Tasting Lake Chelan’s finest wine
I have visited many vineyards, but none like Mellisoni. A four hour drive east of Seattle, the Mellisoni vineyard sits on a ten-acre lot hill overlooking beautiful Lake Chelan. The view was phenomenal and breathtaking as the surrounding mountains and the vibrant lake from the suns reflective sunlight lay in front of my eyes. Behind me were steep slopes with vines, where owners Donna and Robert Mellisoni eagerly awaited my partner, Britney Stevens, and I.
It started with a phone call to Mellisoni vineyards and now the time to bond over some fine wine with Robert and Donna. The feeling would be transparent to meeting an artist you are a big fan of. I was inspired by the stories I read about Mellisoni Vineyards, which lead to this very moment, meeting the owners and learning more about their wine.
We began our evening conversing over the award winning wine that Mellisoni produced this past year. We started with their Double Gold winning 2010 Pinot Grigio (Seattle Wine Awards 2011). Words are hard to come across when describing how great this wine is, but I will say this, it’s worth every drop. The taste was perfect; nothing was overpowering and the aromas only compliment this wonderful wine; the first words that come to thought and taste for the Pinot Grigio was sweet apple pears, with and a hint of honey. The aromas consist of fresh pears, apples, and a hint of flowers. Every sip felt like my mouth was biting into a fresh apple without the skin and crunch sound. To compliment the wine were amazing bell peppers with melted cheese, sides of salmon, cheese and crackers all of which paired well with the wine.
Followed by the 2010 Pinot Grigio was the 2008 Gewurztraminer. It has a sweet yet spicy texture that landed on my palette triggering perfect satisfaction. I would pair the 2008 Gewurztraminer with rich seafood dishes like salmon, tilapia, and clams, or better yet with Asian dishes (Thai Food) to balance the sweet and spiciness.
As we sipped the conversations veered into an exchange of industry stories. I shared my background, especially my passion for the wine industry, which is grounded in my love of culture and a sense of community. I’m often amazed in how wine makes people personable – turning strangers into friends. I admire the aspect of building relationships while drinking great wine. Rob and Donna shared their love and passion for the wines they make and explained their inspiration to open a vineyard. Their revelation developed after multiple trips to Italy. A local wine maker gave them advice that dug deeper than the very roots of the vines on the hills of Chelan. His advice was clear, “make wines that cater to your palette and enjoyment, because if no one else likes it, then at least you get to enjoy your own wine.”
They built their winery on that simple principle and since then have crafted award-winning wines including awards from Seattle Wine Awards, Tri Cities Awards, and rankings from Robert Parker’s panel. I asked Rob for a vineyard tour in hopes of both taking in the view and getting a chance for grape tasting. I figured it was worth a try to ask since I had never tasted wine grapes from vines before. And besides, closed mouths don’t get wine.
We made our way up the hill on a Rhino, which allowed us to ascend the immensely steep and gravely dirt road with ease. The wind was blowing hard, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time. That monster of a hill opened to an amazing view of Lake Chelan and the brilliant vineyard. A few deer greeted us as we approached the vines. They didn’t stay long, which is better news for the vines. I noticed that I forgot my camera so Rob took me back to the house to get my camera (I know spoiled little brat I am). We sped down and retrieved my camera and a wine bottle and went back up. We wondered around the vines as they explained the differences of grapes. I thought to myself, if the deer and birds enjoy the grapes, then I’m hoping I will too.
The Riesling grapes were amazing in taste. I never knew that wine grape skins were rich and thick as a banana peel with soft sweet juices escaping onto my palette as I bit down onto it. I chewed the grapes, savoring the texture of their skin, spitting out the seeds, and drank my wine. I loved the taste and more so trying to understand how these grapes made this great wine. The Gewurztraminer grapes were a deep purple, however Rob informed us that during the pressing process, the skins are not included, which allows the wine to turn into a light caramel color.
The Pinot Grigio wound up being one of my favorites. Again the skins were thick, rich in flavor, and juicy. All of the grapes had seeds, which in turn determines the ripeness (the darkness of the seed determines harvest time). Nets are used to cover the vines to keep out birds. But who could blame the birds? The grapes are not only scrumptious but left me wanting more.
We got back on the four-wheelers and rode higher up the hill to see more of the vines that were new and still growing for future harvest in a year or so. The climb upward led to a scenic view that I will never forget: a panoramic view of the vineyards with the sun setting on beautiful Lake Chelan. We saw waves, beautiful mountains, and the surrounding areas that embrace the lake.
We continued to bond with talking more about our business, being wine of course, but also about our ability to share our passion with the world. Mellisoni wines kept me thinking of what someone in Shanghai or Hong Kong would think after having a glass of their Pinot Grigio or Riesling. The possibilities were endless. Such great wines should be shared with the world; why else have wine if we can’t share it as we did with Rob and Donna?
The experience to share the wines was amazing, the stories behind the wines, while bonding in the enjoyment of the present, that’s what great wines are for. People in China, Singapore, Japan, or even Canada should pop open a bottle of Mellisoni and have a great time together as we did; Great wines, great people, and most of all enjoying the taste of culture from Lake Chelan.