By Duane Pemberton
It’s closer than most Seattleites might give it credit for – only about a 2.5 hour drive and you can find yourself in what’s consider the heart of Washington State and the Apple Capital of the World. Wenatchee has grown-up over the past few decades with a lot to offer both those looking for fun outdoor adventures or even who want to seek out an alternate wine-trail that’s outside of the “normal” I-84 corridor.
With over 300-days of sun per year and snow every winter, it’s always a great time to make the trek over to check out the scene in the greater Wenatchee area. There are many from the Seattle-area who pass through on their way to Lake Chelan every summer, they really are missing out on a lot of fun things to do if they don’t make the time to check it out.
I recently got back from a quick get-away to this beautiful part of the state and doing so required that I make sure to get a vehicle that was able to get me over the mountains. If one goes over Highway 2, it’s one mountain pass (Stevens Pass) or if you go over I-90 then it’s two mountain passes (Snoqualmie and then Blewett).
I turned to a 2013 MDX All-Wheel-Drive Crossover from the folks at Acura. The particular model I was supplied with was fully loaded. Adaptive cruise control, front heated/cooled leather seats, a USB port, AC and DC power outlets as well as on-board navigation, a multi-channel audio system with subwoofer and center-channel which are mated to a DVD entertainment system for the rear passengers (wireless headphones included) – making those extended trips a bit easier for folks in the back.
The great thing about the MDX is its spacious cabin with plenty of room for 5 passenger and – in a pinch – you can use an available third row for a total of 7 passengers.
Good handling seems to be primarily what the MDX offers either on dry-pavement or in the snow/ice. I had the opportunity to try it on dry, rain, snow and ice and am quite please with the results, even with the standard all-season tires our test model was equipped with. Between the traction control and its intelligent all-wheel-drive system, I never once had a feeling of being not in control at any time. Sure, there were times when I’d have to disengage the traction control to have a bit of “fun” but overall the MDX is a really great car in the snow.
Cashmere Mission District:
On the way into Wenatchee, you’ll drive right next to the quaint little town of Cashmere and I’d highly recommend you make the stop – even if you don’t go to the world-famous Applets and Cotlets, you should make your way to Mission Street and check out the “Mission District”. Here you’ll find some of the finer things the area has to offer in terms of both food and drink.
Craig and Danielle Mitrakul are owners of Crayelle Cellars and are right inside the front door as you enter so it’s an easy stop and a nice way to get things rolling. Craig has a long pedigree of making great wines for many wineries withing Washington State including, Three Rivers, Ryan Patrick and Karma – his palate tends to favor more of an old-world style.
His first two wine releases were a dry Riesling and a Syrah made from the grapes of the Ancient Lakes AVA. I’ve reviewed each of these wines last year and they are quite excellent for the money. Something a bit different for him – and the entire State of Washington) is his 100% Pinot Noir that he plans on releasing next year. It’s made from fruit out of the Lake Chelan area and from my early taste, should be a good seller because so many people love that varietal.
With its operations on-premise at this facility, you can’t get much closer to the source of the wine anywhere in the immediate area. The Horan family has been woven into the Wenatchee area history so much that the family’s original home – they purchased from a Sears Roebuck Catalog (no, I’m not joking), is still standing and has been declared a historic site. Doug and Diana McDougall produced their first vintage from the 2002 harvest – the Horan name is from Doug’s mother’s die of the family. Doug and his team have taken their agriculture background and turned it into quite the bustling little winery – friendly folks pour the wine at its Cashmere tasting room.
Even most wine lovers can appreciate the flavor and body of a well-made spirit and to answer the call for that is the cool-little-distillery with an even cooler motif: “It’s Five o-Clock Somewhere”. “It’s 5 Distillery is across the hall from Crayelle and this is the place to go to sample spirits that will warm your sense and the soul.
Owner Colin Levi started-up this project not too long ago and has already been making quite a bit of headway with a mixture of hand-crafted spirits that have developed quite a loyal following. His passion and pride are put into each bottle and I know you’ll fall in love with his Whiskey, Gin and Grappa.
After you get done soaking down your sorrows in wine and spirts, you’ll need to go to the Snapdragon Coffee Cafe to snatch-up its killer food and coffee. Owner/Chef, Marcia Green took over the Snapdragon from its previous owners not long ago and has done a really nice job elevating what it offers. Not only does it serve up a great cup of coffee, but the custom-made Gelato and Sorbetto offerings are to die for – there are a variety of flavors to choose from – she and her team are meticulous about everything that goes out from the kitchen and visitors are treated with a bit of that “small-town-charm”.
The food is very reasonably priced and the overall mood of the place is one where you can easily come sit awhile, enjoy food made with love, some good coffee or killer Cider (made from Marcia’s Family-run Cidery in Cashmere). Of the food I sampled, the sandwich, margarita-style pizze and Gelato/Sorbetto combo dessert were all very tasty. They also serve a basil-lemon drink that is so good you could serve it to me on the backside of a an old tire and I’d still hit it. It’s easily one of the most refreshing drinks, of its kind, that I’ve ever had.
One of the best, well-kept secrets of Wenatchee locals is the stellar powder they get and their beloved Mission Ridge Ski and Board “Resort”(No, it’s not really a resort per se, there is no lodging but it sounds cool, right?). With over 1000 skiable acres, this nirvana of Washington’s best powder is only 20-minutes from downtown Wenatchee and there are a number of really good packages you can purchase which include all the lodging and back-forth transportation between your hotel and the slopes.
I had the chance to interview General Manager, Josh Jorgenson and here’s what he had to say:
After a hard day in the snow, you’ll want to refuel and most likely that’ll be downtown Wenatchee. Tastebuds offers a 1-2 punch of stellar wines and tasty food. Its owner, Alisa Strutzel, has done a really admirable job of kicking the “Wine-bar” concept up quite a few notches.
With its own in-house chef who loves to feature a variety of delectable dishes, which includes a number of quality pizza’s as well. I sampled the baked brie which is served with some fruits, crackers and has a balsamic-fig reduction sauce with it. Also make sure to check out their pizza and dessert if you have room!
With a “wall of wine” at its disposal, there’s no reason why you couldn’t find a bottle to suit your budget, palate and mood. Of course, Alisa features most all of the regional wineries in her ongoing effort to showcase regional fare and food.
Depending on the night, you may also find live music as well – overall, it’s one of those kinds of places you wouldn’t go to, naturally, if you were thinking of a place for good food and wine but I can tell you from personal experience, it’d be on the top of my choices for dinner in Wenatchee.
If you’ve never been to Wenatchee, I’d highly encourage you to check it out – there are plenty of activities to do year ’round – from snow skiing, snowboarding, water skiing, hunting, fishing, white-river rafting, hiking, wineries, cideries, dining, the 10-mile loop trail and the downtown historic section. And even that’s a small sampling of what’s going on – for more details and to get some good ideas on planning your trip out there, make sure to check out the Wenatchee Valley Visitor’s Bureau at http://www.wenatcheevalley.org/.
Tasting thru Wenatchee and Lake Chelan WA