Like many wineries, Cache Creek started as a vineyard producing stellar fruit and progressed into making stellar wines from that estate-grown fruit. But, before we get to that part our story, let’s go back to the beginning.
Discovering The Land
Bill “Poppo” Van Pelt, our father and grandfather, was a visionary who tried his hand at many ventures. In 1997, Bill discovered 590 acres for sale in eastern Lake County along Cache Creek in the eastern foothills of Clearlake, just off Hwy 20 east of the intersection of Hwy 53.
On his first visit to the property, Bill was greeted by a herd of Tule Elk, a pivotal moment for both Bill and the elk. Bill vowed to keep the land as a sanctuary for the elk, and in time, realized that planting a vineyard could be compatible with his vision for the elk and other local wildlife.
Bill “Poppo” Van Pelt
Blending Vineyards and Wildlife
Bill brought in his youngest son, Don Van Pelt, to help with the vineyard project. Don carefully researched, planned, and meticulously prepared before planting the grapevines. In 1994, the first grapes were planted, and over time, a total of 74 acres were planted to several varieties—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Syrah—with about half the acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Keeping the vision of a wildlife sanctuary in mind, our family has maintained sustainable farming practices from the beginning. In addition to planting vineyards, Bill and Don put a drainage system in the vineyard to channel the winter rainfall into several ponds around the property that serve as water sources for waterfowl, otters, beaver, wild turkeys, deer, and elk. They also planted a variety of grasses, establishing habitat that feeds the resident wildlife and attracts beneficial insect predators that help protect the grapevines. Owl boxes placed throughout the vineyard provide a natural method of gopher control. All these sustainable practices are healthy for the wildlife that call the property home and are equally beneficial for our vineyards and the grapes.
Taking the Next Step
2003 was the first vintage Cache Creek Vineyards sold grapes to wineries in Napa and Lake County, and the response to the fruit was excellent. In 2004, Bill Van Pelt passed away. His son Don, who was managing the vineyard and property for the family, wanted to acknowledge Bill’s legacy. With vineyards producing exquisite grapes, Don, with the support of the Van Pelt family, decided to create a winery that honored their father and his dream of the Tule Elk sanctuary.
Today Don, his wife Margie, and their daughter Kaitlyn Wright manage the day-to-day operations of the winery. The grapes used in Cache Creek wines are 100% estate grown. An image of a Tule Elk adorns every bottle of our wine. Bill Van Pelt’s vision, love for the property, and his bond with the Tule Elk live on through the winery, the vineyards, and his family.