New Frontier for California Wine
Lake County, California
It’s rugged and a little untamed. You get to drive on winding and hilly roads to rendezvous with Mother Nature. The vineyards and ranches are the natural habitat of coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, and bald eagles. You can find historic communal natural soaking pools where clothing is optional. This is all part of the wine country experience found in Lake County, California.
Lake County is hidden in the hills north of the San Francisco Bay area sharing her southern border with Napa and Sonoma counties. The people who venture to the region discover a scenic and rural environment, whose signature natural assets include a dormant volcano, Mount Konocti which rises to a height of 4,300 feet above sea level. At the center of Lake County is Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California. Lake County has the distinction of being consistently rated as having the cleanest air in the California.
“The history of Lake County wine is one of pioneering,” says Peter Molna, Chairman of the Lake County Winegrape Commission and owner of Tricycle Wine Co. California grape growers have been looking for new places to spread their wings and investments are pouring in for land, vineyards, and wineries. However, people say Lake County looks like Napa County did 40 years ago before it boomed.
The vineyards are planted at higher elevations along the backbone of the great Cabernet regions of northern California. “There are crazy soils up here. It’s an exciting place that makes great wine,” said Molna.
“We are pioneering winemakers and we attract pioneering consumers. People who are looking for something different. They are looking for wine that’s fun to drink…that’s exciting,” says Paul Zellman, Education Director of the Lake County Wine Commission.
Clear Lake is surrounded by small towns, each with its own identity and each with its own wineries and tasting rooms. Upper Lake and Lower Lake are historic towns with renovated buildings that still remind visitors of the Old West. Kelseyville has decorative street lights and popular restaurants such as Saw Shop Gallery Bistro and The Brick Tavern. Lakeport is the county seat presiding over just 65,000 local residents.
Lake County continues to be homeland to six tribes of the Pomo and Miwok Indians. The area has been considered sacred ground. The county has attracted a spiritual type of agricultural entrepreneur. Sustainable farming practices abound. Flocks of sheep are used in the vineyards to eat the weeds and provide fertilization. Six Sigma Ranch & Winery sprawls over 4,300 carefully preserved acres of vineyards, grazing land, and natural habitat. “We think this is such a beautiful piece of nature that we want to protect it,” says Six Sigma proprietor, Kaj Ahlmann.
Bird watching on designated water trails, fishing on the lake rated third-best for bass fishing in America, hiking and biking in the county’s publicly owned lands, and tasting the intensely beautiful local wines, are making Lake County, California a new frontier for wine lovers and adventure seekers. It’s a wildly unique place.