I don’t know if you’ve seen my deep dark dungeon where I store my wine. Ok, it’s a coat closet. This COVID thing’s got me like “When can we finish construction on the awesomely designed—and legit—wine cellar?!?!?. Ah well, like Indiana Jones, I lit a torch and ducked beneath the dusty remains of corpses who traversed these parts before me. Wine to the left, wine to right, wine all around me. How…how am I to know which is the right bottle for tonight? I can barely see. Quickly…quickly I must make my choice before the walls collapse around me and a bolder of a wine cask comes rolling towards me. Grab something! Grab anything! Now Run!!!!
A few months ago I did a story for the paper featuring the under-appreciated Lake County. For much of its grape-growing history, this not-so-little wine region simply sold off its produce to its well-known neighbors, Napa and Sonoma Counties. But just within the last few years, there’s been somewhat of a boom in Lake County boutique wineries. The land here is more affordable — as are the grapes; the terroir and climate markedly different; and the people — well you’ll have to visit yourself to experience just how open and inviting they are to the few tourists who, admittedly, just seem to drive through on their way to Clear Lake camping.
One such pop-up is Gregory Graham, who’s probably best known for his years as head winemaker for Rombauer. Though he calls his decision to establish his vineyard and winery in Lake County “a lark” (indeed, he was one of the many who only visited Lake County on his way toward somewhere else), he now enjoys the land’s volcanic, rocky soils and Mediterranean-dry climate. Perfect conditions for growing one of the county’s heritage grapes, Sauvignon Blanc.
Wildhurst Vineyards is another Lake County find. In fact, the Wildhurst tasting room is right across the street from another LC favorite stop, Fore Family Vineyards. Both tasting rooms are located in the super sleepy downtown Kelseyville. Although admittedly, for a tiny town, there are a lot of tasting rooms to choose from — all within walking distance. If you find yourself in those parts, definitely do stop by Wildhurst Vineyards. Wine to try: Wildhurst Vineyards 2015 Reserve Chardonnay.
I came across Fore Family Vineyards during my last excursion to Lake County. An enjoyable experience at the tasting room’s downtown Kelseyville location, I was intimately hosted by both Jim and Diane Fore. (To be honest, it was 11am on a rainy Saturday morning — no one in their right mind was out wine tasting that day.) I tasted through a full line up of their current releases, but it was this GSM Rhone-style blend that, to me, elegantly displayed what their unique plot of Lake County has to offer.
I came across Steele Wines during my last tour of Lake County Wine Country. A pleasant experience all around: great staff, a large tasting menu, and — of course — enjoyable wines. But the one that struck me the most — the bottle I came home with — was the 2014 Writer’s Block Cabernet Franc. Sourced from Shannon Ridge Vineyards in the High Valley area of Lake County, the wine shows the true expression of everything one knows and loves about the Cab Franc grape (assuming, you’re like me and love the grape). But what’s more is the story that goes along with it…