Play: We went to taste wine, but Lake County offers many other things to do. If you are interested in largemouth bass fishing – Clear Lake is the bass capital of the West and the site of major tournaments.
The lake’s warm waters make it nice for swimming, but because of its ecosystem, algae are natural. The algae content varies depending on the time of the year. You’ll quickly decide how it feels once you’re in the water.
Boat launches line the shore and many are free. In addition, you can water ski, Jet Ski, sail, paddleboard, kayak and rent houseboats and pontoons. Unlike other lakes overrun with boats, Clear Lake is not.
Clear Lake State Park, a popular camping site, has a marina, beach, fishing pier and hiking trails. Mt. Konocti County Park is part of the county’s regional trails. Maps guide hiking, navigating the water and walking between area vineyards.
On historic Lakeport’s walking tour, explore the Pioneer and Indian Museum in the old brick Courthouse. It showcases baskets made by the Pomo Indians who once lived nearby. Lake County has numerous annual festivals – Wine & Chocolate, Rhythm & Brews, one for pears as well as the blues.
Lake County is a rapidly growing wine region that features distinctive volcanic soils in its five AVAs. It’s high elevation farming (the Mayacama Mountains are to the west and the Vaca Range to the east) where vines are tended sustainably.
We started our adventure at Ceàgo Vinegarden, specializing in small lot wines. The grapes are grown organically and biodynamically. Choose the tasting room, small café or patio (with lake views) to sample wine. Don’t miss Kathleen’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, Del Lago (both 2012) and their extra virgin olive oil.
Kelseyville has a number of wineries and tasting rooms. With several labels, Steele Winery offers a great selection of varietals. Enjoy the laid back vibe in the tasting room and especially these two from 2010 – the Writer’s Block Cabernet Franc and the Steele Stymie Syrah.
In downtown Kelseyville, park your car and stroll from one winery to another. At Wildhurst Vineyards, the tasting room/boutique is a fun place to sip the 2010 Home Ranch Zinfandel and the 2009 Reserve Petite Sirah.
Close by, try delicious Italian varietals at Rosa d’Oro Winery like these two 2010s – Primitivo and Aglianico. They also produce estate grown extra virgin olive oil – available to taste onsite.
One street over is Chacewater Winery & Olive Mill. Lots to try, but be sure to sample their 2010 Malbec and the blood orange infused olive oil.
In Upper Lake, a stop at the Lake County Wine Studio is essential. In addition to a fun environment in which to taste and buy wine, discover hard-to-find bottles from over 40 local wineries. The 2009 Sol Rouge Gypsy Rouge and the 2010 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon are among the standouts.
Shop: Each of the little towns we visited (Upper Lake, Lakeport and Kelseyville) have small shops. Wineries and tasting rooms hope you’ll buy their wine, olive oil and other products when you visit.
PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb