Tahoe Tastings takes place aboard the Golden Rose, a 40-foot Chris-Craft that was restored in the style of a Venetian water taxi, courtesy photo

Best Way to Sip Wine on the Water

Enjoy a guided wine tasting while cruising to Emerald Bay aboard a restored wooden boat


Sure, you can order a glass of wine—possibly served in a plastic cup—aboard many a sightseeing boat on Lake Tahoe, but how about a curated wine tasting—in a proper glass—aboard a restored classic Chris-Craft?

From the end of April through mid-October, South Shore-based Tahoe Tastings offers two-hour wine tasting cruises to Emerald Bay aboard the 40-foot Golden Rose, departing up to four times a day from Tahoe Keys Marina.

Built in 1953 as double cabin fly bridge cruiser originally named In the Mood, the Puget Sound-based boat was partially sunk and heavily damaged when a blizzard hit the Pacific Northwest in December 1996. Happily, the vintage woodie was rescued and restored from bow to stern as a Venetian water taxi-style craft, including deck fittings plated in 24-karat gold.

The refurbished and renamed Golden Rose caught the eye of South Lake Tahoe couple Shane and Diondra Colquhoun, who bought the boat in Bellingham, Washington, and shipped it south. They launched Tahoe Tastings in 2016; he serves as captain and she often as first mate/wine host, taking 12 to 14 passengers on their daily scheduled ticketed tasting tours, the only such operation on the lake.

“We wanted to emulate the intimate, social wine room tasting experience with the small group tour,” says Diondra, whose background is in live event management.

Trips typically follow the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe into Emerald Bay to Vikingsholm (passengers do not disembark) and around Fannette Island, with a photo op stop if boat traffic allows; wind, water and wave conditions may occasionally necessitate an alternate route. The last departure of the day is a sunset cruise.

Outings start off with a sparkling wine, perhaps a Domaine Carneros brut vintage cuvée from Napa. Along the way guests sample a total of eight wines, primarily from Northern California regions. Tahoe Tastings rotates wines throughout the season, but past wineries have included Balletto (Russian River), Cass (Paso Robles), Caymus (Napa), Navarro (Anderson Valley) and local Truckee River Winery. Wines are available for purchase at the conclusion of each cruise.

Various-sized charcuterie platters with cheese, salami, fresh and dried fruit, crackers, etc. prepared by local caterer Yummy Fixins are available for purchase and must be ordered at least 48 hours ahead of departure. Guests may also bring their own light snacks.

In addition to its regular outings, Tahoe Tastings will offer an “elevated pairing experience” featuring higher-end wines matched with food on the July 1 and July 22 sunset cruises.

Standard scheduled tours on the Golden Rose are limited to adults 21 and older; there is no age restriction for private charters. A non-drinking rate is also offered on most tours, excluding holidays and special events.

Tahoe Tastings is located at Tahoe Keys Marina Rubicon Dock, 2435 Venice Dr, South Lake Tahoe, CA; (530) 494-9222

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