Lake Chelan — Come for Stehekin, Stay for the Wine!

Although the trip to the North Cascades Lodge in Stehekin was my “big birthday splurge,” it fell a few days short of my actual birthday.   So when my brother Don asked, “How would you like to celebrate your special day?” the first thing that came to mind was all the beautiful vineyards we had floated by on our boat tour up Lake Chelan.

Driving through the beautiful Methow Valley.

Driving through the beautiful Methow Valley.

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Beebe Bridge, for which the RV Park is named. Note white dots are RVs on far right side of Columbia River.

Beebe Bridge, for which the RV Park is named. Note white dots are RVs on far right side of Columbia River. The green space is Beebe Bridge RV Park.

The Methow Valley region was once famous for what were reported to be some of the best apples in the world.  Still today, the rolling hills from Winthrop to Chelan are lined with apple orchards, laden with ripe red fruit.  The temperate shores of Lake Chelan with its glacially rich soil made the perfect growing environment.  But costs to produce apples has exceeded the income generated, so apple orchards are slowly being replanted with grapes and cherries.  Great news for the wine drinker, but I hope they strike a balance with continuing to produce these delicious apples!img_7880

Cider houses for temporary workers in the orchards.

Cider houses for temporary workers in the orchards.

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It's tough to make out, but the name of this fruit stand is "Rest Awhile."

It’s tough to make out, but the name of this fruit stand is “Rest Awhile.” And we did.

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It just so happens that my birthday weekend coincided with Lake Chelan’s “Crush,” an annual event to celebrate the harvest.   Many of the wineries had some special offering for this weekend, from the opportunity to taste the grapes, to an I-Love-Lucy-style grape stomp.  While I was momentarily intrigued at the thought of feeling the slippery skins between my toes, it was just not something I was up for on this chilly autumn day.  So instead, we decided to visit the wineries that were recommended by a local woman I met on the Lady of the Lake boat trip.

It's "Crush," or harvest time.

It’s “Crush,” or harvest time.

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“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” Galileo

“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” Galileo

First up would be Karma Vineyards, known for their “Method Champenoise” or making sparkling wines in the French method.  However, this method must be quite pricey, as they wanted over $20 for a tasting flight!  So we opted for their red wine sampler at $5 a flight instead.  Lasting impressions from this winery were the underground wine cave, and the soft, fuzzy blanket the server brought me to counteract the chill while sipping on their outdoor patio.img_8424

Tastings are offered on the patio.

Tastings are offered on the patio.

Glad this one didn't live up to its name.

“Bad Karma.” Glad this one didn’t live up to its name.

"She's got legs!"

“She’s got legs!”

Aging barrels in Karma's underground wine cave.

Aging barrels in Karma’s underground wine cave.

They are best known for their bubbly. Here, the bottles are rotated on racks while the yeast settles out.

They are best known for their bubbly. Here, the bottles are rotated on racks while the yeast settles out.

The wine cave is a venue for parties, weddings, etc.

The wine cave is a venue for parties, weddings, etc.

Next up would be Siren Song Vineyard Estate and Winery, my favorite of the five wineries visited.  The ambiance was “Italy” all the way down to the wood-fired pizza that we split for lunch.   I loved their motto, “Everyone has a Siren Song…What’s Yours?”  I loved their pizza.   I loved their Ravello-style patio overlooking Lake Chelan.  And I loved their wine.  Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact that they gave me a complimentary glass of their sparkling variety for my birthday!

Siren Song Estate and Vineyards

Siren Song Estate and Vineyards

Beautiful patio overlooking Lake Chelan reminds me of Ravello, Italy.

Beautiful patio overlooking Lake Chelan reminds me of Ravello, Italy.

Wood-fired pizza oven.

Wood-fired pizza oven.

We couldn't agree on a pizza type, so the chef indulged our request for "half and half."

We could not agree on a pizza type, so the chef indulged our request for “half and half.”

Really nice wines, really nice presentation.

Really nice wines, really nice presentation.

My favorite of the day. Is it any wonder? "Jolie, our tribute to Paris, the 'city of light." Subtle notes of black cherry and rose give way to a smokey chocolate finish."

My favorite of the day. Is it any wonder? “Jolie, our tribute to Paris, the ‘city of light.” Subtle notes of black cherry and rose give way to a smokey chocolate finish.”

What’s your “Siren Song,” or irresistible calling?  Mine, no doubt has to be exploratory travel.  And when that includes good wine, even better!

The bar begs the question, "Everyone has a Siren Song. What's yours?"

The bar begs the question, “Everyone has a Siren Song. What’s yours?”

Why yes, I think I hear an irresistible calling!

Why yes, I think I hear an irresistible calling!

Across the parking lot from Siren Song was the Fielding Hills Winery.  Having just finished lunch, along with a generous pour and free glass of birthday bubbly from Siren Song, we didn’t do any tasting at Fielding Hills.  However, I was impressed by their beautiful property overlooking the lake, and elegant tasting room.

Fielding Hills Winery

Fielding Hills Winery

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At this point, we opted to drive to the other side of the lake on a tip to visit one of the more “playful” wineries, “A Hard Row to Hoe.”  Typically, one associates that idiom with an agricultural term, signifying for example, the difficulty of removing weeds from a row of cotton.  But in this case, it’s actually a double entendre for the brothel with working girls who “served” the miners working along the lake.  From their website: “One story has it that a long-time Manson resident ran a rowboat taxi service from Lucerne to Point Lovely in support of the thriving enterprise.”   Therefore, all names of their wines have some reference to the world’s oldest profession, such as “S&M” (a blend of Syrah and Malbec) right down to their “Oar House” wine club.

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Port wine, served in chocolate shot glasses. Now that's how to celebrate a birthday!

