Rising star Lisa Callan hasn’t yet outgrown her winery and tasting room in Woodinville, but the critical acclaim and sales approach for Callan Cellars is prompting her to open a second tasting room in Chelan.
Callan Cellars is taking over the Evans family’s quaint Stone House that overlooks the south shore of Lake Chelan. On Memorial Day weekend, Lisa and Mike Callan’s satellite tasting room will join the delicious neighborhood of Nefarious Cellars, Siren Song Wines, Tsillan Cellars, Mellisoni Vineyards and Karma Vineyards.
“We’ve been trying to find a second location for several years,” Lisa Callan said. “Lake Chelan is a place I’ve been going to ever since I was a kid, and it’s really taking off. It’s not just Memorial Day to Labor Day anymore. And the wineries and the wines have consistently been getting better.”
In an announcement to the Evans family’s wine club members of Tunnel Hill, second-generation vintner Guy Evans said of Callan Cellars, “We were looking for someone of that caliber and quality that would reflect the energies and the effort that we put in.”
When Callan launched her eponymous brand in 2016, she produced 2,000 cases in Woodinville. Awards immediately followed that debut release, and the success keyed by contracts with storied vineyards Boushey, Ciel du Cheval, Elephant Mountain and Quintessence, has her looking to increase production to 3,500 cases from the 2022 vintage.
“I don’t know if I can make that happen this year, but I want to grow the brand, and I will need to source from different vineyards to do that,” she said.
In Woodinville, her Artisan Hill District neighbors include Damsel Cellars, Kevin White and Three of Cups, and Callan said she has no plans to leave that location.
“We’re in a warehouse where we can produce in the back and sell in the front, but that area is becoming somewhat saturated,” Callan said. “We looked all around Washington — Sodo near the Starbucks headquarters downtown, Kirkland and Walla Walla — and we really like the growth potential of Chelan. And we have family and friends with places over there.”
It was little more than a decade ago when Callan came to the wine industry while raising her family, yet she showed an affinity for winemaking, particularly with Rhône varieties — led by a debutante-type release using a small lot of Picpoul from Dick and Luanne Boushey.
In the past four years of the Platinum Awards, Callan has received six Platinums. In 2021, her 2019 Boushey Vineyards Grenache earned a unanimous vote for Platinum — earning a Double Platinum — and the 99 points awarded for that wine left it just a whisker from being the top wine of the year-end judging of gold-medal winners. The Callan Cellars 2019 Mourvèdre also received a Double Platinum from the Great Northwest Wine panel.
The year prior, the Callan Cellars 2019 Boushey Vineyards Picpoul was voted as the Best White Wine at the Great Northwest Invitational, a competition staged at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore., for many of the Northwest’s top wine buyers.
“My largest production wine is the Grenache Blanc, but my favorite is the Picpoul,” Callan says. “When I first got my license in 2016, I immediately texted Dick and asked him for a half ton of Picpoul. He told me that he didn’t have any Picpoul available, but I could have Grenache Blanc. I kept bugging him every week.
“During crush, he tells me, ‘Lisa, don’t get mad at me, but I have a half ton of Picpoul,’ ” Callan recalls. “I’m in the middle of harvest with Lisa Packer in Woodinville and I say, ‘Oh my god! I got the Picpoul, but I don’t have a tank available!’ Thank goodness she knew someone who had an extra tank available to borrow. And the next year, both the Picpoul and the Grenache Blanc received double gold medals at the Seattle Wine Awards.”
WSU education leads to Callan Cellars in Woodinville
More than a decade after starting her family, Callan, who graduated from Sammamish High School, decided to go through Washington State University’s winemaking program on the urging of her husband, Mike, a trial lawyer in Bellevue, and his family. She looks back fondly upon her early days of inspiration at the Bramble Bump of JM Cellars in Woodinville and the team led by owner/winemaker John Bigelow.
That was followed by four years as assistant winemaker at Red Sky Winery and her ongoing collaboration in Woodinville with “the great group of women winemakers there.”
She has plans to add Riesling and perhaps a reserve-style Chardonnay to her production in Woodinville. Her list of Platinum winners from Great Northwest Wine panels in the past four years includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a GSM blend. Callan Cellars also includes Sangiovese and Cinsaut rosé, and she recently exchanged her Syrah contract at Ciel du Cheval for the Holmes family’s 1994 fan-trained Cabernet Sauvignon.
“I’ve always wanted an old vine Cab, so I got a small allocation from that block, which is clone 8,” she said. “They are beasts, and it’s really awesome to have access to that.”
Callan Cellars follows others to Lake Chelan Valley
Lake Chelan, a summertime playground for Seattle-area families, became more than that during the pandemic, particularly within the time frame of the shelter-in-place orders and urban unrest. For many, the ability to telecommute allowed them to turn their recreational homes into a second residence. Shop owners, restaurateurs and members of the Lake Chelan Wine Valley took pride in the support they received from the community.
Callan Cellars will become the latest in the series of Puget Sound-area wineries to open a satellite tasting room in the Chelan Valley, following Ancestry Cellars (Woodinville), Sigillo Cellars (Snoqualmie) and Skagit Cellars (La Conner). On the other hand, producers with headquarters in Chelan and a tasting room in Woodinville are Rocky Pond Estate Winery and Tsillan Cellars.
As a result of her wine touring in recent years, Callan says she is familiar with most of the lake community’s brands and many of its winemakers, particularly those on the north side of the lake while she was researching a possible business opportunity in Manson.
“This will probably take care of my weekends for a while,” Callan said. “I’ve got such a great team at my Woodinville tasting room that it practically runs itself without me being there, but I do like interacting with customers.”
Her second tasting room will come with a first-class view of Lake Chelan, and she plans to operate it in the short term primarily with her father Thursdays through Sundays. She does expect to receive occasional “cross-pollination” help from her Woodinville team because of the allure provided by Lake Chelan.
“We live in Issaquah, so it’s a pretty easy drive. My daughter and I made it last week in 2 hours and 35 minutes,” she says. “I don’t mind the drive, and it seems my best ideas come to me when I’m driving.”
Callan said this transaction with the Evans family does not involve the nearby 9 acres of vines, but it does include the Rainier House vacation rental. She said all previous reservations will be honored.
“I want to dip my foot into all of this one toe at a time,” Callan said. “I’m not a farmer, so to even think about a vineyard is too much for me right now, but never say never. I never would have thought that I’d have my own winery.”
And while Callan looks forward to spending more time in the sunny Columbia Valley, she can’t envision living in Chelan full-time.
“We still have one kid in college, and we live in a house that I tease my husband that they will have to peel my dead body off the floor to get me to leave,” she said with a chuckle, “but our stays in Chelan may get longer and longer.”