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The Scenic Splendor Of Lake Chelan

P1100283Already the Wine Bloggers Conference has been unforgettable, and I’m not even at the conference yet. I joined the pre-conference excursion from Seattle to Lake Chelan, a wine region granted its AVA status only in 2009. The first vineyards appeared only in 1998 or so — until then, it was just apples and tourists coming for the lake and the long, reliably sunny summer days. Seattle has a justified reputation for damp, but to the east it’s a veritable desert.

Float PlaneAnd what a desert. Our introduction to this brand-new wine country was by float plane. It pulled up to the dock of the Rio Vista Winery, perched above us on the bank of the Columbia River. Refreshingly, we were allowed to board the six-person plane without a security pat-down.

As we rose above the river, the grandeur of the landscape spread out before us, the rugged hills green with scrubby grass, conifers and orchards. We swung up the lake itself, a fjord-like spear surrounded by bluffs, vacation homes and hillside vineyards. The development on its shores indicated that Lake Chelan was not exactly a secret, but the appeal of the landscape was confirmed once we checked into our lakeside hotel and reconfirmed as we watched a spectacular sunset over dinner from Tsillan Cellars.

And what about the wines in this newborn AVA? Could they possibly live up to the setting? It seemed, frankly, unlikely. Stay tuned…

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