Cairdeas Winery: Owners Lacey and Charlie Lybecker
have “found their place” along the shores of Lake Chelan
By Sebastian Moraga
Inspired by French aromas, a touch of her Gaelic and Irish background, and fueled by the work ethic worthy of the Minnesota farm girl she once was, Lacey Lybecker has found her place.
Perhaps, unsurprisingly, given her ties to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” that place is right next to one – a lake, that is. Not in Minnesota, though. Instead, Lybecker’s place is in Manson, WA., along the shores of Lake Chelan, where for the past 11 years, she and her husband, Charlie, have built Cairdeas (pronounced CARR-dess) Winery.
Back in northwestern Minnesota there wasn’t a grape in sight, says Lacey, and it wasn’t until a trip to Australia during a break from college that she had her first wine-tasting experience and became intrigued. This line of work seemed miles away from the Midwestern wheat farming lifestyle she knew.
Of course, she was in Australia, so she was miles away from most everything Midwest. Still, the idea stuck with her and after moving to Seattle and meeting Charlie, together they found a passion for wine. The words “owning a winery” entered their combined vernacular, but not their combined timelines.
“In my husband’s mind that meant, ‘Maybe when we retire,’” said Lacey. “And I said ‘No, let’s figure out how to get started right now.’”
So, living in West Seattle at that point, they delved into urban wineries and into building one from scratch. First came getting the garage turned into a licensed production facility. Then, finding someone from whom to buy the fruit. And the adventure was on.
“We just kind of dove in,” says Lacey. Then, there was the name. Once again, a trip was responsible, this time to Ireland with Lacey’s mom. Pieces of artwork with the Irish-Gaelic word Cairdeas on it had made it back home. The fact that Lacey and Charlie are both of Irish ancestry, and the fact that Cairdeas means “friendship,” they had the perfect name for their winery.
That first year, 2009, they made 150 cases of wine, while holding full-time jobs. “It seems like forever ago,” says Lacey. This past year, Cairdeas produced 5,000 cases of wine. And that’s only one of the big changes in 11 years.
In 2012, Lacey and Charlie moved to Manson. Lacey wanted her children to grow up in a small town much like she did all those
years ago, and wanted them growing up in an agricultural environment. Having home in the same spot as the winery has its drawbacks, but the most important thing is that they eat dinner as a family every night.
“It’s nice to have it all together and know that we are working but we can be close,” says Lacey. “It’s nice to wake up in the morning and be in the middle of the vineyard.”
Lastly, in 2014, Lacey and Charlie went all-in on Cairdeas. Charlie finally let go of the stability of his full-time job and the winery became the family’s main source of income. “I told him, ‘I think we are going to be OK,’” says Lacey.
It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t come without a dose of stress, raising two boys – Eugene, now 8 and Francis, now 6 — and a winery together. “There were definitely moments when you kind of felt like giving up,” she says. “But you talk yourself out of it pretty quickly, because neither of us wanted to go back to our corporate jobs.”
What they wanted was the small-town feel, and the chance of owning an estate winery, even a small one. And just like in college, and when she found the name, it was during a trip away from home that Lacey found what she had sought. This time, a work trip landed her in Chelan, and gave her the chance to tour the wineries.
Back then, the Lake Chelan AVA was fairly new and the idea of getting in on the ground floor sounded appealing to her. A chance to grow together, and maybe even become a leader in the AVA. Plus, there was that view. “To this day, we feel that Lake Chelan is the most gorgeous AVA in Washington state,” Lacey says.
Did the move pay off? “We are living the dream every day,” she says.
Cairdeas works only with Rhône varietals, which carry the name of the Rhône Valley, in France. They make wine only in that style, using Washington fruit from a variety of vineyards. They have recently added some of their own grapes, as the dream of an estate vineyard turns into a reality. They have planted Syrah and two white Rhône varietals, Picardan and Clairette blanche.
“We are the first vineyard in the state to plant Picardan and the second to plant Clairette blanche,” Lacey explains, adding, “And we’ll keep adding more and more things every year, ’cause, why not?” They have already started working with Mourvèdre, and are thinking about adding Bourboulenc and Marselan.
“Just keeping with the theme of planting rare Rhône varietals,” she says. They would be the first in Washington to plant Marselan, a cross between Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It’s something totally outside the box, nobody in Washington state is doing it,” Lacey explains. “Nobody knows what that is, so there’s an educational component to it.”
For Lacey and Charlie, winemaking doesn’t get boring. It’s never repetitive, it’s never the same thing for days on end. “There’s always something new to learn,” says Lacey. “It’s one of those things you can spend the rest of your life studying and there’s still something new out there.”
Right now, Cairdeas offers two varietal wines, 2018 Concrete Syrah and a wine club exclusive 2019 Roussanne, as well as four red blends and two white blends. The red blends are:
- 2019 Diffraction, a blend of Syrah,, Cinsault, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Petite Sirah and Carignan.
- 2017 Trí, a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache.
- 2017 Caisléan an Papa, (The Pope’s Castle), a blend Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Counoise and Cinsault.
- 2017 Consonance, a blend of Petite Sirah, Sirah, Mourvèdre and Alicante Bouschet.
The The white blends are:
- 2019 Nellie Mae, a blend of Viognier and Roussanne.
- 2019 Marsanne, a blend of Marsanne, and Rousanne.
And it continues to grow, in ways big and small, with a new tasting room coming in 2021. Now under construction, the tasting room will be located in a 4,800 square foot, two-story, barn style building that will have “gorgeous views of the lake,” says Lacey. The tasting room will be located on the ground floor, with a loft on the second floor serving as a private gathering place for wine club members.
Perhaps the biggest sign of growth is that for the past 11 months, Lacey and Charlie have started seeing their wine on shelves in Western Washington, where it all started.
Of course, they don’t want to grow too fast. They see wineries venturing into cidermaking or beermaking, or wine in a can, but Lacey and Charlie won’t be going that route. “People are attracted to companies and businesses and brands that have a clear vision,” says Lacey. “And I really feel like we have a clear vision at Cairdeas and we don’t want to get distracted,” adding, “This is where we want to be: We are proud of what we are doing, what we are building and what we are creating and I wouldn’t, we wouldn’t, have it any other way.
Cairdeas Winery is located at 31 Winesap Ave, Manson, WA 98831. Phone: (509) 687-0555. Despite restrictions related to the Coronavirus Pandemic, they are open seven days a week and will be welcoming visitors throughout the fall and winter months. Because of the limitations placed on the number of visitors that can be served at any one time, Lacey and Charlie request that you make a reservation in advance of your visit. However, walk ups are still being accepted on a first-come, first served basis as space allows. All staff will be wearing masks, and guests are now required to wear masks except when seated at their tables.
If you are unable to visit Cairdeas Winery in person, you can order their current releases by calling the winery at (509) 687-0555 or by visiting the winery’s on-line wine store at:
https://cairdeaswinery.orderport.net/wines/Current-Releases. They are now authorized to ship wine to a total of 40 states. That makes it easy to send Cairdeas wine as holiday gifts to friends and relatives all over the country.