The western part of California’s Lake County is what comprises the North Coast American Viticultural Area (or AVA). It includes the Clear Lake AVA, which has nearly 170,000 acres of land all by itself. Within the county, there are 8,260 acres dedicated to growing wine grapes. Over the next few years, that number is expected to double as a number of new vineyards start being planted.
Lake County Vineyards
The vineyards are planted in locations throughout the entire county, which itself surrounds California’s largest natural lake. The elevations throughout the valley make the area conducive to growing cool-climate grape varietals. These elevations, as high as 2,000 feet in some areas, create a later beginning to the growing season and cooler winters. The advantage to this is that few pests can tolerate both the altitude and the cool climate, keeping the grapes safe from a vast majority of those that would otherwise cause problems with the crops.
The combination of the fertile soils and varietals grown in the region result in a terroir that many wine connoisseurs agree defines the area and wines that express a distinct character to go with it. Lake County growers take tremendous pride in their work at producing top-quality wine grape varietals. Here you will find many acres of some of the most popular grapes being grown under some of the most ideal conditions in the world.
Lake County Varietals
The region’s most widely planted grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, accounting for 3,300 of the region’s acres. Sauvignon Blanc comes in second with 1,770 planted acres. The region currently has 14 wineries and nearly 20 wineries from out-of-county purchase grapes from independent Lake County growers. In 2004, Lake County crushed nearly 28,000 tons of grapes, which accounts for about 1 percent of wine grapes grown in California.
The most widely planted varietals also include Malbec and Merlot. The Terroir of Big Valley has actually established Lake County as one of California’s premier regions for cultivating Sauvignon Blanc. The volcanic soils of Kelsy Bench and the gravelly terrain of Big Valley are ideal spots for growing Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc. Big Valley and Kelsy Bench are also among California’s premier locations for growing Riesling, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Merlot.
Growers in California’s High Valley AVA produce many other award-winning varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Petite Verdot, Grenache, Malbec, Mourvedre, Pinot Noir, and Tempranillo.
Middletown enjoys the distinction of having some of California’s oldest wine grape vines, some dating back as far as the 1850s. It is home to some of the region’s best Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Mourvedre, Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.
The high elevation of the Red Hills vineyards produces excellent varietals that include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel.
In all, there are close to 170 growers who are committed to continuing Lake County’s enduring tradition of producing wine and grapes that are truly exceptional in every way.