Lake Chelan area wins wine appellation
The federal government has recognized the Lake Chelan area in north-central Washington as the state's 11th distinct wine grape-growing region.
The Associated Press
YAKIMA — The federal government has recognized the Lake Chelan area in north-central Washington as the state's 11th distinct wine grape-growing region.
Ryan Pennington of the Washington Wine Commission said today that the U.S. Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has approved the area for appellation status. The approval will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday and take effect 30 days later.
The government awards appellation status to regions, also known as American Viticultural Areas, to recognize their distinct climate and soil.
The appellation for Lake Chelan includes lands adjacent to the southern 12 miles of Lake Chelan. The region already has 13 bonded wineries and 260 acres of planted grapes, with more likely to come.
"Even though there's only 260 acres planted, from a public-importance perspective, this is a great place to come wine-tasting," said Judy Phelps, owner and winemaker at Hard Row to Hoe and president of the Lake Chelan Wine Growers Association.
"Unlike some of the other AVAs, we're already a tourist destination. In terms of facilities for tourists — restaurants and resorts and hotels — as a destination wine-tasting spot, we've got it all over those other guys," she said.
Washington is the nation's second-largest producer of premium wine, after California. Valued at about $3 billion annually, the industry has seen steady growth in the past two decades. Grape plantings increased from 24,000 acres in 1999 to an estimated 33,000 this year, and Washington licensed its 602nd winery in February.
The first grapes were planted in the Lake Chelan area in 1998, making the region young as a wine grape-growing area.
For that reason, Phelps said, growers and vintners are still learning which grapes grow best there. White varieties are most popular — pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and viognier — with syrah the most-planted red wine grape.
Growers and vintners also are experimenting more with early ripening red varieties, such as malbec, Sangiovese and cabernet franc.
"Lake Chelan is still very much a science experiment, because we're young," Phelps said.
The last appellation to be recognized in Washington was Snipes Mountain, a 4,145-acre area in the Yakima Valley that received recognition in January.
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