Lake County

 Courtesy of Lake County Winegrowers Alliance

Lake County History


The Steele winery is in Lake County, directly north of Napa County and directly east of Mendocino County.  Lake County is one of the most rural, least populated and developed of the North Coast's grape growing regions. The county supports 32 wineries and 8,800 acres of wine grapes, compared to 16,700 in Mendocino, 45,000 in Napa and 60,000 in Sonoma. 


The County's current population is only around 65,000 people.  It is a mountainous region with a base elevation of around 1,350 feet and some of the vineyards we source grapes are as high as 2,700 feet. Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California, dominates Lake County's geography.  On the south side of the lake, the extinct volcano Mt. Konocti rises to 4,500 feet and supports numerous vineyards. 


Lake County was part of Napa County until 1861 and had a thriving grape and wine industry at the turn of the century.  Wines made from Lake County grapes won numerous medals and awards at national and international fairs and expositions in the early 1900's.


Just like in other grape growing areas, Prohibition sounded a death knell for the vineyards and wineries of Lake County.  While grape growing continued in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties to supply the enormous number of home winemakers during prohibition, Lake County's isolation and the fact that it lacked railroad access caused most vineyards and wineries to fail.  Most of the vineyards were ripped out and replanted with walnut and pear orchards.



The post-prohibition revival of grape growing in the County began in the late 1960's, but it wasn't until around 2000 that the rapid expansion of the wine business in Lake County began.



Most popular grape varieties:

Red - Cabernet Sauvignon

White - Sauvignon Blanc

Other plantings: Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Barbera and Riesling


The County has seven recognized appellations:

Benmore Valley, Big Valley, Clear Lake, Guenoc Valley, High Valley, Red Hills and the new Kelsey Bench AVA.