Port wine, served in chocolate shot glasses. Now that’s how to celebrate a birthday!

The wine tastings were good here, but what stood out was the smooth and polished gentleman behind the bar who knew when to listen to a story and when to insert his own.  Oh, and the Port wine drank from shot glasses made of chocolate.  😉

Last but not least was the Lake Chelan winery, the first winery on the valley to innovate after the collapse of the apple market in 1998.  By far the largest winery we visited, they offer a lot more than wines, to include their BBQ restaurant, a 3,000 sq ft gift shop, and a gourmet cheese shop with a vast selection of cheeses, offering some of the “smoothest blue” I have tasted since Rogue Creamery.

Lake Chelan Winery had a lovely outdoor space.

Lake Chelan Winery had a lovely outdoor space.

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Lake Chelan Winery was the only winery we visited where you just belly up to the bar, and as long as you keep tasting, they keep pouring.  Could be why there are no photos…hhhmmm.

Tasting good wines was a great way to celebrate a birthday.  And if the old adage is true, “we are what we eat,” then maybe if I drink enough of it, I will become like fine wine and only improve with age!  😉img_8475

20 thoughts on “Lake Chelan — Come for Stehekin, Stay for the Wine!

  1. I took a break from working on a photo that I took yesterday, and was feeling rather pleased with my results . . . until . . .

    Whew! So many wall quality photos in one post! I’m on sensual overload!

    I sweep the floor with my hat (think Musketeer!) and bow deeply at your prowess with the pixels.

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

  2. Happy birthday!
    More enjoyment and delight seeing your perspective on very familiar territory. I have dozens of friends and family on Facebook that would share in my delight in this post.

    I’ll refrain from sharing more stories about my apple orchard-infused growing-up years, suffice it to say my grandfather co-founded an apple warehouse in Wenatchee (where he once served as mayor) which my dad and partners moved up to Oroville. The highway you drove on the east side of the Columbia was formerly the ‘old highway’, so going thru Chelan was part of the trip going to and from Wenatchee, a very regular trip. Funny how what was old is now new and vice versa. (Confluence State Park in Wenatchee is a nice spot this time of year.)

    It’s always given me great pleasure to share with friends the valleys along 97 in north central Washington because they were always so remote, and if you didn’t know people you would have had no reason to go there, including Chelan. North of Chelan on 97, towns and residents continue to struggle with the ups and downs of sparsely populated ag- and ranching-based rural life, with a couple of bright spots along the way, but the countryside is so starkly beautiful, even with the orchards all torn down. That’s changing too: I saw some mighty impressive residential places along the route on my last trip up, am guessing second and retirement homes…

    It’s wonderful that the good people of the Chelan area grabbed the opportunity to turn the corner from apples to a flourishing destination spot, leading to this serendipitous moment of you and your brother thoroughly enjoying the fruits of their efforts. Happy travels!

    • Frederika, I LOVE your comments and the little bit of history and former local perspective that you always provide! Please do feel free to share the post on Facebook. I love it when someone finds the subject matter interesting enough to share with others, and would love to see these wineries (AND the apples!) continue to flourish! Thanks again for the nice comment…

  3. Happy Birthday and what a good place to spent it. It was interesting that you used the phrase “half and half” as that is often used here in curry restaurants when someone wants rice and chips with their curry!!

  4. Here’s a belated Happy Birthday wish. And, it looks and sounds like you spent it having a fun day with brother Don as your wing man. I have to say that after reading this post, the song “Two More Bottles of Wine” has been playing non stop in my head 😉

  5. Now that certainly was a wonderful birthday celebration:) How nice that your brother was along to share the joy and fun:) Too bad about the apple orchards. What a lovely location to do all your tasting. The outside patio areas are all so neat. I can see why Siren Song was your favorite. Love that Woodfire Pizza oven and the atmosphere! The pizza looks delicious. We don’t do wineries since I am so allergic to wine. But I do enjoy following those who share:) Thanks for a great day!!

  6. Happy belated birthday! What a fabulous way to spend your special day. Glad you got your glass of bubbly. I love the stuff myself so I would have been tempted to spend the $20 for the tastings. Also love the clever way they deliver the port, in chocolate shot glasses. Port and chocolate, what could be better? My siren song would be travel that allows me to experience nature in a new way and/or a different culture.

  7. Suzanne – Looks to me like you had a fabulous birthday … wine, sweeping vistas, yummy pizza and the company of a loving bro! I especially liked reading earlier about your “go-carting” experience with him.
    May this next trip around the sun be magical.

  8. Somehow I missed this post. If I tasted as much wine as it sounds like you did, I would probably have had to be carried out of the last winery!
    Nice looking area to check out the next time we get to Washington…

  9. I can’t believe you skipped a winery! I try and make a point to hit every one I can! Love it!
    I hope your birthday was as much fun as it looks like it was!!!!

    P. S. I would have eaten the meat side of the pizza. That many greens on the other side would wreck my gut. Ha!

  10. My “Siren’s Song”, or irresistible calling, has to be…remembrances, which you beautifully provided with this blog post. As a child I lived in Germany where I well remember visiting the Lorelei, the echoing rock on the bank of the Rhine River, named for the legend of the most famous siren’s call of all. As a young adult I lived in northern Italy during the mid 70’s where I cultivated a taste for “real” Italian pizza and trips to many wineries of the region. While perusing your gorgeous photos and luscious descriptions I languished, so as to allow for a time of drifting…back. Your coup de gras: “Port wine drank from shot glasses made of chocolate.” Now *that* is one memory I have yet to make…but surely will. You always give hope for new experiences to be relished. Happy birthday, Suzanne…this one, surely, was a remembrance for the ages. :-)

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