Best Wines of Washington's Winegrowing Regions

Posted April 09, 2013

With cool nights, warm days and that large lake—which helps regulate the temperature—the Lake Chelan AVA is gaining ground with German whites and cooler-climate Syrah. There are only about 250 acres planted in wine grapes at the moment, but that is growing as people discover Chelan’s charms.


Nefarious 2010 Syrah, Lake Chelan, Defiance Vineyard, $30

Syrah is emerging as the red wine of this cool region. In a cooler but still dry climate, where Syrah can ripen slowly in the long, warm days of autumn, it develops more complex fruit and floral characteristics. Winemakers Dean and Heather Neff’s estate Defiance Vineyard may be named for just that reason: to show that this sun-loving grape can thrive and—in this case—shine in this climate. This Syrah exhibits the best of the grape, with heady aromatics of violets and earth, and a soft spice and brightness that makes it easy to drink with grilled meats or duck confit and dried herbs. Beautiful blueberry and cherry fruit followed by powerful development, length and softness.
Lake Chelan Syrah Finalists
Tildio 2009 Estate Syrah, Lake Chelan, $25
Tsillan 2010 Estate Reserve Syrah, Lake Chelan, $35


Mellisoni Vineyards 2011 Pinot Grigio, Lake Chelan, $35
The Lake Chelan area has been expanding as a white-wine-growing region. The “lake effect” is the key: The rolling hills surrounding the lake capture the cool air that flows over them at night, and the hills heat up with the eastern Washington sun during the day. Delicate white grapes such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling and this lovely Pinot Gris do well here, retaining their fresh fruit aromas and acidity. Donna and Rob Mellison decided on this area after a wine-tasting trip to Italy, and wanted to replicate their experience and share their love of wine in the U.S. This winner is full of fresh melon and peach aromas and flavors, with a clean finish that makes it a great match with shellfish, light cheeses and salads.
Lake Chelan Pinot Gris Finalists:

Benson Vineyards Estate Winery 2011 Estate Pinot Gris, Lake Chelan, $20
Vin du Lac 2011 LEHM Pinot Gris, Lake Chelan, $22

Mellisoni 2009 Riesling, Lake Chelan, $35
Tsillan Cellars 2009 Estate Dry Riesling, Lake Chelan, $16

Two Rieslings rose to the top in this category. Both the Mellisoni Vineyards wine and the Tsillan Cellars Riesling show the potential of wines from this cool grape-growing area, with two different styles. The Mellisoni Riesling, grown in the winery’s lakeside estate vineyard, shows depth and richness, with apricot, peach, white pepper and floral notes and an off-dry finish. The Tsillan Riesling, from the Tsillan estate vineyards just down the road, is also an off-dry wine with an aroma of honey and flowers, but a lighter, drier finish. Both are great examples of what a Washington Riesling can be in this region.