Once the pavement ends, it’s like entering another world, peaceful, calm, filled with light and laughter. Massive valley oaks arch overhead, shading the fire pit and picnic area. Bamboo wind chimes clink in the soft breeze. Martin Pohl, owner of Beaver Creek, steps out to greet us.
“Hello! Hello!” he smiles as he walks towards us, his flip flops clicking with each step. “Welcome!”
My wife Trudy and I step into the tasting room. An assortment of cheese, crackers, veggies and wines sit on the table. His partner Tara Green comes in, bringing a bowl of hummus.
“We already love your wines,” I tell him. “We came by several years ago and were impressed.”
Martin’s large brown eyes widen. A large smile spreads across his face. “You do? That’s wonderful!” As we sit at the table, he begins pouring us some Sauvignon Blanc. It’s unique, a distinct wine, filled with pear and citrus, dry and effervescent.
“Everything we do is organic,” he says, making large gestures with his arms. “and Biodynamic. We work with nature, not against it.”
Biodynamic wine works differently than other wines. Biodynamic agriculture treats a vineyard as a self-sustaining organism. Biodynamic farmers strictly avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, they create natural solutions to control insects and set aside at least ten percent of their total acreage for biodiversity. It’s a universal approach: The health and well-being of the plants, the farmer, the farm, and the Earth: all are pieces of the whole.
“Don’t you have problems with bugs?” Trudy asks, taking a sip.
“We don’t have any problems with bugs,” Martin replies. We work to create bonds so that all nature is thriving. No chemical weed killers, fertilizers, and pesticides are used in our farming practices. Instead, the sheep are used for grazing and fertilizing. Our vineyards are dynamic and full of life. It’s meditative to be out there.” His expressive eyes fill with energy.
“Biodynamic farming is holistic land stewardship at its best,” Tara tells us. “It’s about re-creating the balance, harmony, and allowing all the inhabitants of the land to thrive.”
“Does that create different wines?”
“Nature is not a machine.” Martin pours us another taste, this time his 2017 Petite Sirah. “I don’t always know the outcome.” It sits dark red in the glass, completely opaque. The bouquet is floral, rose-like with high fruit notes, a hot summer smell. I take a sip; it starts with cherry, but isn’t sweet, slowly moving to a gentle oakiness, then slides back to dark cherry notes in the finish. “Got a summer day?” it asks. “It’s okay. I can handle that.” Drink this wine with a picnic—strawberries, cucumbers, artichoke hearts all come to life with a sip of the Petite. As I breathe in the long, lingering flavor, I relax.
“This wine is unique,” I tell Martin.
“Natural wines work differently,” he passionately shares. “They don’t have the same polishing as other wines. We use a native yeast for the fermentation process as opposed to commercial aromatic yeast. There are no other chemical additives. We use little to no sulfites.” Martin pauses. “What that means for some people is that they can drink red wine without getting the headaches they get from other conventional wines. And in the long run, they will consume fewer toxins.” It’s true: There’s no industrial flavor—the kind that leaves me fogged and groggy.
Martin’s wines are clearly different. Each wine has a distinctness to it, a taste unlike any other wine in Lake County. It’s directly because of Martin’s philosophy—he doesn’t work against what nature has to offer. Instead, he works with what he is given. If you’re the kind of person who wants the same taste in a Cabernet, year after year, Beaver Creek isn’t for you.
“My wine is vegan also,” Martin continues. “Many wineries use egg whites to clarify the wines.” He furrows his forehead. “I never do that. Winemaking is art, never a machine.”
We’re munching on crackers and cucumbers. Tara passes us a salad across the table, and we scoop it onto our plates. It’s been two hours, but at Beaver Creek time passes differently. It feels like twenty minutes.
Martin pours us a taste of his 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Not as dark as the Petite Sirah, it entices me differently. I breathe in the bouquet and smell an evening filled with vanilla and tobacco, like the smell of your grandfather’s pipe. I sip, enjoying the soft mouthfeel. It’s blackberry I taste, giving it a tartness on the side of my palate.
“This Cab is . . .” I pause, trying to describe it. “It’s . . . wow.” Trudy smiles in appreciation of the liquid artwork in her glass. I take another sip. It reminds me of a dry port, something to pair with dark chocolate and bleu cheese. I’m entranced.
“I want my wines to raise consciousness,” Martin effuses, his hands sweeping upward. “My passion is healing people through wine.”
The sky has darkened, and night has settled in. We’ve been talking with Martin and Tara for three hours, and it’s time to go. We step outside the tasting room and stand under the now blue-black oaks, feeling the pull to stay even longer, to linger, to breathe in the bright energy of Beaver Creek.
“Thank you so much for a delightful evening,” Trudy tells Tara as they hug.
“Martin, your wines are beautiful, liquid artwork,” I tell him as we embrace.
“Really?” His eyes lighten with hope and excitement. “It is what I want them to be.”
Beaver Creek Vineyards is located on Highway 29 in Middletown, and is either your first stop entering Lake County or your last one heading out. Take some time to enjoy their unique, artisanal wines.
Beaver Creek Vineyards