At Rocky Pond Winery it is all about family which is evident with the beautiful array of family photos that adorn a wall in their Chelan, WA tasting room. This boutique Washington winery is owned by David and Michelle Dufenhorst, who’s wine making journey began 2015 when they purchased their first established 50-acre vineyard, Clos CheValle. Shortly after their second vineyard, Double D Vineyard was added and this 165-acre site, was planted with mostly red varietals.
Touring the Clos CheValle Vineyard is a great way to get a better appreciation for the decade old vines that scatter the 1250 to 1600 foot elevation hillside. With magnificent views of Lake Chelan, Clos CheValle the vines of the vineyard mingle with the residential homes that make up Clos CheValle. Walking trails take you past an array of high-quality Pinot Noir and Pinot Menunier grapes, along with outstanding Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier and some Syrah.
Strolling through the vineyards, surveying the geography, experiencing the weather and then tasting the wines, you begin to realize how grapes are truly an expression of where they are grown.
Shane Collins, the winemaker for Rocky Pond Winery since 2017, has deep roots in the Lake Chelan area and that is reflected in his winemaking process. Although, I did not get to met Shane in person while visiting Rocky Pond Winery due to his busy harvest schedule, he was kind enough to answer some questions for me by email. Considered one of Washington wine’s rising stars by Seattle Magazine I asked Shane why he choose to stay in the Lake Chelan Valley to produce wine as opposed to the other wine regions in Washington State.
“I grew up in Lake Chelan growing apples. Being able to make wines from the same soils and area that family has farmed for 4 generations is very important to me. The geology and geography of Lake Chelan is so different from most grape growing regions in our state. We grow and create wines that are discernible from our neighbors to the south, mostly in acidity. Something that unfortunately is disappearing in modern wines.”
The uniqueness of Lake Chelan terroir began with a glacier that formed the lake and guarded the region from the massive geological event of the last ice age known as the Missoula Floods. The glacier set the deposits of the layered metamorphic rock and granite soil in the valley which was then covered by volcanic ash when the Glacier Peak volcano erupted. With the ideal soil composition in place and the addition of high-desert climate along with moderate temperatures due to the lake effect, the land surrounding Lake Chelan has become an ideal location for growing wine grapes.
Clos CheValle Vineyard is producing some awards winning wines, like Rocky Pond’s 2017 100% Estate Gewurztraminer which grabbed silver at the Seattle Wine Awards
The Rocky Pond tasting room is a nice modern gem that is warm and welcoming, with a large array of seating options available both indoor and outdoor. Offering both genuine hospitality and some of the areas best wines, the staff at Rocky Pond will walk you through a tastings with enthusiasm and exceptional wine knowledge.
Chelan tasting room manager Jill Babcock, is extremely knowledgeable about wine did a wonderful job introducing me to each of the Rocky Pond wines on the tasting menu.
Made from 100% Estate Clos CheValle Pinot Gris the 2017 Vintage from Rocky Pond has a lovely golden color and a multi layered bouquet of fresh Chelan fruit and spring flowers. On the palate the wine is full of soft white summer fruit flavors with a citrus tease.
Winemaker Shane states the most rewarding things about producing Rocky Pond Wines is “Being able to create wine and products people enjoy and want to share with those close to them. I also love that I get to see a lot of sun rises.”
An enchanting Ruby color welcomes you in this 100% Pinot Noir from the Clos Chevelle Vineyard. With each sip of this 2017 Pinot Noir you know that you are drinking a uniquely crafted Washington Pinot, its bold red fruit and spice flavors had me dreaming of pairing it with a perfectly grilled salmon.
When asked which Rocky Pond wine or vintage was his favoirte and what elements made this wine or vintage unique, Winemaker Shane replied;
“One is our 2017 Clos CheValle Lake Chelan AVA Syrah. Co-fermented with 6% viognier the wine is also leaner with cooler climate flavors and mouthfeel giving it its own personality far different from reds we grow at our warmer Double D site.”
“The simple act of opening a bottle of wine has brought more happiness to the human race than all the collective governments in the history of earth”
Shane also shared that next year he is planning on doing more work with alternative vessels, like concrete, for upcoming vintages.
I asked Shane if there was a favorite varietal he liked to work with and he replied, “For me it has been Gewürztraminer for many years. A wine that gets little love but when done right is absolutely beautiful and stunning. It is uniquely perfumed but most important it has a higher malic acid that gives it more punch when most are fat and oily as well as sweet.”
Rocky Pond Winery shares some great advice on their website that they received years ago while traveling in France.
“Don’t save your best wine for formal occasions; celebrate your best wine with family and friends”.
Recently, Wine Press Northwest named Rocky Pond its 2019 Washington Winery to Watch and with their large variety of quality, award winning wines it is easy to see why. I highly recommend visiting one of the Rocky Pond tasting rooms or checking out their website to order Rocky Pond wines for the upcoming holiday season.
Rocky Pond Winery has two tasting rooms in Washington state, one in Chelan at 212 E Woodin Ave. and the other is located in the Warehouse District in Woodinville at 19501 144th Ave NE #B600.
Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.