Thirty-five years ago, Don Koester was stationed at a Boeing site in the mountains seven miles from Morgan Hill, CA. The guys who had families back in Seattle would spend every weekend going to Napa, Sonoma, Russian River, Santa Cruz, and Lodi Valley and spend whole weekends touring and tasting different wines. Don was more interested in the ‘mom and pop’ wineries than the bigger wineries and decided that’s what he would like to do when he grew up.
As a Boy, Don came to Chelan every summer with his family, his grandfather, Percy Goldsworthy, homesteaded in Omak and moved to Chelan at the turn of century. He was the superintendant for the Chelan County school system and named the mascot for the school the ‘goats’. His wife had heart problems and they moved to Seattle when Bernice, Don’s mother, was sixteen.
“One thing I liked about Chelan was that my asthma went away. I loved the dry mountains and the deep cold clear waters. Our love for wine and Chelan was an easy marriage.”
Don and his son, Karl, collaborated in 2001 and the Four Lakes Chelan Winery seed was planted. In 2004 they bought sixty-three acres in Manson, WA where the tasting room now resides, and ten acres on Howard Flats which is six miles east of the tasting room. This is where Karl suddenly became a farmer with the flick of a pen. Taking down apple trees, names, and planting grapes the first year, we continued to add acreage for the next five years. We have planted twenty varietals so far, all of which have done great.
For Karl, winemaking started out as a hobby. Until 1999, he owned his own contracting company and had an educational background in physics and chemistry. Now a successful winemaker at his family’s vineyard, Four Lakes Chelan Winery, he looks back at his first attempts at making his own wine and beer and finds joy in the fact that he decided to turn his hobby into a career.
Making the switch from contractor to winemaker wasn’t a difficult transition for Karl. Having owned his own company, he was familiar with the skills required for running crews, organizing projects, and building structures.
“I built the winery and tasting room with my dad and crew,” Karl explains. ” I have a background in physics and chemistry, and my crew and I planted and now manage all our vineyards”.
Karl has experienced a lot of trial and errors and obsessed over making a perfect wine throughout the years. As he steadily learned the craft of winemaking and vineyard management, he became an experienced winemaker. He continually worked on bettering his craft through books, college courses, and advice from others.
Now, Four Lakes Chelan Winery has found a niche with its big bold red wines and light crisp white wines. Starting with his 2004 vintage, Karl has been generating recognition and winning medals for his successful wine making work.
Karl has been making beer and wines for twelve years now from all sorts of different fruits. Some turned out great, others turned out not so great, (like the Grapefruit and Lemon wine, not so good), and has sixty-two medals and two “best of class” to his credit so far. We will also began making Grappa and Brandy in the fall of 2010.