Lake County has deep roots in viticulture and wine making. The first vineyards were planted in the 1870’s and internationally recognized wines were being produced by 1900. Like many regions, Prohibition stopped wine production and it did not reemerge in this agriculturally oriented county until the 1960’s. Many of the area’s growers are generational farmers whose families grew such crops as pears and walnuts before planting vineyards.
Today, Lake County has over 8,400 acres producing fruit for wine. Increasingly, Lake County is gaining notoriety for the quality of the fruit and friendly price-points. For example, the Red Hills AVA was recently cited as one of 12 “Next Great Wine Regions” in Food & Wine Magazine. Lake County has also been featured recently in publications such as Wine Spectator and Decanter magazine.
The Lake County wine-growing region is part of the North Coast AVA. Lake County, along with Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties, lies along the spine of the Mayacamas Mountains, the most distinctive geographical feature of the six county North Coast wine-growing regions. The Clear Lake AVA, a sub-appellation of North Coast, was recognized in 1984. The appellation covers more than 219,000 acres surrounding Clear Lake with microclimates and varying soils. Elevations range from 1,300 feet to well over 3,000 feet.
As the Lake County wine industry has continued to grow, additional AVAs have been created to distinguish the unique growing regions. Currently, Lake County has six recognized sub-appellations: High Valley AVA, Guenoc Valley AVA, Red Hills – Lake County AVA, Big Valley District AVA, Kelsey Bench AVA, and Benmore Valley AVA. Each area is unique with its own terroir, or sense of place, that produces grapes and wines of compelling quality and character.