CHELAN, Wash. —
Walking through the property at Tsillan Cellars is like being transported to another place.
"It's kind of a slice of Italy. The architecture is very authentic," explained Bob Jankelson. As a pioneer in dental surgery, he traveled the world and fell in love with Italy.
So 20 years ago, he retired and decided to start a new journey, building a destination winery overlooking Lake Chelan.
While the design at Tsillan Cellars pays homage to Italy, the name itself honors the land and its people.
“The name is a tribute to the Native American culture in this valley.
It is the original spelling of Chelan: Tsillan means deep water,” explained Jankelson.
And just as good as the atmosphere is what's served in the bottles. Tsillan grows all of its own grapes; and after winning 6 platinum awards in one year, Wine Press Northwest named it the 2020 Winery of the Year.
“Great wine begins in the vineyard where you combine geography, soil and sunshine, which we have lots of. And you let it play its symphony and then the winemakers take that music and they put it in a bottle,” smiled Jankelson.
Just minutes away is Wine Press Northwest’s 2021 Washington Winery of the Year - Mellisoni Vineyards. It's where the wine barrels become instruments for connection.
Every Monday is Open Mic Night, and you can always find winery co-owner Rob Mellison playing the barrel.
NBC's "The Voice" contestant Savanna Woods picked up fans at the winery years before appearing on the show - and, she's still a regular.
"I get to drink wine, play music in the sun, jam with my friends. It literally couldn't be any better," shared Woods.
But the music is just part of the experience here.
Rob and his wife Donna take pride in the hospitality.
"We just want people to always feel like it's their place, like they can come sit and spend the whole day," shared Rob.
You'll need an entire day if you want to try all of their award-winning wines. Last fall, Mellisoni earned eight platinum awards. Most of the wine comes from their vineyard, but even the ones they grow in other places do well.
"Right now, the biggest one is our Three Bastards. So, that one is three white wine grapes that are not from our vineyard, hence the name. [It was] the second white wine we ever made. Now we serve it in the summertime on ice with a twist of lime, and we call that Bastards on Ice," joked Donna.
Like Jankelson at Tsillan Cellars, the Mellison's also found their inspiration to start a winery while visiting Italy. It was their host who helped them develop their successful strategy.
"He said, 'If you are serious about starting a winery, I am going to give you a little advice. Make the wine for your own palate, for if in the end, nobody likes your wine, at least you know if you are stuck with it, you can drink it.' So basically, that's the whole gist of our winery. We make wines for us and fortunately people like our wines," shared Rob.