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Saturday, Apr. 03, 2010

Washington: Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan is the name of North America's third-deepest lake and now is one of Washington's newest and most dynamic wine regions.

The Lake Chelan AVA, approved in 2009, is Washington's 11th American Viticultural Area. The region has a lengthy agricultural history, primarily with apples and cherries, though grapes were grown in the area in the early 1900s.

Lake Chelan's modern viticultural history dates back only to 1998, when Kludt family planted wine grapes. As the state apple industry struggled - especially the signature Red Delicious variety so prevalent around Lake Chelan, orchards came out and grapes went in. By 2009, wine grapes accounted for 250 acres and 16 wineries had opened on the north and south shores, all within a few miles of the cities of Lake Chelan and Manson.

For decades, the Lake Chelan area has been a magnet for family vacations. The wine industry, however, has extended the region's two-month visitor season to at least eight months and has been well on its way to becoming a year-around destination.

The Lake Chelan AVA is almost entirely within the vast Columbia Valley AVA, with just small areas outside of the larger appellation.

Because of its relative youth, the region is still sorting out the best grape varieties. Early favorites include Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Viognier for whites and Malbec, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo for reds. In general, the south shore of the lake is slightly cooler because of its north-facing vineyards, while the north shore tends to be warmer. However, elevation and proximity to the lake make vineyard temperatures fairly site-specific.

More articles on Lake Chelan:

-- Lake Chelan: Washington's new wine country

-- Touring Lake Chelan

-- A taste of Lake Chelan

-- Lessons from Lake Chelan

External links:

Lake Chelan Wine Valley

Wikipedia article on Lake Chelan AVA