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Lower Lake Winery – Lake County’s First Since Prohibition

Photo Credit: Kathleen Scavone

Today Lake County is enjoying the praises of many as a premier grape-growing region. There are dozens of award-winning wineries scattered around the hills and valleys, with eight American Viticultural Areas (AVA), or appellations located here, according to The Wine Institute. An AVA denotes landscapes with either geographic or climatic characteristics that differentiate from surrounding grape-growing regions. Some of Lake County’s appellations include Red Hills, Kelsey Bench, High Valley, Big Valley District, Guenoc Valley, and more. It wasn’t too long ago when there were only a mere handful of wineries in Lake County. Grape growers from the Napa Valley have long known about the rich volcanic soils and Mediterranean climate that make Lake County a fantastic choice for grapes of nearly all varietals to be grown here. They’ve been buying Lake County’s grapes for many years, one reason being that the Mayacamas Range runs through both of our counties and is a well-known Cabernet Sauvignon-producing terroir.

Growing wine grapes in Lake County has a long history, spanning 150 years or so, but my husband, Tom was partner in Lower Lake Winery, the first winery in Lake County since Prohibition. Lower Lake Winery was located south of Lower Lake on Highway 29. Groundbreaking occurred in 1976, with the first crush, Cabernet Sauvignon taking place in 1977. During its operation, Lower Lake Winery garnered numerous awards for its fine wines. The Lake County Grape Growers Association pamphlet, and Wine Country Publication made note, in 1982, that this was the first winery in Lake County since Prohibition. It was also mentioned in renowned wine writer, Leon D. Adams’ book, The Wines of America, third edition for that distinctive fact. He said, “When it opened in 1977, it was the county’s first new winery to start since the Prohibition era. Alhambra orthopedic surgeon Dr. Harry Stuermer and his wife Marjorie financed the redwood building, its stainless-steel tanks, and oak barrels, for their winemaker son Daniel, his wife Betty, Dan’s sister Harriet, and her husband, Tom Scavone.” In 1920 national Prohibition ended Lake County’s early winemaking. That’s when grapevines were replaced by walnut and pear orchards. In 1979 the winery was sold to Ployez Winery.

To enjoy a walk-through time visit Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum. The museum displays Lower Lake Winery’s original sign along with other winery-related artifacts. For more information on Lake County’s 9,000 acres of vineyards and growing, and to begin planning a relaxing visit to our unique AVAs visit The Lake County Wine Alliance website at:   

https://www.winealliance.org/ or  The Lake County Winery Association at:

https://www.lakecountywineries.org/

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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