A surprisingly large number of winery owners reside in Orange County, as many as 20. I profiled Greg Sanders of Corona Del Mar and White Rose Estate previously in this blog, and now introduce you to my neighbors, the Chapels, who own Cardwell Hill Cellars.
North Tustin resident Dan Chapel retired from a successful engineering career with Fluor Corporation, and found winegrowing to be a challenging outlet for his creative juices. Along with wife Nancy, he acquired an overgrown vineyard in a picturesque location in Philomath, Oregon, just west of Corvallis in the southern Willamette Valley.
The Chapels transformed the property into a magnificent estate that includes a modern winery, tasting room, and residence with extensive barrel storage beneath. Dan likes to say that he and Nancy literally “sleep on our wine.” They rehabilitated the existing estate vineyards on the southernmost slope of Cardwell Hill that contained some old vines dating to 1983, added additional vines, and increased the estate vineyard to 38 acres, 85 percent of which is planted to pinot noir. The generous winter rainfall allows the vines to be dry farmed.
The winemaker, beginning with the first release in 2003, was industry veteran Jim Kakacek, who later assumed a consulting role when Dan took over the winemaking role a few years ago. An estate bottled pinot noir ($25), a Pommard block pinot noir ($30) and a reserve estate bottled pinot noir ($40) are offered, as well as a rosé of pinot noir, a pinot gris, and a blanc de noir sparkling. All wines are 100 percent estate grown, bottled, and produced.
The 2005 Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot Noir was honored as a featured wine at the 2008 International Pinot Noir Celebration. The 2011 Cardwell Hill Estate Pinot Noir was at the top of the Oregon Top Value list in the February 2014 issue of Wine Spectator, and the 2013 Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot Gris was cited as outstanding in a competition conducted by Wine Press Northwest.
The Chapels split their time between North Tustin and Philomath, but with many additional treks domestically as they market in more than 25 states.
Cardwell Hill Cellars Philomath tasting room is open from early May through Thanksgiving weekend, but call ahead if you plan to visit (541-929-WINE), to be sure the Chapels are in town. The wines are sold on the website at cardwellhillcellars.com, and are distributed locally in Orange County at Total Wine, Wine Exchange, Wine Club, amazinggrapes.com, winelabcamp.com, the new LCA Wine in SoCo, and Pacific Ranch Market in Orange.