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Washington Wine Month Stop #24: Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards

We are just chalk full of wineries with a historical background.

Our 24th stop on our Washington Winery tour, Hard Row to Hoe, represents the miners and brothel that held residence in Lake Chelan.

Read on to learn more about their fascinating history.

About the Name:

It is not unusual in remote mining areas to find a story about a local brothel, and Lake Chelan had its stories also.

Edgemont Lodge was built about 1924 a few miles uplake from Lucerne at Lightning Creek in an area called Point Lovely.

During the late 1930’s 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 they explain more?

About the Owners:

Winemaker Judy Phelps has a Master of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Connecticut Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. She retired from her corporate career in research and development at Pfizer, Inc. in 2006. Judy completed the Winemaking Certificate program at the University of California at Davis in July 2006 and is past president of the Lake Chelan Wine Growers Association.

Don, works his magic in the vineyard. He has a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Washington State University specializing in water resources and works in his private practice in Chelan. Don is a Board member for Lake Chelan Wine Growers Association.  Don not only farms the estate vineyards but also a vineyard that is leased on Lake Chelan’s south shore where Pinot Noir is grown. Don will also tell you that he is ‘the labor force’ and the one who ‘writes the checks’.

If there was ever a Renaissance Man, it has got to be assistant winemaker Rudy Vargas; there is so much more to him than his role of assistant winemaker lets on. You probably know Rudy from behind the tasting room bar where he treats us to his brand of enthusiasm and love of wine. Rudy has a Fine Arts degree and brings his artistic sensibility to the tasting room experience.

About the Vineyards:

Hard Row is proud to be the first LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) and Salmon Safe – certified vineyard in North Central Washington.

With an eye towards making wine in the Lake Chelan valley, Judy and Don began searching for the right property and bought a 25 acre orchard on Ivan Morse Road on the north shore of Lake Chelan in 2004. After updating the existing orchard buildings and purchasing state-of-the-art winery equipment, they were ready for their first commercial ‘crush’ on site in the fall of 2005.

The Lake Chelan climate, with its cool nights, hot days and lake-moderated winter temperature is an ideal area for growing wine grapes allowing for a longer hang time without over ripening.

The vineyard is located on a southwest facing slope of the property and has been planted and maintained organically using sustainable growing practices. The vineyard is entirely sloped to the southwest providing excellent air drainage and  provides an aspect to the sun resulting in beautiful, long growing days. The soils here consist of well-drained. low-fertility gravel interspersed with large stones and small boulders, making it truly a hard row to hoe. The vineyard is irrigated with the crystal-clear, glacial waters of Lake Chelan.

Don and Judy care deeply about the land and the surrounding watershed of Lake Chelan. They are currently participating in Salmon-Safe Certification, a program to support sustainable agriculture, the first vineyard in north central Washington to do so.

2005 was the first year of planting the first two acres of grapes, Cabernet Franc. In 2006 another 2 acres of grapes, Gewurztraminer and Riesling, were planted. In the 2007 growing season Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and Chenin Blanc were planted. In 2011, all of the Chenin Blanc was replaced with new plantings of Cabernet Franc

The estate vineyard produces wines of outstanding quality and complexity, owing to its southwest aspect and slope which allows for efficient air drainage. Our elevation provides cool nights which allow us to let our grapes hang until well into October / early November without becoming over ripe. Grapes that can hang this long, with the  cool night and warm day conditions produce wines that are wonderfully balanced with incredibly complex.

Vineyards on the south shore of Lake Chelan and from the Columbia Valley continue to add value to our wine program as our estate matures and comes in to full fruition.  Grapes are sourced from Lonesome Springs Ranch (Petit Verdot, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc) , Boushey Vineyard (Marsanne)  Riverbend Vineyard (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and Doebler Vineyard (Primitivo).  A north-faceing vineyard on south shore of Lake Chelan is being leased for the sparkling wine program.

About the Wine:

You probably would not guess that the modest facility on Ivan Morse Rd. produces 2400 cases per year of first-class wine.   Judy’s style can be described as adventurous, producing a variety of  new and different wines different each year, such as Cinsault, Petite Sirah, Marsanne, to name a few. These are allocated primarily to wine club members.  Her wines are beautifully made, by hand, to display the fruit of the vineyard through gentle handling and the judicial use of new oak resulting in wines that are complex, approachable and so delicious.

Hard Row to Hoe.


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    Theresa Dillon

    Theresa Dillon
    Theresa Dillon earned her bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. In her spare time she enjoys reading, attending concerts, weekly trivia nights, watching movies (especially her favorite The Wizard of Oz), and of course wine.