Tunnel Hill Winery

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The hot summer heat is always the hottest right before cresting Bear Mountain and heading into Chelan. Once over the hill it is clear why people settled here at all. It’s all about the lake.

Not soon after this experience do you come to a fork in the road, one up lake toward the end of the road by 25-mile creek and one into the town of Chelan. It seems that this intersection was designed for these two complimentary perspectives on Chelan. Pat and Mike’s Market and Tunnel Hill Winery, both essential resources for recreation and both building off an essential identity of Chelan–it’s all about family.

Tunnel Hill Winery stands firm with an old aesthetic that promises to be the future of wine in Chelan. The Evans’s are going right to the heart of great wine, longevity. And one of the most solid ways to do that, not just building your tasting room out of rocks from the center of the Knapps Hill Tunnel, is through the cultivation of family and the way a winery can present that to a community, fermented down to the taste of Lake Chelan’s crossroads with wine. Do we plant grapes for love or for economy?

My girlfriend and I stopped here last summer still damp from a swim in the lake and I ended up in a long conversation with the family after helping an RV traveler jump start their RV with my little Toyota pickup. A slightly dream-like synchronicity started to permeate my experience as I sipped on the wine. Which is often the case as my own family has lived in the area for a long time and I’m only really ever one-degree of separation from a local. I felt at home here. The wine’s flinty-ness played off their fruit easily, reminding me of eating raspberries in my grandmothers wild patch up lake.

The viogneir stood out, but it was also 105 degrees that day, so the more subtle sweetness and clarity of the wine offered much needed cool relaxation.

Malaga Springs Winery – Bold, unfiltered and powerful beauty

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I’ve never tasted nostalgia until I sipped on Al’s clear, clean, yet unfiltered and unrelentingly bright Sauvignon Blanc. Grown with the water from a deep well that sips from the basalt aquifer below Jump Off Ridge, which is the same water that fed a lake I grew up doing back-flips into, the unique minerality and bold fruitiness of his wine collection stands as some of the most delicious, concentrated, and unique wines I’ve tasted. The wine I want to drink is not only delicious by objective standards, but is like art–it pulls a feeling out from the depths of our emotional experience and connects us with something bigger. And Kathy and Al are zen masters at getting to the heart of feeling. Go do a tasting, if the 14 wine tasting doesn’t make you feel something, they certainly will.

With this one taste, I understood that our bias, our experience, and our love of nature and our families is what makes wine taste great. It can chemically look like the right wine, but if it can’t connect you to something greater, it is just tasty alcohol. Wine should connect us back to the people and places we love and help us grow new connections and community. Kathy and Al know that so well, from the insanely ornamental landscape of their winery (thanks to the green-thumbed-Kathy), to the rolling grape fields looking over Wenatchee, to the community of vagabonds that call Malaga Springs their local pub; every inch of land and milliliter of wine at Malaga Springs has authentic intention and care in it. Something I hope to taste and be a part of for a very long time.

My top three wines on his list now are:

Sauvignon Blanc 2012: Sunshine, flint, and fruit
2010 Sangiovese and the Sangiovese Rose: Truly unique, no-one in Washington is doing this grape better than Al
2010 Syrah and 2010 Reserve Syrah: This grape simply fits the landscape and the reserve will explode your taste buds