Like most parts of Eastern Washington, the greater Leavenworth/Wenatchee area has experienced a substantial increase in wineries over the past several years. The area is still first and foremost home to some of the state's top fruit orchards, but wineries are working their way onto the scene and are eager to please wine enthusiasts and curious tourists.
Drive through the area and you'll find tasting rooms seemingly as prevalent as the produce stands that dot the predominately agricultural landscape. I visited two of the wineries during a short trip in August.
Wedge Mountain Winery is located about five miles east of Leavenworth. The tasting room is quietly nestled among rows of pear and apple trees, and it's just far enough off of Highway 2 that you won't hear the constant drone of passing vehicles.
Beyond the orchards, owner and winemaker Charlie McKee has planted his own vineyards, and he's now able harvest a few tons annually, with riesling and lemberger grapes doing particularly well for the area.
Notable current releases include the 2010 Dry Riesling (about $18) with plenty of bright lemony, pink grapefruit flavors and a nearly bone-dry finish; the 2009 Columbia Valley Merlot (about $26), a lighter-style red with a hint of cherry and soft tannins; and the California-sourced Crested Butte Tawny (about $28). Unlike most ports, his wine hasn't been fortified, so the "hot" finish one might expect is beautifully balanced with layers of honey and toasted hazelnut.
About 30 minutes north of Wenatchee, off of Highway 97A and near the town of Entiat, you'll find Snowgrass Winery, one of Washington's bona fide nano-wineries. Owner and winemaker Alan Moen previously worked as barrel cellarmaster for Columbia Winery. He only produces about 200 cases annually at Snowgrass, and plans to stay that way while focusing on unfiltered red wines sourced primarily from Ciel du Cheval Vineyards in the Red Mountain Appellation.
Wines currently available include the 2008 Roaring Creek Red (about $22), a slightly plush sangiovese/merlot blend with ample flavors of cherry and red plum; the tasty 2008 Silver Falls Syrah (about $30) with wild berry flavors and nuances of chocolaty espresso; and the 2008 Entiatqua (about $32) a gorgeous combination of cabernet and merlot with floral aromas, round black cherry on the palate and silky tannins on the finish.
The tasting room at Wedge Mountain Winery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday. Tastings at Snowgrass Winery are available by appointment only by call 509-784-5101.
DAN RADIL is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.