Lake County Wines: Overlooked, Underpriced, Pretty Tasty!
By Mac McCarthy, Savvytaste.com
Lake County, California, is a winegrowing area in Northern California surrounding Clear Lake, east of the famed winegrowing areas of Napa and Sonoma. The lake is the largest in California, and the area includes The Geysers, the largest geothermal field complex in the world.
For the purposes of wine drinking, however, the two most important facts about Lake County are, first, its well-drained volcanic hillside soils and rich alluvial soils in the valleys; and its five AVAs producing good wine that, because the area is relatively overlooked compared to other California wine areas, prices are very reasonable for the quality of the wine.
To fix the problem of being overlooked, a dozen wineries founded a winery association to promote to the world the virtues of the wines produced by the nearly 40 wineries of Lake County. This campaign resulted in the 'Wines of Lake County' winetasting event held on Treasure Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay, at The Winery -- another novelty, as several small winemakers have recently set up shop on the island too.
The Best and Most Interesting of the Lake County Wines
Rather than running down the selection of nearly 100 wines shown by the 22 attending winemakers, we'll jump to the bottom line and highlight the wines that most impressed or interested me.
|Cheryl Lucido, winemaker, Laujor Estate|
Best of show in my opinion has to go to Laujor Estate Winery, with a tip of the hat to winemaker Cheryl Lucido, who clearly has the magic palate: Her 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, done in stainless and neutral oak, was the best SB I tasted that day, and is available online for $18. Her 2009 Barbera, $23, was every juicy tasty thing a Barbera can be; and I also liked her 2009 Zinfandel ($24). What a winemaker!
Ceago Vineyards had a very nice 2009 Del Lago Syrah Rose, $16; only 200 cases made.
Chacewater Wine Co. offered a noteworthy $16 2010 Chardonnay, Burgundian style; if you're tired of standard-style Chards, try this one. They also had a Cab-like '09 Malbec with a little more fruit than I usually find in Malbecs, thanks presumably to an always-welcome splash of Petit Verdot; $18, but they only made 81 cases of it. Their '09 Petite Syrah ($18) is rich but a bit tannic.
Six Sigma Ranch 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Michael's Vineyard, $22, aged in oak rather than steel -- that worked: Nice! They also poured the '08 of their Cuvee Pique-Nique, a Cab-Merlot blend with some Petite Verdot and Cab Franc splashed in there -- the cute name would be annoying if the wine weren't so tasty, and with a wonderful nose.
Steele Wines has a yummy (that's a technical term) 2010 Shooting Star Reisling at an equally yummy $12 price tag; that was their best wine being shown.
|Rosa d'Oro's Peitro Buttitta|
Rosa d'Oro was doing some very interesting things with Italian varietals: a $20 Nebbiolo and a $20 Sangiovese had the most wonderful noses, and interesting tastes, and their also-$20 Barbera was a big yes. I didn't care for the Primitivo, alas.
The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Wildhurst Vineyards has the most wonderful aroma, and was nicely balanced in flavor; oh, and it's only $12.
If you see "Lake County" as the wine origin on the menu, go ahead. You're likely to be happy with it.