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San Francisco Wine School: Week 3 Lake County

This past week was all about Lake County in my San Francisco Wine School California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS) class. By no means a major player by any standard, Lake County contains only five American Viticultural Areas (AVA) with the Benmore Valley AVA, a high depression in the mountains of southwestern Lake County, containing no wineries at all. It appears, though, that Lake County is fixing to step up and double production from the 170,000 available acres located in the AVA.

Rustic vineyard scene of the North Coast AVA
Kenneth Fish

Instead of concentrating on the two wines tasted this week, both of which were surprisingly inexpensive and tasty, it seems much more appropriate to share a little of what I learned about this little-known, up-and-coming AVA. Lake County has only 29 wineries, most of which concentrate on growing the major Bordeaux varietals, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc being the main areas of production. Since Lake County is home to the largest geothermal field in North America, its soils are predominantly of the red volcanic type which provide excellent drainage, with one of the oldest geological lakes, Clear Lake, being at the center of this region’s watershed. In the southern third of the county, the Red Hills AVA, looks to be the most promising for the doubling of production mentioned above.

South of Red Hills is the geographically remote Guenoc AVA. Guenoc is the oldest AVA in the county, and is probably the most well known due to the Langtry/Guenoc winery. Guenoc wines can be found in many grocery stores and, despite the limited production numbers, are available at a reasonable price. Do yourself a favor and get some Guenoc Sauvignon Blanc. It is refreshingly fruity and smooth and is a great wine for the warm days of summer.

If you want to get in on the fun or if you’d like more information about the San Francisco Wine School, click here. Stay tuned for the rest of the CWAS adventures of yours truly. Next week we head over to Sonoma County to explore the many differences and similarities between itself and Napa.

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