Lake County is one of six counties which comprise the North Coast Appellation, which also includes Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Marin and Solano Counties. Lake County was formed in 1861 by joining parts of Napa and Mendocino Counties and has long been known as a prime farming area. Vineyards were first planted in the 1870′s, and by the early 1900′s the area was earning a reputation for producing some of the world’s greatest wines. In 1920, Prohibition forced an end to Lake County wine production and most of the vineyards were ripped out to be replanted with walnut and pear orchards.
Re-emergence of the wine industry began in the 1960′s when a few growers rediscovered the area’s grape growing potential and began planting vineyards once again. The County’s plantings have grown from less than 100 acres of vineyards in 1965 to over 8,800 acres today. Recognition of unique attributes of regions within the area has resulted in the recent establishment of several American Viticultural Areas such as High Valley AVA and Red Hills Lake County AVA. Leaders in the national trend, many Lake County vineyards today support certified organic, biodynamic and sustainable farming practices.
That said Lake County has not yet suffered the disease of urban encroachment and consumer mania which has crippled Napa and Sonoma growers. In Sonoma’s case land prices, vineyard land, are competing with Bay Area urban development, and Napa’s rock star fame is driving land prices to $200,000.00 per acre and more.
Lake County is aptly named, reflecting its large number of freshwater lakes. Clear Lake is the largest natural lake wholly contained in the State of California. The County’s other major bodies of water include the Blue Lakes, Lake Pillsbury, and Indian Valley Reservoir.
The US Geologic Survey reports Clear Lake to be one of the very oldest in all of North America, with sedimentation samples that date back nearly 500 million years! Over that time, a lot has happened to create a most unique terroir for fine wine grapes.
Lake County’s geologic history is chaotic, being based on the creation of the Franciscan Assemblage hills, created as a result of the continuing collision of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. Numerous small faults are present around the south end of Clear Lake, as are many old volcanoes, the largest being Mount Konocti, which divides the lake today. The geologic record of Lake County reveals events of great violence such as the eruptions of Mount Konocti and Mount St. Helena, and the collapse of Cow Mountain, which created the hills around the county seat of Lakeport.
Over the past thirty years (NOAA) the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has compiled climatology reports for the State of California. These reports provide that prevailing winds in Lake County travel down the lake, from west to east, roughly ninety percent of each year. Ergo the Lake Effect! Our ranch is uniquely situated at the east end of the lake, one and one-half miles from the water’s edge. As these daily breezes travel down the lake they accumulate moisture, warming the air in winter, and cooling in summer. High to low temperature swings of 40 degrees are an everyday occurrence in summer, however, 50 degree differentials are not uncommon. Experts say that these diurnal swings contribute to happy grapes that make wines of quality. This makes us happy too, but it also means that we keep extra jackets on hand at all times.