It’s a warm summer afternoon, but under the covered work area behind the tasting room it’s shady, and the afternoon breeze pushes air through, cooling it further. Paul Manuel, owner of Chacewater, sits at a picnic table, face shield stretching around his head.
“I’m sorry about having to taste out here,” he says immediately. “Two weeks ago, we had to shift our tasting room outside. And this is our work area.” He pauses. “I don’t know how much longer we’re going to have to do this.”
It’s not so bad. The sitting area is casual, comfortable, and welcoming. In front of a stack of wine barrels stands a short tasting bar. Several picnic tables stretch across the patio, a couple sitting at one. The breeze is pleasant, and the shade feels cool. Classic rock plays in the background, and the couple sings along to the chorus. Just on the other side of the shaded area, olive trees stretch in rows, guiding the eyes further outward towards the mountainous horizon. Bright sun glints off the still-small olives, ripening in speckles of chartreuse and white. Come late fall, they will darken to shades of purples, vibrant greens, and chocolate browns.
Chacewater is known for its high-quality olive oil. “I bought the olive farm from St. Gregory Monastery,” Paul says as he pours the first taste of wine, “And Emilio asked me to keep the mill running. It’s worked out better than I could have imagined. The olive harvest comes just after the grapes.” Mill master Emilio de la Cruz manages the olive operation at Chacewater. His knowledge and skill make Chacewater’s olive oils not just award-winning, but profoundly flavorful and unique. It’s one of the best places around to taste multiple varieties, from Sevillano to Manzanillo to Favolosa, or their excellent Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon infused oils. If you get a chance, take the time to taste the olive oils as well when you come in to try the wine.
Paul’s casually dressed in an Orvis button-up shirt, jeans, and boots. After finishing a pour, he heads to the wine fridge, coming back with a bottle in each hand. “This is our ’18 Organic Sauvignon Blanc,” he says, pouring it in the left glass. “And this,” he pours the second bottle into the other glass, “Is our ’19 Engine House Sauvignon Blanc.” He sets the bottles down next to each. “We created the Engine House label because there was some confusion about the two different Sauv Blancs.”
Lake County is known for its Sauvignon Blanc, and Chacewater creates two exceptional ones. The Organic, given 91 points at the 2019 Los Angeles Wine Competition, sits sunshine-colored in the glass. It’s fragrant, with hints of citrus and tart aromas in the bouquet. The crispness is balanced by the tang and fullness of apricots that wind it across the palate. It’s a wine made for the spiciness and bright notes of Thai food.
While sip on each wine, Paul walks to the tasting bar, where a neighbor drops off a bag of plums. “There’s always a need for good plums,” he replies and chats for a few minutes as we write notes on our tasting. In the background, the music changes to The Marshall Tucker Band. “Can’t you see?” the song croons, while the couple at the other table pitch in, humming the chorus.
Meanwhile, I take a sip of the other Sauvignon Blanc. The Engine House, a Gold Medal winner at the Sand Diego International Wine and Spirits Challenge, looks completely different. It’s almost water-clear and filled with a bouquet of lemon, citrus, and hints of pear. Each sip begins dry and bright, ending crisp and leaving the palate clean and refreshed. It’s a wine made for summer days and warm weather.
Paul swings back to the table, and we chat a bit more as he pours us some of Chacewater’s Catspaw Merlot. Paul’s a naturally competitive person and loves a well-intentioned contest. So when he first started releasing wines at Chacewater in 2011, he immediately began entering them in wine competitions. They quickly began to win awards, including Gold at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition and Best of Class at the Los Angeles International Wine Competition for their 2010 Petit Syrah. And they haven’t slowed down. Here’s an incomplete list of the awards won by Chacewater for their exceptional wines.
After a few tastes, we start to wind up our conversation. “I love Lake County,” Paul says with conviction. “And especially the Kelseyville/Big Valley area. They’ve been so good to our business.” He smiles. “My neighbor over there,” he waves to the left, “told me that I needed more room, and he helped me get another twenty acres. And that neighbor,” he waves to the right, “Looks after the place whenever I’m gone, to make sure nothing happens.” He pauses. “It’s a good community, and I’m grateful for their support.”
He leaves the table and chats with the neighbor a bit more before heading back to the office. It’s a beautiful, warm summer day. Afternoon sun shines across the olive orchard. The music in the background kicks into Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” And in a class on the table, there’s still some wine left to be tasted.
Chacewater Winery and Olive Mill is located at: 5625 Gaddy Ln, Kelseyville, CA
Hour of Operation: Seven Days a Week, 11AM – 5 PM