You don't hear as much about Lake County as you do about neighboring Napa and Sonoma, but it's an up and coming region that produces some wonderful wines. Though wines have been made here since before prohibition, its modern development as a wine region is relatively recent due in part to affordable property values. It's the home to two of the newest American Viticultural Areas (AVA's) designations, High Valley and Red Hills Lake County as well as two of the oldest, Guenoc and Clear Lake.
Red volcanic soils, mountain slopes, extreme temperature swings and winds off the lake result in longer ripening periods, a wide variety of grapes and an amazing range of wines. Varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc.
One of the pioneers in this area is Jed Steele, the winemaker who was responsible for the first nine vintages at Kendall Jackson. In 1991 he founded Steele and Shooting Star Wines. His whimsically named wines are reasonably priced and range from delicate to bold.
One of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Luella, is holding it's first winemaker dinner the Steele Wine Dinner on April 3rd with winemaker Jed Steele. This is a great way to try some Lake County wines and hear from the winemaker without heading North. As for the food, you'll taste a number of dishes that Luella does best, crisp pizzettas, deliciously unctuous slow braised meats and sauces and tender homemade pastas.
Steele Wine Dinner
April 3, 2007