We have heard from so many people about Lake Chelan and the surrounding area. It seems like its everyone’s favorite summer getaway– many people have a second home there or schedule an annual vacation rental.
We certainly appreciate the appeal of spending summers on a lake. Brian’s family owns a cottage on Lake Erie where he lived during college and a few years following, and where I spent many a summer with him boating, swimming, water skiing and more.
While Washingtonians pride themselves on their big bodies of water– Lake Chelan is one of the largest lakes in the state and the Puget Sound is world renowned– neither come close to Lake Erie in size (ex. Puget Sound covers 1,020 sq mi compared to Lake Erie’s 9,940 sq mi).
However, I do think both Lake Chelan and the Sound outrank Lake Erie in terms of beauty– I simply can’t get enough of the mountains and foothills that tower over both of those bodies of water.
We haven’t made it to the Chelan area in the summer, but we also aren’t sure we want to–we don’t love crowds of people, and from what we’ve heard the region explodes with tourists during the summer months. Instead, I found a getaway package for the off-season, and we made plans to spend our long Presidents Day-weekend enjoying Chelan and the winter weather.
The package was for the Mountain View Lodge and Resort, and included complimentary wine tastings at a few area wineries, perks at local restaurants, a guided tour of the Manson scenic loop and more. We were able to enjoy most of these benefits during our weekend stay, as well as some other activities I had researched.
While we love snowy getaways, the one downside to traveling in the winter is that sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate. I was tracking Stevens Pass on the WDOT website the week leading up to our adventure, concerned it might not be open and that we might not make it to the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. It’s still hard for me to remember that you sometimes cannot physically get where you would like to go if the pass experiences feet of snowfall or scheduled avalanche blasts that have to be cleared. Thankfully those things occurred earlier in the week, and the traction tires on my Vue were all we needed to safely surmount the summit!
The weather cooperated for our journey to and from Chelan, but it did not cooperate for our time in Chelan. We had looked into renting snow mobiles and going tubing, but the majority of the time we were there it was overcast and raining. Not exactly perfect conditions for playing in the snow. We had one morning where the clouds cleared long enough for us to get a glimpse of blue skies, but they quickly regrouped and we were returned to gray mist.Happily the drowsy atmosphere this created was conducive to rest and relaxation, which was the ultimate goal of our weekend, regardless of whether we spent it in or out of doors.
On our way to Chelan we stopped at a few wineries along the eastern shore of Lake Chelan. As I was researching things to do, I discovered the region was celebrating a Red Wine and Chocolate festival during our stay! While we’ve committed to cutting back on sugar in 2017, we thought we would reward our thus far exemplary behavior by sharing a few tastings (dark chocolate is good for your health, right?!).
Our first stop was Chelan Estate Winery and Vineyard where we tried a few of the estate wines, learned a little more about the area, and got to meet another couple’s new yellow lab puppy–adorable!
Right next door was our second stop at Siren Song Vineyard and Estate Winery, which was much more than just a tasting room– it was a destination with a dining and tasting area, a kitchen for cooking classes, and a beautiful patio and lawn where they host weddings and events overlooking Lake Chelan. While we usually share a tasting, we each ordered our own here so we could do the chocolate pairing as well as try some of the other wines, including their sparkling wine. The Italian-inspired wines ended up being our favorites!
Our last stop was only a little ways down the road at Tsillan Cellars (pronounced Chelan– they had to correct us!) which was another beautiful chateau-style winery with a restaurant set back among their vineyards.
I actually added it to the list because their website said they had live music, and we were not disappointed! Our tasting was good, but we ultimately ended up staying so we could enjoy the music by Mac Potts. I’m including a link to his Instagram (you can visit it even if you don’t have Instagram) so you can watch videos of him playing piano and singing. He’s incredible! He would run loops and step to the side and play alto sax, he seemed to be able to play a little bit of everything, and he was entertaining and took requests from the crowd.
As if his talent wasn’t impressive enough, I was personally even more blown away by the fact that he’s able to perform so beautifully given he’s blind. I struggle to play the piano and sax while I’m staring right at the instrument and the music–I have a real appreciation for his gift and could have sat listening to him all day. It was one of my favorite stops of our trip!
We finally decided we should make our way around and over to Manson, which is about 15-minutes from Chelan on the northern shore of Lake Chelan. The clouds were still in tact, coating the surrounding foothills in mist, but the sun was shining through in ways that were eerie but beautiful. Traveling along the northern shore I took some of the more beautiful pictures of our trip.
We checked into our hotel without any issues, dropped off our things and then walked around downtown for a little bit, ducking in shops and deciding where we wanted to grab dinner.
Given Brian went along with my wine tastings, I was happy to go along with his craft beer tasting, which we sampled at Lake Chelan Brewing Company. They had a perfect sampler of four beers for us to taste, but I was much more enamored by the record player next to me on the bar and the baskets of vinyl albums behind me that patrons could choose from and add to the pile to be played next! What an awesome manual take on the jukebox!
I knew I would like the people around us because Led Zeppelin was playing when we walked in. I grabbed my favorite CSNY album and added it to the pile, and we made friends with the people sitting next to us.
One of the guys noticed Brian’s camera and offered to take our pictures so Brian set it up and showed him how to work it. It ended up being the only picture of us from the trip, which is great, except that LITERALLY everything in the picture is in focus except us! How does that happen!??! Oh well–I still love the picture. :)
The next morning we slept in and then headed to Blueberry Hills for brunch. During the summer months it offers pick-your-own blueberries, but during the winter it just has an extremely popular breakfast and lunch!
