As autumnal colors slowly replace verdant greens, apples are ripe for picking, and wineries are crushing grapes in preparation for new vintages. It’s a perfect time to come and spend a weekend, and to check out some of the smaller, boutique wineries you may not have been to—where you’re more likely to meet the owners and winemakers. From malbec and cab franc to pinot gris and gewürztraminer (and more), exceptional wines—and intimate tasting experiences—can be found at these five wineries, which showcase grapes grown right in the region as well as from the Yakima and Columbia valleys.
One Wines, Inc.
Owned by husband-wife team Greg and Jo Cowell and opened in 2012, this is one of the smallest wineries in the state of Washington. They make only 600 cases a year of three types of wine: a rosé with ripe strawberry flavors, a Bordeaux-style red (read: big, bold), and a sauvignon blanc that Jo says is “less like the New Zealand grassy types, and more peach/honeysuckle/citrus, with just the right amount of acidity.” You’re guaranteed to talk with her when you come to their tiny tasting room that fits just 20.
What Makes Them Unique: While many wineries offer cheese or cured meat plates to pair with wines, One Wines serves candy—strawberry Whoppers to go with the rosé, orange milk chocolate for the white, and dark chocolate–covered blueberries for the red. Why candy? Since it’s just Jo in the tasting room, she doesn’t have to run back and forth to a fridge to get cheeses and such; and candy is fine at room temperature. She’s also adamant that guests get to sample a full glass of wine, rather than just the usual small tastes. She says it takes time (and several bites of candy) for your palate to find all the sides of the wine, and she wants to make sure people go home with a bottle they truly love—rather than one that appealed at just a sip or two.
Good to Know: They just opened a brewery and are hoping to have their beer on tap by October!
526 E. Woodin Ave., Chelan, WA; 509-682-2646; onewinesinc.com
Angela Jacobs of WineGirl Wines has been in business for 10 years and produces about 2,300 cases of wine annually. Like many in the area, she does Bordeaux-style reds but also likes to let the vineyards dictate styles. If a lighter Sangiovese comes off it, that’s what she makes—so there’s a range of light- to huge-bodied wines, something for everyone. She also makes several whites, including a sauvignon blanc, a pinot gris, a viognier, and a gewürztraminer.
What Makes Them Unique: They’re known for their cabernet franc, which is more full-bodied than most and is the result of blending from two different vineyards: a “warm” vineyard that delivers ripe plum notes and a “cool” vineyard that emphasizes lilac and blueberry flavors—a wine that Angela says is beautifully balanced. Closest to her heart though is the viognier. “It’s not sweet at all, and has a lot of body and pear and apple. It’s not too big, but not too small. A Goldilocks of a wine.”
Good to Know: While some wineries close down during the cooler months, WineGirl Wines is open year-round.
222 E. Wapato Way, Manson, WA; 509-293-9679; winegirlwines.com
Owned by husband-wife team Rob and Donna Mellisoni since 2010, they produce about 2,600 cases of wine a year, 50 percent of which comes from estate vineyards (a.k.a. local vineyards they own). By next year, they expect that number to jump to 80 percent. They make 19 wines, and their signature bottles are pinot grigio and a white blend of Riesling and gewürztraminer that isn’t too sweet but has “just a little bit of sugar and is gorgeous.” They really cleave to the Italian varietals though, made in the old-world Italian style, designed to be drunk at four or five years—barbera and Sangiovese predominantly.
What Makes Them Unique: Their 7,000-square-foot infinity-edge lawn that looks out over Lake Chelan, “a monster view of the valley, the lake, and up the hill.” Guests grab an Adirondack chair and the pourings come to them, so it’s really geared for relaxation. They also have live bands, cheese, and cured meat platters, and games on the lawn like cornhole.
Good to Know: Tastings include a 9½-inch wine glass with gold etching and the winery’s logo embossed on it.
3155 US-97 Alt, E. Chelan, WA; 509-293-1891; mellisonivineyards.com
C.R. Sandidge Wines
Founded in 1999, this family-owned winery is now the baby of husband-wife team Dan and Athena Sandidge and produces 1,100 cases a year for their own winery—but also makes wines for others as well. They specialize in blends, two red Bordeaux-style that incorporate Syrah, petite sirah, and some merlot and malbec. The area lends itself to that bold style. “Four of the red Bordeaux varietals are grown here, the superstars of red grapes like malbec and merlot, plus cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon,” says Dan. “Syrah does really well too.” They also make white blends from Riesling and gewürztraminer grapes. The whites are aged in French oak barrels and sit on yeast sediment—the way chardonnays do—which imparts more of a creamy, full-bodied mouthfeel to them.
What Makes Them Unique: Come mid-October, they’ll be offering cheeses sourced from Spain and France and some prepared meats like French pâté and Spanish Iberico ham to pair with the wines. Plus, while tastings often feature live music, they prefer solo acts, like classical guitarists, as opposed to bands. “We want people to enjoy music but not have their senses assaulted by too many decibels.”
Good to Know: They’re making the area’s first dolcetto, an Italian red grape variety that’s lower in tannins and acidity than a barbera, with a very ripe blackberry note. Though it won’t be ready for sale until 2019, they plan to offer barrel tastings this November.
145 Wapato Way, Manson, WA; 509-682-3704; crsandidgewines.com
This winery, owned by David Morris, clocks in at 1,500 barrels a year and has two distinctive brands: the more fun and playful Davey Outrageous line and the more serious Napeequa wines. From a red blend featuring mourvèdre to one that’s Syrah-driven, they’re meant to be “easy drinking.” Meanwhile, on the white side, they’re proud of their chardonnay, which Morris says “shows people how great chardonnay can be in Washington, not just California.” They also sell a dry rosé made from Syrah.
What Makes Them Unique: Morris describes their tasting room as “Early American Penitentiary Cafeteria,” due to the white walls and concrete floors. Since the whole 2,000-square-foot space is geared to production, they set up a mobile temporary tasting area so people can come in and taste while they’re making the wine. “What’s cool is that people can come touch the barrels, walk up to a fermenter, really be in it. A lot of time at a tasting room, you’re removed from the actual process, but here guests are engaged and taken to another level of inquisitiveness.”
Good to Know: In addition to the Lake Chelan area, they just opened up a new tasting room in their wine cellar in Leavenworth, WA.
300 S. Quetilquasoon Road, Suite 3; 509-763-1600; napeequa.com
For more info on Lake Chelan and its wineries, visit lakechelan.com.