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Lake County brings greater awareness to region growers and wineries


A successful trade event was held by the Lake County Wine grape Commission (LCWC), to bring awareness to the region’s wineries and wine grape growers. At the event there were media writers,  wine retailers and distributors, and restaurant sommeliers. There were vineyard tours for the guest, two broad wine tastings with multiple showcasing of Lake County-appellate wines, and even a presentation examining the exceptional character, and quality of Lake County wine grapes and wines.

The event is part of a series of trade activities that engages key influencers within the wine industry and exposes them to Lake County wines, vineyards, appellations and breathtaking landscape. These events fit within the Commission’s mission to implement effective marketing, education and research programs on behalf of Lake County wine grape growers. Events like this one introduce the region to individuals in the industry who typically have spent little to no time in Lake County and provide them with a memorable experience they can share with colleagues, readers, followers and consumers.

“Our ability to show our appellation and our work at this level to writers, sommeliers and the trade is critical to bringing Lake County’s reputation for wines on par with Sonoma and Napa,” said Peter Molnar, outgoing LCWC Chairman and co-founder of Obsidian Ridge Vineyards located in the Red Hills Lake County AVA. “Every one of our guests, to a person, raved about the professional and friendly hosting and the breadth and depth of the experience. Each one remarked at how much they learned about our region and how exciting the wines and momentum are.”

  • Lake County winemakers and growers were on hand throughout the day and evening, offering an opportunity for guests to connect and converse with the people behind the wines. “Events like this are very illuminating,” said Kelli White, sommelier at Press. “They create an intimacy and a relationship between the wine buyer and the product, the place and the people. This is very eye opening. We were won over by this experience.”

Added Scott Brenner, also from Press: “These wines deserve recognition. They’re terrific. They have everything a sommelier is looking for. They’ve got structure, they’ve got acidity, and they’ve got freshness. Now it’s just a matter of getting them into a sommelier’s hands.”

Most guests arrived by turbo-prop plane from Oakland into the Lampson Field Airport, northwest of Kelseyville. This approach provided them an aerial view of the region and a valuable perspective of the vineyards tucked among the Mayacama mountain range, which runs north along the western edge of Napa Valley and into southwestern Lake County. Guests traveled by chauffeured SUV to Vigilance Winery & Vineyards in the Red Hills AVA, where Bay Grape owner Josiah Baldivino led guests through a tasting of white wines produced from Lake County grapes.

After a seasonal lunch catered by Chic Le Chef, guests toured through E&J Gallo’s Snows Lake Vineyard and up to Obsidian Ridge Vineyard, where Molnar gave a presentation on the characteristics that make Lake County unique among winegrowing regions. His talk was a “deep dive” on the region and focused on the important contributions to wine quality from elevation, soil, and air quality and sun exposure. Joy Merrilees, Director of Winemaking at Shannon Ridge Family of Wines, shared insights into the nature of winemaking with the quality fruit grown in Lake County. The next stop was Beckstoffer Vineyards, also in the Red Hills AVA, where soil scientist Randy Krag spoke about the sustainable approach many Lake County wine grape growers follow, particularly in areas such as water conservation.

  • This tour of key vineyards across the Red Hills appellation was intended to complement the aerial overview with a ground-level perspective of the mountains and rolling hills that make up the Lake County high-elevation winegrowing region.

The final stop of the day was the Tallman Hotel, where dinner was prepared by guest chef Louis Maldonado from Spoon bar in Healdsburg. The evening included several flights of red wines made from Lake County winegrapes, curated by White and Brenner of Press. Guests stayed overnight at the Tallman Hotel and departed by plane the next morning.

“This event was designed to deliver an unparalleled experience of Lake County’s high-elevation winegrowing region from above, on the ground and within the vineyard,” said Debra Somerfield, Lake County Wine grape Commission President. “Our guests were carefully selected influencers whom we believe will use this experience to help share the excitement of a region on the rise.”


By Steve Ferree, California Wine Examiner