Chelan Wine Association Celebrates 10 Years

The party was a sweet one.  Steve Kludt, grandfather of the valley’s wine industry, gave a moving retrospective of the early years.  He paused several times to let the tears in his eyes subside and his voice steady.   His dream had been to stand before a room full of Lake Chelan winemakers and vineyard owners – a cadre of professionals set on creating a world-class wine region here in the valley.  And at the front of the room that night, Steve’s dream came true.

The occasion was the ten year anniversary of the local wine association.  Since its formation, the industry has exploded:  over sixteen wineries, hundreds of grapes planted, and in 2009, the creation of the Lake Chelan American Viticulture Area (AVA) – a distinction that quite literally put Lake Chelan ‘on the map’.

 I joined the wine board last year, and since then we have been busy setting our sights on the next ten years worth of work.  I had the opportunity to follow Steve at the microphone to articulate this vision.  We have work to do:  promote our industry – because there are still a lot of wine lovers who don’t know about Lake Chelan.  And elevate our game – because we can still improve our wines, our service, our experience. 

The evening was especially moving for me because I had lost my grandfather at the age of 88 just a few days earlier.  That night, I spoke about the future of the wine industry in the context of his passing.  He was the second in the four generations of family to farm in the valley.  He benefited from the hard work his dad had put in, starting the farm just before the Depression. 

“You know Guy”, Gramps would tell me, “Your great-grandfather really did all the hard work.  I just wish he had lived a little longer to see the fruits of his labor.”

Today, we are doing the hard work of establishing an industry.  It is my hope that like our original family apple orchard, our winery and the local industry to which it belongs will bring prosperity to many in the valley.   In the room that evening, celebrating with Steve Kludt and others, I sensed we were well on our way to making this a reality. 

Michelle Fanton