This is Jim Fetzer’s contribution to the California wine world, an absolutely stunning estate winery on the shoreline of Clear Lake. This is the only winery in California where you can actually arrive by a boat or a seaplane and make your way to the tasting room. If you want to stay overnight, there is also lodging in one of the winery’s three “Lakeside Casitas” that have fabulous views of the lake and of the Ceago Estate. The mission-style architecture blends in nicely with the lake view, mountains, and the beautiful gardens.
The story of this winery begins when the Fetzer Family decided to sell its popular Fetzer Vineyard winery in Mendocino County to the Brown Forman Company in 1992. In the purchase agreement, no members of the family could make wine under a different name for a period of eight years. During that interim period, Jim Fetzer looked for the perfect spot for his winery. He looked to Lake County because the Fetzer winery had purchased grapes from this area which had produced wonderful wines. He found the perfect spot in the Lake County town of Nice and in 2004 Ceago Vinegarden came to life on the shores of Clear Lake.
The most interesting aspect of the winery is the devotion to the biodynamic methods of farming the estate. The olive trees, vegetable gardens, and the vineyards are all intertwined and beneficial to each other. There are sheep, chickens, and lambs that all contribute to the life system of the estate. There is also the traditional biodynamic activity of burying cow horns on the land. The cow horns are filled with dirt that decomposes over time and then later is made into tea and sprayed throughout the vineyards. Cover crops abound in the spring and are then plowed under to add nutrients to the soil.
The most beautiful areas of the garden are the lavender fields. We arrived when the lavender had just begun to blossom. By June, the plants are in full bloom and it must be an unforgettable sight. Each year towards the end of June, the winery hosts a very popular lavender festival. The lavender is used to make several products which are sold in the tasting room.
On our visit we were treated to a fabulous lunch of breads, cheeses, olives, and other delights all paired with delicious Ceago wines. We enjoyed all the wines we tasted but we were particularly drawn to the Sauvignon Blanc and a beautifully-flavored red wine they call Winemaker’s Blend. The Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing in taste, perfect for an afternoon or early evening on the patio. The Winemaker’s blend is well above our normal price bracket, but it is so outrageously delicious that we treated ourselves to this $55 bottle of wine. We are saving it for a very special occasion.
If you visit the Ceago Website you can find out complete details about visiting the winery, booking the lodging, or arranging for a special event in the winery’s hospitality center.