Lake Chelan, in central Washington, is one of my absolute favorite places. Historically because of golf, waterskiing and maple bars from Judy Jane’s Bakery (R.I.P.)…BUT, over the last decade, the wine from this little AVA is PERFORMING! Love coming back each year to taste the latest. And this time I brought some back for you!

The same glacier that carved this narrow, deep (one of the world’s deepest!), exquisitely refreshing lake for vacationers also left behind sandy, quartzy soil that offers great potential to wine grapes. This fortuitous geology helped earn little Lake Chelan Valley its AVA designation. And with many vines now reaching 20 years of age, the wines (and winemaking) keep improving.

I’ll never forget showing up to a Bordeaux tasting in Beverly Hills years ago with a 2010 cab franc from Chelan (Tildio). Think legendary competition like Haut Brion and Montrose. Anyway that 2010 vintage was perfect, so I was confident (despite flagrantly breaking the geography rules). Most guests had never tasted any Washington wines, let alone from an obscure town best known for apple sauce. Anyway, of course it crushed. Crowd wowed. Awesome. I was so proud of Chelan!

So today I’ve got a couple wines that showcase Chelan’s range: plush syrah and light, expressive pinot. ALL the grapes are from the AVA. NOT blended with Columbia Valley or Walla Walla grapes. That’s cheating. This is pure Chelan.

Tsillan Cellars Reserve Estate Syrah 2016 ($35)
Plush and juicy syrah from a small plot of 18yo vines on the southwestern shore. Broad and smooth across the palate with perky blackberry and Bing cherry. The new French oak and syrah spices bring a sort of Mexican chocolate mocha to the party. Pair with lacquered bbq ribs and invite me! (Note: this is the “reserve” estate syrah, typically only available to members.)

Chelan 2-pack: Tsillan Cellars Reserve Estate Syrah 2016 + Tunnel Hill Pinot Noir 2017 – ($62)
Just a few of these 2-packs available. Discover how well these Rhone and Burgundy varietals can perform in Lake Chelan! There is very little pinot grown in the AVA and this one from Tunnel Hill has deliciously unexpected charm, structure (and price). Think fresh, bright lingonberries with clove, cinnamon and earth. Perfect salmon pairing.

Now here’s a quick special this week. Leaving Washington, but staying in the western hemisphere…

Nicolas Catena Zapata 2014 ($72)
To my cab and Bordeaux lovers, malbec fans, collectors: just a few bottles today at the lowest price ever offered on this critical juggernaut. Over the last 15 years, this 75% cabernet, 25% malbec blend ranks it the WORLD’S top-10 highest rated cabs, alongside, um…Cheval Blanc, Chateau Margeaux, Petrus, Chateau Lafite and the like. Wines that cost $300-1000+. It always represents crazy value and I’m giving it away here for you to try. Grown at over 4500ft with intense lumosity, huge diurnal shifts and fascinating soil structure, it’s just layered with complexity. Elegant and balanced with dark, brambly, juicy berries, cassis, tobacco and wildflowers. Hand-picked and made with extraordinary care. Hold for 20yrs, gift it, or drink it with a grass-fed ribeye immediately!

97pts James Suckling
95pts Robert Parker
96pts Jeb Dunnuck