosure: Señorita Vino paid a nominal fee to participate in this excursion offered to attendees of the Wine Bloggers Conference 2013. Meals, accommodation, transportation, and, of course, vino, were generously subsidized and/or donated by sponsors and Lake Chelan wineries. The opinions expressed in this post are my own, naturalmente. Let’s continue, shall we?
Lake Chelan is one of 13 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in Washington State and is located in Eastern Washington. If you’re wondering how grapes can grow in rainy Washington (admit it–you’ve read the Twilight series), you may be surprised to know that Eastern Washington is sunny and gets only about 7 to 12 inches of rain each year. California’s Napa Valley is actually wetter.
Grapes grow beautifully here because of the soil, the climate and something known as the diurnal temperature range. All that means is the difference between high daytime and low nighttime temperatures in a given day. Why is this important, you ask? Because grapes need a range of cool temps and warmth to balance acids and sugars.
Of the 50-plus grapes that are grown here, several varieties have produced award-winning white wines– Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Riesling–as well as reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and sí, chicas y chicos–Malbec! We’ll visit some of the area wineries in next week’s post.
Before vineyards, fruit trees were the dominant crop in Lake Chelan. You can still buy apples, pears and other seasonal produce at roadside fruit stands. I caught a small glimpse of the town’s agricultural past in this mural of a vintage apple crate label.
For such a small town, Lake Chelan boasts 60-plus hotels, resorts and lodges. We stayed at Campbell’s Resort, a waterfront property with its own beach and 170 rooms, all with views of the lake.
Although our jam-packed schedule left little tiempo to fully enjoy the hotel’s amenities, I now have a reason to drag Señor Jim there in the future. And before we wrap up, a special shout-out to the front desk staff at Campbells: A toast to your character–and diplomacy–while checking in a busload of sweaty, disheveled wine bloggers. ¡Salud!
Coming up in Part 2: A winery with a yogic bent, another one with a late-night cable bent, and the 15-minute shopping spree.