By Kori ~ October 18th, 2010.
For those of you who have never been, Leavenworth, Washington, is a quaint and beautiful Bavarian Village nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in the heart of the state. No matter the season, it is a great get-away tourist destination. And in recent years, it has also become a destination for wine lovers as a number of wineries now call the area home and others have opened tasting rooms in downtown Leavenworth. About a two and a half hour drive east of Seattle, Leavenworth was awarded the title of “Ultimate Holiday Town USA” by A&E Network in 2003.
Along with the Wenatchee Valley and Lake Chelan, Leavenworth is one of three destination areas within the Cascade Valley Wine Country. Located in central Washington State halfway between Seattle and Spokane, Cascade Valley Wine Country is home to approximately 50 wineries and tasting rooms. 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.
Our family has taken long weekend trips to Leavenworth a couple of times each year since we moved to Washington State in the mid-1990’s. We enjoy visiting in both summer and winter as there is so much to do, no matter the season. During that time, we have watched wineries and tasting rooms open and have enjoyed getting to know some of the folks in the wine business there. Colby and I had a chance to visit Leavenworth again during our recent trip touring the Cascade Valley Wine Country.
In my opinion, Boudreaux Cellars is producing the best wines overall in Leavenworth. Only open by appointment, Boudreaux is well worth a visit. Owner/winemaker Rob Newsom, a Louisiana native, has lived on the property since 1981 and began making wine in his garage in 1998. In 2001, he started building the winery facilities. Boudreaux currently produces about 2,000 cases per year, which is exactly the production level that Newsom plans to maintain. Newsom sources his grapes from many different vineyards around the state. His goal is to get the best grapes from the best vineyards. Boudreaux Cellars is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, which is excellent. In addition to making great wines, Boudreaux boasts a spectacular setting along the Icicle River. With his Louisiana Cajun accent and dry sense of humor, Rob Newsom truly is one of the great personalities in the Washington wine industry.
Another must-visit in the Leavenworth area is Icicle Ridge Winery, both the winery itself with their hallmark log home tasting room in Peshastin and their downtown Leavenworth tasting room and gift shop called A Taste of Icicle Ridge. Louie Wagoner, the Wagoner family patriarch, is a well-known and respected pear farmer who ventured into the winery business with his wife Judy in 2002. Son-in-law Don Wood is the winemaker and the entire family is involved in the 6,000-cases per year operation. They host special events at the winery throughout the year including their summer Jazzamatazz Concerts. After a visit to Icicle Ridge, you leave feeling like you are part of the family.
Our most exciting new discovery on our recent trip to Leavenworth was Silvara Vineyards. Founded in 2008 by winemaker Gary Seidler and partner LPGA pro golfer Cindy Rarick, Silvara opened its beautiful tasting room between Leavenworth and Peshastin in October 2009. While their wines did not blow us away, they showed great potential. Silvara is definitely a winery to watch.
If you live in Washington or have plans to visit, I highly encourage you to include Leavenworth in your travel itinerary. With its location in the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth is a year-round playground for outdoor recreationalists. From skiing or snowshoeing in the winter to hiking or river rafting in the summer, there are many activities available in the area. And for those that are not interested in outdoor activities, Leavenworth offers numerous unique shops. As was the case during our entire trip to the Cascade Valley Wine Country, we found the people of Leavenworth 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 area is a great get-away destination for everyone in the family, for wine lovers and teetotalers alike. For more information about planning a trip to the area, visit the websites for Cascade Valley Wine Country and the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce.
Filed under: American Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Travel