It was really busy when we arrived and we ended up sharing a table with two other couples who seemed to be together. They had been snowmobiling earlier in the week so we got to hear about their adventures until our food arrived. We ordered the blueberry blintz (to die for!) and the Danish yeast waffles with blueberry topping (very good!), and we also got to try some of their fresh-squeezed blueberry juice.
The weather seemed to be improving a little so we decided to check out the the Manson Scenic Loop our hotel had recommended. Although we weren’t staying long enough to join their guided tour, they had given us a map so we could drive it on our own. We spent the next hour pulling over at various overlooks and taking pictures.
Along the way I realized I had lost my phone! I knew I had it at the hotel in the morning so we started looking there. When we couldn’t find anything, we circled back to Blueberry Hills where unfortunately we had the same response.
I have never lost my phone–I couldn’t believe it! Brian thought it might have fallen out one of the times I jumped out of the car to take pictures, but I was sure that if that was the case, it was gone for good. There was snow piled everywhere and a fair amount of traffic going by.
We pulled over at the very first overlook where we had stopped before, and as I got out I could see it face down in a snowbank! I was laughing somewhat hysterically when I climbed back into the car because I simply could NOT believe we had found it! And that it was in tact! And that it was still working! The rest of the trip I was checking on it every few minutes–I don’t ever want to do that again!
Since we had already seen the loop we turned around to head back to Manson. Just then the clouds parted, and I got one picture featuring blue sky– the only one of the entire trip. If I haven’t lost my phone, we might not have timed it right. What an adventure!
It was early afternoon by the time we resolved all of our mishaps so we decided to move on with our day and try a new winery on our list, Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards, which was out in the countryside and on our way back to town.
We pulled up to a fun pod of buildings– one that looked like a tasting room and one that looked more like a manufacturing area. There was a fire pit and some outdoor seating around small fire rings that looked very inviting, and I stopped to take a picture of a boat with their name printed on it out in the lawn.
I found the name intriguing and assumed it was derived from the challenges working the surrounding countryside and tending the vineyards. The guy helping us with our tasting quickly corrected me and told the actual story behind their name, which I couldn’t believe. They have it posted on their website:
Edgemont Lodge was built about 1924 a few miles uplake from Lucerne at Lightning Creek in an area called Point Lovely.
During the late 1930s construction was winding down at Grand Coulee Dam and a few of the Coulee Dam professional ladies moved to Edgemont Lodge to “serve” the miners from the newly operational Howe Sound Mine.
One story has it that a long-time Manson resident ran a rowboat taxi service from Lucerne to Point Lovely in support of the thriving enterprise.
Need we explain more?
The guy helping us was quite the storyteller so we were both laughing by the time he finished! As I looked around the tasting room, it became obvious to me that this induendo carries forward in everything they do and sell. (For instance, one of the wines we tasted was called the S&M. It’s a blend of Syrah and Malbec–get your head out of the gutter!)
I’m too embarrassed to post the picture of the wallpaper–you will have to zoom in on one of the pictures below to see it for yourself. Warning: Adults only!
We really enjoyed the wines and ended up buying a bottle before heading back to town. After dropping everything off at the hotel and relaxing for a little while, we finished our afternoon wandering around Manson and eventually walked to the The Winemaker’s Grill at Wapato Point Cellars for dinner. There was a young girl playing guitar throughout our meal that perfectly accompanied by red wine flight and steak skewers with goat cheese and bacon. It was a perfect ending to our evening!
We turned in early, indulging in TV, which we don’t have at home, until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. The next morning we were relaxed and up early, heading out by 7 a.m. to make the snowy drive back through the mountains and home to our cat.
It was a lovely winter weekend– I see why people are enamored with the area, and I highly recommend a visit. We are thinking about returning to the Lake Chelan area in spring before it gets too busy but just as the weather is warming up so we can take the Lady of the Lake day-trip from Chelan to Stehekin, a town on the northern-most point of the lake that’s only accessible by boat. There are so many things to see and do in the area year-round– we will be back!
Here are some of the other restaurants, wineries and shops we visited throughout our stay with a couple notes:
- Lake Chelan Cheese Shop – Worth the stop. We picked up some incredible mushroom brie and garlic cheese curds.
- Troy’s Pizza – We shared a calzone and it was just ok. Probably would skip it.
- Sunset Grill – We shared a pizza and it was delicious. This place is completely unassuming, our waitress was lovely, and it was busy with locals.
- Stormy Mountain Brewing – We tried a small sampler of their beers and they were just ok. We preferred the selection at Lake Chelan Brewery.
- Lake Chelan Winery – In the same building as the cheese shop and has a small shop full of various wine-related items for sale. The tasting was good and complimentary, unlike most places. There is outdoor seating with heat lamps and blankets that looked very inviting!
- Cairdeas Winery – One of our favorite stops. We loved the atmosphere and bought two bottles of their Tri wine. Would definitely go back and spend a little more time.
- Benson Vineyards Estate Winery – One of our least favorite stops. The tasting room and workers seemed unnecessarily pretentious. It had a beautiful view, but we had no interest in staying and didn’t enjoy our tasting.
- C.R. Sandidge Winery – Home to my favorite tasting room staff. The gentleman (I can’t remember his name!) took such good care of us. I loved his descriptions of the wine before each tasting, and the wines themselves were very good. We bought a couple bottles, one of which was Brian’s favorite wine of the trip.
- Rood Wood Cider Co. – Ciders were ok but nothing blew us away. The tasting room and workers were very nice and within walking distance of everything else in Manson. Probably worth a pop in.
- Washington Gold Cider – It was actually closed the day we stopped by but their ciders are on sale next door at the Lake Chelan Winery and cheese shop. We bought a small jar of the cherry cider and it was delicious!