Lake County’s Terrific Terroir

What makes Lake County’s grapes so special? Is it the spectacular setting with its high elevations? Is it the ancient Clear Lake locale, or storied Mt. Konocti Volcano that can be sighted from much of the county’s 1,329 square miles? Or is it the county’s geology with its Franciscan Assemblage and chaotic array of old volcanoes such as Cobb Mountain?

It turns out that being situated east of the Mayacamas Mountains at elevations of 1,360 to 2,700 feet affords Lake County’s grapes just the right temperatures and light for the myriad varietals grown here. The microclimates scattered about the county and the many soil types all collaborate into the resulting award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Tempranillo, Petite Syrah, Chardonnay, or any of the diverse varietals tended in Lake County’s vineyards. With dozens of wineries spread across the landscape, it’s no secret that our county regularly produces award-winning wines. Napa Valley has been purchasing grapes from Lake County for decades. The volcanic soils, in combination with climate and altitude provide the perfect terroir. Terroir is a French word meaning ‘land’ and commonly explains environmental features or characteristics affecting a vineyard’s biochemical and physiological properties. It can also include the farming methods and the unique habitat of a particular vineyard.

Location, location, location. Lake County’s vineyards, are for the most part, higher in elevation and grown in a drier climate than other wine regions. Our vineyards normally don’t experience much in the way of cooling coastal fog such as is seen in Napa and Sonoma’s Valleys. Also, our summers can rock from temperatures in the hundreds during the day to the fifties at night! With these temps, troublesome bugs that can plague other regions don’t usually take hold and thrive here on the vines in Lake County.

Our far-reaching county is considered to be the North Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA), and includes Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. Our North Coast AVA in turn holds eight AVAs, according to the Lake County Wingrowers website. Those are Kelsey Bench, High Valley, Red Hills and Big Valley District which are all located in the vicinity of Clear Lake. There are also the Guenoc Valley and Benmore Valley AVAs, Long Valley AVA and Upper Lake Valley AVA. The website, Lake County Wineries lists one more AVA, that of Clear Lake.

I may be ‘preachn’ to the choir, but if you want to enjoy the ambiance of a place in the Great Outdoors replete with natural wonders, or partake of some aromatic wines in a unique indoor setting, be sure to take a tour or a tasting in any of the dozens of wineries found in lovely Lake County. You’re sure to enjoy bright, concentrated flavors, each bottle its own experience.

Kathleen Scavone

Kathleen Scavone, MA., is a retired educator who has resided in beautiful Lake County for over 45 years. She freelances fiction, poetry, nature writing, curriculum ideas, and local history. She writes for The Press Democrat, Napa Valley Register, News From Native California, Green Prints, etc. She has published three books, a play and a poetry chapbook. The second edition of her locally set historical novella, People of the Water- a novella of the events leading to the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850 is available in local museums and stores, as well as on Amazon.com and IngramSpark in both paperback and e-book formats. She has written Anderson Marsh State Historic Park- A Walking History, Prehistory, Flora and Fauna tour of a California State Park, and Native Americans of Lake County. Kathleen is a photographer and potter. Her other interests include hiking, assisting on archaeology digs, travel, gardening and reading.


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