The history of wine grapes along the banks of Washington's Lake Chelan goes back to the 1880s, but that all but disappeared until the late 1990s, when a soft apple market had orchardists thinking about a new direction.
And thus the region's wine industry was reborn.
Today, Lake Chelan still is not a huge wine region, but it is growing — and most importantly, it is changing the economics of the community it surrounds.
About 20 wineries now dot the north and south shores of Lake Chelan, with all of them being within a few minutes' drive of the communities of Chelan and Manson. Nearly 300 acres of wine grapes are in the ground, as winemakers are beginning to figure out what varieties work best in this American Viticultural Area, established in 2009.
Though it is a young wine region, Lake Chelan already has found a tremendous amount of success, thanks to the fact that it is based in a town that knows how to treat tourists. The infrastructure already is in place with lodging and food, and Washington residents are accustomed to coming to this area of the state. The wine industry even has helped stretch the tourism season from 10 weeks to more than six months.
Here are a few examples of wines we've tasted from Lake Chelan wineries. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.