Wine has been produced near Lake Chelan since 1891 by Italian immigrants and that 154 acres were planted as of 1949 only 260 acres are currently under cultivation. There are fifteen wineries in the AVA (with one on the way). Grape varietals grown in the region include Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürtztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The area is unique in the Columbia Valley due to the micro-climate created by the lake which increases the amount of time that fruit stays on the vine. This allows the additional development of complexity building phenols while keeping the sugars and acids in balance. Additionally glaciers on ice-age Lake Chelan left the appellation with a coarse, sandy soil that is full of quartz and mica.
The Lake Chelan AVA is yet another subset of the Columbia Valley and was designated in April of 2009. . The AVA application for Lake Chelan was delayed for several years as Alcohol and Tabacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) froze all petitions due to a controversy related to the Calistoga designation. It was determined that any winery that included the name of the AVA or substantially similar to it must source 85% of its grapes from within the region. This required five wineries in the AVA with “Chelan” in their names to comply with the regulation.
Nothing is ever simple…