By Kori ~ October 6th, 2010.
Located in central Washington State halfway between Seattle and Spokane, Cascade Valley Wine Country is home to around 50 wineries and tasting rooms in Wenatchee, Chelan, and Leavenworth. The oldest wineries in the Cascade Valley Wine Country have only been in existence about a decade. However, in that short time, they have capitalized on the tourist-appeal of the area and have established a thriving wine community. The Wenatchee Valley sits in the heart of the Cascade Valley Wine Country. While Chelan and Leavenworth have been popular tourist destinations for years, long before wineries started opening in the area, Wenatchee itself has not garnered as much attention. Nevertheless, given its size, it boasts more amenities than either of those other two cities. That fact coupled with its location roughly halfway between Chelan and Leavenworth makes it an ideal home base for tourists visiting the region.
Prior to our recent trip touring the Cascade Valley Wine Country, I had not spent more than a few hours in the Wenatchee Valley. Wenatchee and East Wenatchee are two cities separated by the Columbia River but it really feels like one community. During our visit, we stayed at the Marriott SpringHill Suites that opened earlier this year, a hotel I would certainly consider staying in again the next time Iâ€™m in the area.
It is no wonder that the Wenatchee Valley, the self-proclaimed â€œApple Capital of the World,â€ has ventured into other fruit growing endeavors like grapes. In our travels through wine country, we have found some of the best viticulturists have backgrounds in tree fruit growing. The Wenatchee Valley community is happy to promote all forms of agri-tourism. So whether apples are your thing or you prefer grapes, particularly fermented grapes, Wenatchee has something to offer.
The Wenatchee Valley is home to one of the top wineries in Washington State. Fielding Hills Winery, a small, family-owned winery, continues to garner numerous well-deserved accolades. Owner/winemaker Mike Wade and his wife Karen are longtime apple and cherry growers who have turned a middle portion of their orchard near Mattawa into a vineyard. Their Riverbend Vineyard, planted in 1998, is in the Wahluke Slope AVA and is their sole source of grapes. Fielding Hills currently produces about 850 cases per year but will be increasing to about 1400 cases with the 2009 vintage. We have tasted their wines from their inaugural vintage in 2000 through their current releases and continue to be impressed. They are so consistent; it is not a question of whether their wines will be good but where they will fall on the quality spectrum between â€œvery goodâ€ and â€œWow!â€ In fact, we recognized Mike Wade as Best Winemaker in our Wine Peepsâ€™ Best of 2009 in Washington Wine Country. They are open by appointment only so be sure to call ahead if you are going to be in the area; Fielding Hills is a stop you do not want to miss.
Another must-visit winery in the Wenatchee Valley is Saint Laurent Estate Winery, named for the patron saint of wine growers and vintners. Owners Mike and Laura Mrachek have built a beautiful tasting room and grounds that have gorgeous views of the Columbia River and surrounding valley. Craig Mitrakul has been the winemaker for Saint Laurent since 2004. Saint Laurent produces 4,500 cases per year, and their tasting room is open Friday through Sunday and for special events.
In addition to agri-tourism, the Wenatchee Valley also offers a host of other outdoor recreational activities including skiing at Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort, biking/walking along the Apple Capital Loop Trail, a scenic 11-mile paved trail along the Columbia River, as well as hiking and rafting. Wenatchee also has a quaint downtown with boutique shopping and dining options.
As was the case during our entire trip to the Cascade Valley Wine Country, we found the people of Wenatchee to be very friendly and welcoming. They seemed to truly love where they live and what they do. While the wine quality really runs the gamut, there are more than enough good wines and wine country experiences to be had. Given the gorgeous scenery and recreational opportunities, the Wenatchee Valley is a fun destination for the whole family. For more information about planning a trip to the area, visit the websites for Cascade Valley Wine Country and the Wenatchee Valley Visitors Bureau.
Filed under: American Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Travel