Blossom Time in Chelan, Washington

By Henry Allen

In spring, the landscape surrounding the easternmost end of 55-mile-long Lake Chelan bursts out in full bloom. Orchards and vineyards line the hillsides rolling down to the nation’s third deepest lake. The sweet scent of apple blossoms perfumes the breeze. Wine tasting rooms serve up the fruits of their labors from past vintages amid vineyards budding out for the new season. Chefs celebrate the season with dishes made from a bounty of local ingredients. A lingering chill blows off the North Cascades, remnants of the long Central Washington winter, mingling with the warm sunshine Chelan is known for. It’s not yet time for the sun-worshipping crowds of summer to descend on the lake. Spring is the perfect season for a Lake Chelan getaway.

The city of Chelan sits only about three hours from Seattle. But this region is a world away in terms of landscape and climate. Because of its location on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range, it’s blessed with a drier climate and more extreme highs and lows on the thermometer, perfect conditions for growing wine grapes, apples, cherries and more.  

Ice Age glaciers carved out a deep chasm, which is today’s Lake Chelan. An excellent way to get your bearings and take in the spectacular scenery of the lake is to board a boat in Chelan for a day cruise 55 miles to the opposite end of the lake and back. In spring season before May, you’ll take the Lady Express, which reaches its destination at the remote village of Stehekin in 2.5 hours. Beginning in May, you have the option of taking either the Lady Express or the Lady of the Lake, which reaches Stehekin in four hours. Either way, you’ll navigate the lake as it enters the mountains of the North Cascades, a scenic cruise you won’t soon forget. 

Spend your remaining time exploring the lake shores around the communities of Chelan and Manson, visiting vineyards and wineries. Lake Chelan Wine Valley is known for its warm days and cool nights, a long growing season relatively free of frosts and its distinctive soil of sandy sediment rich in minerals. These aspects of the Chelan terroir produce fine, well-balanced wines. The king of Chelan wines is syrah with more acres planted than any other single varietal. Next is pinot noir, then chardonnay, merlot and riesling, all testament to the versatility of this growing region. To a lesser degree, other varietals are grown as well. 

With more than 30 winery tasting rooms to choose from, narrowing down your wine trail isn’t an easy task. Suffice it to say that you will unlikely be disappointed whichever wineries you choose to visit. Lake Chelan Valley is divided into distinct wine districts making your wine trail a bit easier to navigate. You should visit at least one winery in each of the districts over a few days. That said, there are some standouts.

In the Downtown Chelan wine district, visit Vin du Lac, a quaint winery tasting room set among its vineyards with views of the lake. On site, they also grow their own produce and operate an excellent bistro. For quality of the wines and food and the picturesque farm-like setting, a visit to Vin du Lac for a tasting and lunch is a must. Also located downtown on Woodin Ave., you’ll find One Wines, Inc., a mom-and-pop winery with a minimalist approach: Every year, the proprietors make only one red, one white and one rose. They have been so successful in this endeavor that they are expanding to open One Brewery in the summer of 2023. 

Next drive the north shore of the lake to the North Shore and Downtown Manson wine districts. Here you’ll find the majority of Lake Chelan Valley wineries dotting the hillsides above the lake and along Wapato Way in downtown Manson. You could spend a few weeks to visit them all, so, since you must choose, head to Benson Vineyards for a tasting (and an artisan pizza at Cafe Myth if you’re hungry). In Manson, nine tasting rooms line the downtown main drag, so you will easily be able to customize your own winery walking tour. 

Along the South Shore wine district, there are a number of excellent wineries. Definitely visit Tsillan Cellars, Nefarious Winery and Karma Vineyards. Tsillan Cellars is a destination winery and restaurant set among sloping vineyards. Nefarious offers a limited selection of wines in a tasting room set amid their vineyards above the lake. If their guest house (adjacent to the tasting room) is available, book these spacious, stylish digs for your stay. Karma Vineyards is known for their bubblies, made in the méthode champenoise, but they also make a variety of exceptional wines of the non-bubbly variety. While there, treat yourself to lunch at their 18 Brix Restaurant.

Wine isn’t the only beverage Chelan is known for. Since you are in apple country, you’d be remiss if you did not visit a local cidery. The family that operates Root Wood Cider Co. in Manson has been growing apples for more than 100 years. The cidery and tasting room is located in their orchard, and apple blossom time in spring is a gorgeous time to visit. With a variety of nine hand-crafted ciders to choose from, you’re sure to fine one that appeals. 

Plan your spring blossom travels to Lake Chelan at Find a map of Lake Chelan Wine Valley wineries at