Karma Vineyards Review
Address: 1681 S Lakeshore Rd. Chelan,Washington 98816.
Phone Number: 509-682-5538
Tasting Hours: Wed-Sat 11:00-5:00, Sun 11:00-3:00
Region: Lake Chelan, Washington
Reviewer: Denise Gangnes
Review Date: 4/27/2013
Reviewer: Denise Gangnes
The Lake Chelan area is full of surprises and perhaps the last place you would expect to find a bit of France just a stones throw from Washington States deepest lake. Karma Vineyards is fairly unique among Washington wineries and contains the regions only sparkling wine-filled caves. And what better place for the cool respite of caves than a region known for 100-degree days?
The Place:  Karmas lush landscaping, expansive tiled patio and picnic areas would normally more than satisfy a visitors inclination to indulgently imbibe on the winerys well-known food and wine pairings. But the mystique of the wine caves draws thousands of visitors each year, providing a unique location for gatherings (the winerys popularity for weddings and special events is widespread). Karmas 18 Brix Restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for gourmet offerings. Local residents raved about the rack of lamb, Ahi with sweet mango sauce and steamer clams. During the summer, early birds may take advantage of seats by the Koi pond or walk over a bridge to grassy areas by the stream.
The Experience:  First on the agenda was to check out the caves. An eerie amber glow lit the grape-infused grotto; straight ahead, the largest of the rooms was hosting a birthday celebration. Another alcove held barrels. The iconic riddling racks tempted visitors to sample the effects of the yeasty bubbles fermenting inside. Famished from two previous winery visits, I decided to see if 18 Brix lived up to its reputation. A small, cozy spot near the fireplace welcomed me to lunch on flatbread, but I took a spot near the window on a café table to chat with locals. The steamer clams seemed a proper companion for a tasting of champagne and chardonnay. I got more than I bargained for, both in portion size and flavor. I expected the sriracha to have a kick, but was surprised by the heavy dose of garlic bathing the steamers. Thankfully, I was sleeping alone that night.
The Wines:  Karma offers several options for flights, and its a great way to sample: I chose a red/white mixture and the champagne varietal pack, Two $46 offerings from 2009, the Brut and 2009 Methode Champenoise Brut de Brut show hints of toasty biscuit popping onto the tongue; a less saliva-sapping alternative is the brighter and slightly less expensive Estate Pink Methode Champenoise with overtones of strawberry.
If your meal calls for Chardonnay, compare the 2009 and 2010 bottlings, both at $24.99. Look for apple and pear in the former, with more melon and creamy butter in the latter. Slightly less dry and under $20 is the Estate Dry Rose-Eh! (a Seattle Wine Awards winner). Fruity berry flavors lead to watermelon and honey. While puzzling that the Chelan region grows Pinot Noir in this hot climate, bingo! a 2007 Estate Pinot Noir appeared in my glass with essence of tobacco on the nose and a $24.99 price tag. The 2008 Estate Pinot Noir with black currant (or was that black tea?) is available at $34.99.
And then theres a pair of 2008 and 2009 reds called simple, Try. I wont give away the meaning behind the peculiar name, but I can vouch for its harmonious and complex structure and a hint of the cherry/berry essence weve come to expect.