Last week, we took an unexpected trip with good friends to taste wines in central WA. First, we visited the tasting rooms of Boudreaux Cellars, Obelisco and Hard Row to Hoe in Leavenworth. Next, we decided to continue the adventure in Chelan Valley, where we tasted more of Hard Row’s lineup at their vineyard. We also stopped at Succession Winery, another favorite. Over three days, we experienced outstanding wine including sparklers, refreshing whites, Rosé, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Read on for details.
Every September, we travel with our good friends, Chuck and Rita Kinzer, to Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia. Of course, we missed our visit in 2020 because of the pandemic, so we were really looking forward to going back this year. We took all the steps required by Canada to cross the border, and then waited for the results of our COVID tests.
Unfortunately, the results didn’t arrive within the necessary 72 hours, so we couldn’t get back to Harrison Hot Springs after all. How disappointing. What to do? Our bags were packed, the dogs were with friends, and we still wanted our annual mini-vacation. So we pivoted and made an unexpected trip to go wine tasting in Central WA. A bonus – Chuck is a professional photographer, and he took many of the photos here (the creative ones).
Our first stop, Leavenworth, is just a few hours away in the majestic Cascade Mountains – a touristy Alpine/Bavarian-style village packed with two dozen tasting rooms and wineries. Just a two-hour drive further is Lake Chelan, home to 30 wineries and tasting rooms. Let’s go!
Unexpected Trip to Tasting Rooms in Leavenworth
First, we found Boudreaux Cellars, where we always appreciate their “mighty fine wine.” In Leavenworth, Boudreaux offers a New Orleans French Quarter-style tasting room. But we chose to enjoy the balmy September weather outside at the attractive chairs and tables. As expected, winemakers Rob Newsom and Keely Graham Newsom were immersed in harvest, so we didn’t head out to their off-the-grid winery. Instead, Brigette, the friendly tasting room host, poured us excellent Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.
We also visited Obelisco, another treat where Courtney hosted us. Since we moved from Seattle six years ago, we rarely get to an Obelisco tasting room. So it was heartwarming, yet bittersweet, to see many photos of our dear friend and Obelisco founder, the late, great Doug Long, and remember his stellar wines. Courtney poured us Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese and Malbec, all outstanding wines crafted by Ken Abbot, Doug’s nephew.
Next, we stopped by Hard Row to Hoe, where we also enjoyed outdoor seating. Our wonderful host Tess served us a range of sparkling wines, white and reds. This photo is titled “Rowing in Seduction’ because the glass contains Seduction 2017 — a brooding, rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Petite Sirah. Chuck took this creative photo, along with many others on this page.
Unexpected Trip to Wineries and Vineyards in Lake Chelan Valley
Once we literally had a taste of Hard Row to Hoe in Leavenworth, we decided to drive to their Manson winery and vineyard in Lake Chelan Valley. Danielle Ross was our rock-star host, sharing stories and pouring delicious Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Nauti Buoy Riesling-Gewurtz blend, Seduction red blend, and two sparklers. Winemaker Judy Phelps and her husband and vineyard manager Don Phelps, took a break from a successful harvest to chat with us. Judy says harvest 2021, the earliest ever, started Aug. 26 and showcases a superb growing season. As of our visit in mid-September, they had picked Gamay Noir, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre and Syrah.
We also drove to Succession Wines. We first met Brock Lindsay, winemaker and co-owner with his wife Erica, in 2019. And we quickly decided that Succession Wines is one to watch. So of course we went back this year. Brock was on the crush pad processing Merlot, but took a break to fill us in on harvest. He said they were halfway through and harvest was going very well. Meanwhile, Emily was a fabulous host, pouring Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and many reds, including two amazing Cab Sauvs and the beautiful, Bridge Builders Blend.
The Wines (in alphabetical order by winery)
Here are our favorites of the many wines we tasted over three days on this unexpected trip – and as you can tell by the photos, these are some of the wines we took home.
Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 immediately hits you with an excellent mouthfeel. It’s a gorgeous, classy, luxurious, textured Cab Sauv from nine of the oldest, most aromatic and complex blocks of this grape in the state. The 92% Cab Sauv is topped off with 3% each of Petit Verdot and Cab Franc, plus 2% Merlot. Flavors of cherries and blackberries combine into a classic Cabernet Sauvignon. We adore this magnificent wine (and many others) from this accomplished father-daughter winemaking team.
Hard Row to Hoe
Hard Row to Hoe Whole Picture® Au Naturel Pét-nat (Cab Franc) 2019 is a special project by Judy’s son and assistant winemaker, Julian Shaver. Short for Petillant Naturel, this is an amazing wine made in a very natural way, omitting typical winemaking tools like cultivated yeasts, artificial nutrients and over-use of sulfites for preservation. Low in alcohol, this sparkling wine is full of flavors of fresh berries, almonds and vanilla. Judy recommends serving it in a large white wine glass.
Obelisco Red Mountain Electrum 2018 has long been a favorite of ours, specifically since 2010. This vintage, produced by Ken Abbott, is as noteworthy as the previous ones created by his uncle, the late, talented Doug Long. Electrum is Obelisco’s signature wine, with grapes from the first vines planted in the estate vineyard. Aromas of dark berries, vanilla and spice echo the flavors. This wine is silky, smooth and lush.
Succession Wines 2019 Syrah offers beautiful, brooding aromas followed by ripe berry flavors and some herbaceous notes, along with earthiness and a smooth finish. This is one approachable, sophisticated and decadent wine, and we loved it. This Syrah is textured and complex, with grapes sourced from several locations: Red Mountain, Candy Mountain, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater and Columbia Valley.
Summary: Our Unexpected Trip
In conclusion, Lake Chelan wine valley and Leavenworth offer a wide variety of Washington wines at dozens of tasting rooms and vineyards. The location is close to Seattle and is a perfect getaway. When our planned travels to British Columbia went south, so did we. And we are so glad we did. We highly recommend all four wineries mentioned here. You can find out more information and buy wine at their tasting rooms or online: Boudreaux Cellars, Obelisco, Hard Row to Hoe and Succession Winery.
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Margot and Dave