AVA, So What?!

We’ve been talking more about the Lake Chelan American Viticultural Area (AVA) – does it actually matter and what does it do to the wine?

by Chad Steiner

Late in 2023 I posted about the Lake Chelan AVA (here). It helped me sound out in long form what’s special about the Lake Chelan AVA and the importance of an AVA. In discussions since then, its become apparent that an area to be built upon is the “So What”. I’d like to use this week’s blog to help describe… why does it matter to you about AVA, why should you care, why should anyone pay attention to AVA, what difference does it make anyway…??? If you read the longer version from December – you might have thought – sure, I hear the story on pumice in the soil, but what does it mean for the wine I’ll buy and drink?? I hear about the clear lake water, I hear about the cooler temperatures in September and October… but, so what?

Are you a coffee drinker? How about single origin coffee? Do you buy Hatch New Mexico Chili Peppers or Chili Powder? Where are Banana’s grown? How about the PNW and its special hops? How about excellent Mandarin oranges from the Sierra Foothills of California? Georgia Peaches. Walla Walla Sweet Onions. Quincy Corn. Tea from Nepal. I think this makes the point about place. Without question place influences what’s grown and how it tastes. And… most definitely wine grapes and the resulting wines.

Place is special. Place or geography influences what’s grown there. Similar to how something is farmed affects a foods nutrient content. Place affects taste. Taste can evoke memories. Taste is connected to our psychology. Picture yourself biting into a lemon – does it activate your taste buds just thinking of it…? Really close your eyes and visualize it. Mouth watering maybe. Now, lets get to the So What. I’ll wrap up this blog by emphasizing three main things we believe influence the wines made from grapes grown in the Lake Chelan AVA and how it affects the wine. The SO WHAT.

  1. “The Lake” – Lake Chelan itself.
    1. Lake Effect: The lake moderates our temperatures. Historically lower temperatures in September and October.
      1. SO WHAT – this gives us the ability to hang the grapes longer while they ripen and develop great flavor while maintaining acidity.
        1. In the wine = beautiful acidity with great flavors.
  • “The Lake” – Lake Chelan itself.
    • Pristine Irrigation Water: Almost all our irrigation water comes directly out of the lake.
      • SO WHAT – Lake Chelan is fed by a MASSIVE watershed going deep into the Cascade Mountains that includes over 50 glaciers. The irrigation water that goes to our grapes is pristine. Contrast this with ground water that can often be high in salts or other elements.
        • In the wine = an incredibly healthy sustainably sourced water going into vines that feed the fresh clean wines.
  • The Soil.
    • Flavor and Drainage: The only AVA with soils (many of them loaded with pumice) sitting on top of Granite in Washington State.
      • SO WHAT – Glacier Peaks eruptions contributed, pumice, quartz and mica to the soil.
        • In the wine = a unique and distinguishable minerality in whites and more complexity in reds.
      • SO WHAT – Pumice helps the soil drain. Well drained soils help insure we don’t over water the vines resulting in more balanced growth.
        • In the wine = balanced growth ensures wines won’t have heavy vegetative flavors. Resulting in Lake Chelan AVA wines that showcase fruit and an amazing bouquet.

The intent with the series on AVA is to emphasize an appreciation for where grapes are grown and the geography’s impact on the resulting wines. Lake Chelan AVA is special – but we’ll let you be the judge. Wherever your tasting adventures take you – be sure to look at the label. AVA specific wine = special. Vineyard specific = special. Washington State wine = special.

Have a great weekend everyone!