Road Trip: Chelan



By John ~ July 25th, 2008.

The wine industry around Chelan, Washington, is relatively new, with a mixture of what I call “foo-foo” wineries and serious winemakers. The tourist industry in the area will probably keep the former in business, while I’m interested to see how the serious winemakers progress as their vineyards mature and they see what works and doesn’t work.

Our first stop was at Chelan Estate Winery, a relatively new winery owned by Bob Broderick and Rich Nestor and their wives. Chelan Estate produces about 2,200 cases per year. Linda Nestor was our friendly and energetic hostess as we tasted five of their wines. Chelan Estate charges a $4 tasting fee, which is refundable with the purchase of wine. Our favorite Chelan Estate wine was the 2003 Chelan Estate Merlot, Stillwater Creek Vineyard.

Our next stop was at Karma Vineyards, a brand-new winery, tasting room, café, and real-estate development. There is obviously big-money behind this operation, but they have a ways to go in the wine department. We tasted a flight of three wines at Karma for a non-refundable tasting fee of $5. None of the three wines knocked my socks off but two were decent, the 2005 Karma Estate Pinot Noir and the 2005 Karma Estate BadKarma “oopsy Daisy” Syrah.

Our third stop at Nefarious Cellars brought a smile to our faces. These are the kind of folks we root for in the wine business. Heather, Dean, their son George, and their dog Lucy are the friendly crew at Nefarious. They have a gorgeous setting for their practical 2,000 case per year operation overlooking Lake Chelan. Dean is a third generation farmer who still owns an orchard operation. You can see how that agricultural experience is paying off in their winery. Nefarious does not charge a tasting fee. Of the four wines that we tasted, our favorite was the 2005 Nefarious Syrah Windy Ridge Vineyard.

Our final stop of the day was at the beautiful Tuscan-style winery, Tsillan Cellars. Tsillan has been in operation since 2000 on a slope overlooking Lake Chelan. Tsillan is owned by dentist/inventor Bob Jankelson and produces about 8,000 cases per year. Tsillan charges a non-refundable tasting fee of $5, although Shane the assistant winemaker waited on us and was kind enough to waive the tasting fee. Of the five wines we tasted, our favorite was the 2005 Tsillan Merlot.

As I said up front, we plan to keep in touch with the wine industry progress in the Chelan area over the next few years, as their vineyards mature and they figure out what grows best. I believe that there are at least several wineries here that will be doing some really good things.

Here’s a breakdown of the Chelan wines that we tasted. Under each Quality heading, the wine name will be listed along with price and QPR rating. Wines in bold type received a QPR rating of 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5).

Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2003 Chelan Estate Merlot, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, $20, QPR: 5
2005 Tsillan Merlot, $28, QPR: 5
2005 Nefarious Syrah Windy Ridge Vineyard, $27, QPR: 4
2006 Nefarious Cabernet Franc, $28, QPR: 4

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2003 Chelan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, $25, QPR: 5
2005 Tsillan Syrah, $29, QPR: 3
2004 Chelan Estate Reserve Red Wine, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, $35, QPR: 2
2007 Nefarious Viognier, Defiance Vineyard, $19, QPR: 2
2007 Tsillan Pinot Grigio, $23, QPR: 2

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2005 Karma Estate Pinot Noir, $25, QPR: 4
2005 Karma Estate BadKarma “oopsy Daisy” Syrah, $17, QPR: 4
2004 Chelan Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, $30, QPR: 3
2007 Nefarious Consequence (White blend), $17, QPR: 3
2004 Tsillan Cabernet Sauvignon, $31, QPR: 3
2005 Chelan Estate Syrah, $30, QPR: 2

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2005 Karma Estate Syrah, $23, QPR: NR
2006 Tsillan Estate Dry Riesling, $20, QPR: NR

Have you ever been to Chelan? If so, did you visit any wineries while you were there? What was your favorite?


Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Merlot, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Riesling, Shiraz/Syrah, Viognier, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wine Travel, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. J Pagenkopf | July 25th, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    You should check out the other side of the lake, especially Vin du Lac.

  2. John | July 27th, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Good suggestion. We just ran out of time on this trip.
    John

  3. Melinda | April 21st, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    You really do need to check out the North shore. Our favorite is Benson Vineyards. They grown all their own grapes and we think the best wine in the area. Best view too.

  4. John | April 22nd, 2009 at 4:05 am

    Thanks, Melinda. As I told the other commenter, we just ran out of time on this trip. We defintely plan to visit the other side of the lake next time.

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