Lake Chelan: Established 2009

  • Lake Chelan, one of Washington’s most sought after summer destinations, is now the 11th American Viticultural Area (AVA) officially recognized in the state.
  • It is encompassed completely within the larger Columbia Valley AVA, but Lake Chelan has a higher elevation and more temperate climate than the more southern AVAs also contained within the Columbia Valley.
  • The 24,040-acre Lake Chelan AVA includes the southern and eastern portions of land surrounding the lake and shares a northern border with the Columbia Valley AVA.
  • Due to the ice age glaciers that formed Lake Chelan, the soil surrounding it has distinctive properties such as coarse, sandy sediment with notable amounts of quartz and mica, and these result in grapes with discernable textures, minerals, and nutrients.  
  • The AVA is also distinguished by a significant “lake effect” that creates mild and favorable temperatures for surrounding areas, resulting in a longer growing season and a reduced risk of frost.
  • Grapes have been grown in the Chelan Valley since before the turn of the 20th century by a few Native Americans and a group of Italian immigrants. In 1949, the area produced grapes from 154 vineyard acres.
  • Modern wine grape growing began more extensively at the turn of the 21st century, and the first winery was opened by the Kludt family in 2000. Now the area is home to 15 wineries and about 227 acres of planted grapes.
  • The leading varieties being produced in the new AVA include Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

    The Lake Chelan appellation is located in central Washington, about 112 miles east-northeast of the city of Seattle. Like almost all of eastern Washington’s growing regions, it is a sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley.

    Lake Chelan is an extremely young growing region, with its first modern day vinifera plantings in 1998. Of the appellation’s 24,040 acres (9,730 hectares), only 247 were under vine as of 2011. The area is therefore still defining itself as a growing region.

    The most planted grapes are Pinot Noir and Riesling, followed by Syrah. The region also has significant plantings of Gewürztraminer. However, over 20 vinifera varieties are currently being explored.

    Climatically, the area is defined by Lake Chelan, with the growing regions located along the southern and eastern portions of the lake. Named after a Native American word for “deep water,” this glacier-carved lake is 55 miles long and 1,486 feet deep, with an average width of one mile. The lake moderates temperatures providing cooler summer days and warmer summer nights compared to the surrounding regions.

    As a growing region, the Lake Chelan appellation is unique from others in eastern Washington in that it lies north of the Missoula Floods, which define the soil types of most of the Columbia Valley. Soil types here are glacial sediments along with ash and pumice from volcanoes from the nearby Cascade Range. The glacial sediments have substantial amounts of quartz and mica.

© 2014 Washington Wine