December 6, 2023, Lake County, Calif.— Lake County continues to raise the bar of quality wine production in California and welcomes two recently approved AVAs, the Long Valley-Lake County AVA, and the Upper Lake Valley AVA.
The approval of the two new AVAs is one of many recent achievements for the Lake County region. This high-elevation, mountainous region of the prestigious North Coast AVA is gaining traction as the market looks for high-end, California wines at an accessible price point. With its volcanic terroir, the region is being recognized for its capacity to produce quality winegrapes that result in wines that are complex and distinct. The wines offer great aromatic and flavor intensity alongside noticeable aging potential. The region has become a go-to source for high-end Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
“These two new AVAs further demonstrate the vast potential of Lake County,” comments Debra Sommerfield, President of the Lake County Winegrape Commission, an organization of the region’s winegrowers that actively fosters local viticultural innovation through projects such as the bilingual Lake County Pruning School in English and Spanish, now in its second year. “The establishment of these AVAs builds on the discovery of these as distinct sub-appellations and on the long history of farming in the region while the Lake County Pruning School builds on the long-standing viticultural expertise of the region’s growers.”
Stretching across 7,674 acres, the Long Valley-Lake County Valley AVA consists of a long, narrow valley floor and surrounding foothills, which sits on a geologic formation known as the Cache Formation. The formation comprises lake deposits and consists of tuffaceous and diatomaceous sands and silts, limestone, gravel, and intercalated volcanic rocks. This AVA is known for producing red winegrapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, and Syrah. The first record of vineyards in Long Valley was a family vineyard planted on land near the southern end of the Valley by John Bonham in 1883. This was followed in 1885 when N.E. Hanson planted a vineyard on his ranch with 2,000 vines called “The Crags.” Modern viticulture in the area started with the planting of a block of vines by David James, using cuttings from the Fay vineyard that won the 1976 “Judgment of Paris.” James and his wife moved to Lake County in 1978 and purchased Pomo Ranch, located on the western shelf along the southern end of Long Valley. The vines were planted on their own rootstock and are still in production. Today, this property is the location of Stonehouse Cellars, a licensed Lake County wine producer.
Upper Lake Valley AVA is approximately 20,187 acres and consists of four identified water-bearing formations: Quaternary alluvium; Pleistocene terrace deposits; Pleistocenelake and floodplain deposits; and Plio–Pleistocene cache creek. These formations comprise the Upper Lake Groundwater Basin, which covers the majority of the AVA. Soils belong to three groups. The Millsholm–Skyhigh-Bressa are formed by sandstone and shale and are primarily loams and clay loams. The Still–Lupoyoma occur on the nearly-level valley floors and consist of very deep, moderately well- to well-drained loams and silt loams. Finally, soils from the Tulelake– luvaquentic–Haplawuolls map unit are very deep, poorly drained silty clay loams. This AVA is suitable for growing a variety of grapes, including Sauvignon Blanc.