While the undeniable quality and taste of the varietials offered at Beachaven Vineyards and Winery in Clarksville are certainly reason enough to inspire a taste-filled tour of the wine maker’s grounds, there’s more than great grapes drawing crowds to sample their wares; and people come from miles around to take a peek not simply at the wines and the vines, but to marvel at the beauty of the barrels that takes the artful process of aging wines and makes it a true visual work of art.
The barrels themselves are not that special. No exotic woods sourced from far-off lands are used in their construction. It’s the faces of the barrels that have captured so much attention, serving as the artistic medium for something one might not expect: detailed wood carvings that are chiseled by hand. And not just any hands. Hands of a man whose gnarled fingers have gripped paint brushes, pencils, and chisels for most of his 93 years. Hands that have buttoned service uniforms in two major wars. Hands that, despite their age, still caress the wood with a steady surety to feel the pictures forming under his tools. “I love wood carving, and I’ll be doing it until the day I pass away,” says Claus “Dutch” Mann, the very man whose hands produce the carvings that make Beachaven’s wine barrels so unique.
His love of art began at an early age, nurtured to grow and be explored by his mother. And when he came to the United States from Germany as a child, Mann’s talent found every mode of expression he could get his hands on, though nothing quite took root as much as wood carving. Now using his tools to create pieces on the barrels at the winery, Mann is a proud member of the Tennessee Wood Carvers’ Association and hopes to inspire others to take on the craft that has so captured his passion. “There’s something about doing this by hand—the cuts and the grooves that are made by a chisel—that you can’t get with a machine; and that’s what makes it so special,” Mann says.
Much like a gallery proudly showing off the works of its most prized artist, Beachaven serves as Mann’s exhibit space, displaying a multitude of carvings whose imagery is inspired by everything from the creative musings of the woodcarver’s mind’s eye to significant events in the Clarksville community. “We’re honored that ‘Dutch’ chose our barrels as his canvas, and he has told our 30-year journey at the winery through his art,” says Beachaven owners Louisa and Ed Cooke.
And while age could easily have put Mann’s hands to rest, he’s using the golden years of his life to carve his mark in the world, proving without doubt that living out your dream is truly what keeps you young.
Beachaven Vineyards and Winery is located at 1100 Dunlop Lane, Clarksville, Tennessee 37040. Open Monday- Saturday 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m., Sunday 12:00 p.m.- 5:00 p.m. For more information on the winery or about Mann’s work, call (931) 645-8867 or visit www.beachavenwinery.com.