Ray Sandidge, a true pioneer among North Central Washington winemakers, plans to break ground on a new vineyard, tasting room and wine production facility in north Chelan this spring.
“It’s a plan 30 years in the making,” said Sandidge, former director of wine production for Lake Chelan Winery and Karma Vineyards along with his own C. R. Sandidge Wines.
Sandidge and his wife, Athena, recently purchased 14 acres of former apple orchard on Boyd Road, between Chelan and Manson. They plan to begin building the production center and tasting room in April or early May and be making wine there by next fall. They also plan to plant about 7 acres of vineyard, mainly with Rieslng, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Malbec, Tannat and Dolcetto grape varieties.
“It has great exposure and some beautiful views,” Sandidge said about the property. Apples weren’t planted on the property until the 1960s, he said, so there’s no arsenic or heavy metals in the soil from older pesticides used before then. The site has good air drainage to protect the vines from coldest winter temperatures and a good well with pristine water, he said.
Sandidge has been making about 1,200 cases of his own C R Sandidge Wines for the past several years while working as head winemaker for Lake Chelan Winery since 2004. He left that position this year to focus on his own wines full time. He plans on expanding production to between 1,600 to 1,800 cases annually. The C. R. Sandidge tasting room at 145 Wapato Way in downtown Manson will remain open. The winery will focus on making high-quality red wines, delicate whites and rose, as well as bottle-fermented sparkling wine. He said he’ll continue consulting for other wineries.
While directing winemaking at Lake Chelan winery, Sandidge was also head winemaker for Karma Vineyards from 2007 through 2013. He has consulted for several other wineries in the Lake Chelan area and is credited as a leader of the Chelan Valley wine industry and creation of the Lake Chelan American Viticulture Area (AVA).
He began his winemaking career working for Pindar Vineyards on Long Island, N.Y. in 1985, moving to Germany two years later to work for Georg Breuer wines. He returned to his family home in Washington in 1990 to make Apex and Washington Hills Cellars wines, later moving to winemaking duties for Hyatt Vineyards and then the head winemaker job for Kestrel Vineyards from 1996 to 2004. Wines he’s crafted have rated 90 point or higher scores on more than 50 occasions in Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast wine magazines. He’s been making wines under his own C. R. Sandidge label since 1999. The winery’s website is crsandidgewines.com.