Taste your way through Lake Chelan’s emerging wineries on an electric bike.

If you grew up in Washington, you know that gorgeous Lake Chelan has long been a summer hot spot for family vacations. For decades, the region was mostly known for apples, cherries and jet skis. But about 20 years ago, the rolling hills surrounding the lake began sprouting vines; the Chelan area’s first bottle of wine was sold in 2002. Since receiving its AVA (American Viticultural Area) status in 2009, Lake Chelan has emerged as a legit Washington wine region, with 32 wineries whose fruit (especially Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Viognier grapes) benefits from the way the lake, Washington’s deepest, holds heat well into the fall, extending the growing season.

As in most wine regions, Lake Chelan offers plenty of opportunities to let someone else do the driving while you’re doing the wine tasting, via limos or stretch Hummers. But with good new asphalt and clean, wide shoulders on some local roads, it’s also a great wine region for cycling. If you’re fit and don’t mind a few hills, you could easily do a wine tour here on a regular road bike, but as anyone who’s ridden with the wind at the start of a hot day of wine tasting knows, puffing home with wine-riddled legs can be significantly more difficult than beginning the ride. On a recent visit to Lake Chelan I decided to save my legs the effort and sign up for a winery tour with Merick Hill, the jovial Brit whose tour outfit and bike shop, Chelan Electric Bikes, is in its sixth year.

Hill is himself a reason to visit Chelan. Sweet, bald and pithy, he has both the ability to introduce complete novices to electric bikes successfully and the right social skills to help a group of strangers bond over a common experience—in this case, not pedaling. Although his exhortations of “We ride!” seemed phony as we left town, by the time I reached Karma Vineyards with a friend and five British Columbian visitors, I had five new best friends and become an expert at riding uphill with my feet splayed out in a “V.” Eight miles from town, I ordered a “tasting flight” of Karma’s bubbly, which turned out to be three full glasses of lovely dry sparkling wine, all made with the traditional méthode champenoise (which requires a secondary fermentation in the bottle).  Read More »