After attending several Lake County wine tastings, I decided it was time to visit. I picked up a wine-lover friend in St. Helena and headed through Robert Louis Stevenson State Park into rural Lake County.
Lake County is home to Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake entirely in California. At lake level, the elevation is about 1300 feet and rises to more than 2,000 feet around Mt. Konocti, a dormant volcano towering over the lake at 4700 feet.
When you want to get away from crowds, back to nature and breathe clean air, Lake County offers small towns, outdoor activities, open spaces and delicious wine, all two hours north of San Francisco.
Stay: Ceàgo Vinegarden is a wonderful place to stay. Nestled on the northeast shore of the lake, its Spanish-influenced architecture is reminiscent of the Mediterranean. Located at Ceàgo’s vineyard and winery, the casitas also share the grounds with sheep, chickens, gardens, fig and olive trees and an abundance of lavender.
The interiors feature brightly colored walls and fabrics, tiled floors, ceiling fans, fireplace, a kitchen area (coffee and several treats provided) and high-tech amenities. French doors open to a private patio with views of the lake and mountains – the perfect place to relax with a glass of Ceàgo wine.
Accommodations around Clear Lake vary tremendously – cottages to rent, a country hotel, a loft in Kelseyville – do your research ahead of time.
Dine: From Napa, Middleton is the first town in Lake County. Stop at Hardester’s Markets for the best of all natural, organic and fresh groceries. Family-run for three generations, it’s also a great place for delicious sandwiches – and it’s a hardware store, too!
Lunch by the lake is terrific at Park Place in Lakeport. Owned for 20 years by the same dynamic duo, it’s a local favorite serving pastas and pizzas in addition to specialty salads (with their yummy poppy seed dressing) and sandwiches. Savor the lake view and a Lake County wine (we chose the 2011 Brassfield Pinot Grigio) with your meal.
Dinner one night was at the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake. On a warm evening, eating in the garden courtyard is pleasant. The menu has something for everyone with flatbreads, wings, Asian slaw and shrimp and grits. The wine list is exclusively Lake County – we chose the 2007 Gregory Graham Syrah.
A casual atmosphere, good food and rotating exhibits of local artists make the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro in Kelseyville an enjoyable place to eat. With our specialty cocktail, we opted for the delicious crispy duck breast with raspberry compote and the skillet roasted Gulf prawns. The lemon drop cheesecake for dessert was a sweet ending.
PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb