Wenatchee event to highlight North Central Washington wine region

By on August 9, 2014
The Wahluke Slope in Washington state is one of the Columbia Valley's key grape-growing areas and is part of the North Central Washington wine country.

The Wahluke Slope is part of the North Central Washington wine country and is one of the most important growing areas in Washington. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

WENATCHEE, Wash. – Washington’s original wine country is on the comeback trail, and an August event will put it on display.

The North Central Washington Wine Awards will take place Aug. 23 at the Town Toyota Center in downtown Wenatchee and will highlight some of the best wines in this region of the state.

Tickets for the gala event are $40 each. Winners of the fourth annual North Central Washington Wine Awards competition will be announced throughout the evening. The North Central Washington Wine Awards is put on by Foothills Magazine, a publication of the Wenatchee World newspaper.

The event includes many of the award-winning wineries alongside appetizers from regional restaurants, sort of a scaled-down Taste Washington.

This year’s competition, which was conducted by Great Northwest Wine, drew 244 entries from 37 wineries in Douglas, Chelan, Okanogan and Grant counties.

This year’s competition, which was conducted in June, included eight wine professionals who evaluated the wines under blind conditions. They were: Don Elsing, wine director of Sun Mountain Lodge; Barb Robertson, a Wenatchee area restaurateur; Daniel Carr, owner of Visconti’s restaurants in Wenatchee and Leavenworth; Heather Unwin, executive director of the Red Mountain AVA Alliance; Ken Robertson, wine columnist for Wine Press Northwest magazine; Jay Drysdale, owner and winemaker for Bella Wines in Naramata, British Columbia; Mike Rader, member of the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel; and Rick Steigmeyer, staff writer and wine blogger for the Wenatchee World and feature writer for Foothills Magazine.

Pioneers of North Central Washington wine country

Lake Chelan is part of the North Central Washington wine region.

Wine grapes were grown along the shores of Lake Chelan late in the 19th century. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Though the Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Lake Chelan areas have only been developing for the past 15 years or so, these regions make up Washington’s original wine country.

In 1874, John Galler of East Wenatchee opened the state’s first known winery. He operated his winery until 1910. Today, a Cashmere winery called Dutch John’s pays homage to Galler’s pioneering efforts.

In 1875, Philip Miller opened a winery in Wenatchee. According to The Wine Project by Ron Irvine, his winery operated for one year.

And as early as the 1890s, a thriving wine grape industry existed on the shores of Lake Chelan. Though those vineyards ultimately were replaced by apple and cherry orchards, the wine industry in Lake Chelan reappeared in 1998 and has since grown to more than 20 wineries and nearly 300 acres of vineyards.

For the entire North Central Washington region, about 70 wineries are in operation today.

Here are the best-in-show awards for the competition’s first three years:

  • 2011: Beaumont Cellars 2009 Syrah
  • 2012: Icicle Ridge Winery 2011 The Blondes Gewürztraminer
  • 2013: Silvara Vineyards 2010 Quartette red blend

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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