Have you been wine tasting in Lake County recently? The first vineyards here were planted back in the 1870’s and today the County has over 30 wineries. Many of the area’s winegrowers are generational farmers whose families grew other crops (such as pears and walnuts) before planting vineyards. We highly recommend this area to others as a wine country travel destination, especially those who enjoy wines crafted from mountain fruit (most of the vineyards here are planted at elevations above 1,500 feet, with some up to 7,000 feet).
Lake County may be most recognized for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, but we also find outstanding wines here made from Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel grapes. We have also fallen in love with well-crafted blends from the area such as Chacewater Winery’s Highlander Blend, Rosa d’Oro’s Traigrammaton and Six Sigma Ranch’s Mountain Cuvee.
We recently attended the local wineries’ Lake County Wine Adventure event and we’ll tell you about our favorite wines from that experience. We strongly suggest you seek out these wines yourself at your local wine store, restaurant, or at the winery itself because this is really a lovely place to visit (and it’s only two hours by car from either the Bay Area or the Sacramento Valley).
After all, if you’re going to go wine tasting this summer, why not do it in a relaxed and breathtaking environment next to Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in California? Keep reading and we’ll also tell you about other activities you can do in the area between sips, and some key events coming up this summer that may help you create a fun and diverse Lake County trip itinerary.
Favorite Lake County Wines and Wineries
Now in its 12th year, the 2016 Lake County Wine Adventure offered attendees two days to casually and comfortably explore the County’s wineries, frequently complementing the wine tasting experience with food, live entertainment, and/or special discounts. Our favorite wine and food pairings of the weekend were:
- Six Sigma Ranch 2014 Asbill Valley Sauvignon Blanc with a Crostini topped with Yerba Santa Chevre with Fennel and Pear Chutney
- Rosa d’Oro Vineyards 2012 Sangiovese with Wine-Braised Meatballs
- Chacewater Winery 2012 Petite Sirah with Carnitas Tacos
- Moore Family Winery 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc with a Bourbon Bread Pudding
Here are the Lake County wines we felt were the most impressive just a few weeks ago:
Chacewater Winery & Olive Mill (5265 Gaddy Lane, Kelseyville, 707-279-2995) – 2014 Lake County Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 Highlander (Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc), 2012 Petite Sirah
Fults Family Vineyards (11441 Highway 29, Lower Lake, 707-690-0338) – 2011 Zinfandel, 2013 “Wildfire” Red Blend (Malbec, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Zinfandel, and $5 from each purchase will be donated to the Lake County Volunteer Firefighters Association)
Moore Family Winery (currently tasting at Black Rock Golf Course and Grill, 16451 Golf Road, Cobb, 707-928-9611, will move tasting back to winery later in summer at 11990 Bottle Rock Road, Kelseyville, 707-279-9279) – 2012 Estate “Wildfire” Zinfandel, 2011 Estate Black Dog Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc
Obsidian Ridge (winery tasting room located at Cornerstone Sonoma, 23568 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-706-2020) – 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (we tasted the wine during the Lake County Wine Adventure at Lake County Wine Studio, a Tasting Room/Art Gallery/Wine Shop offering unique and boutique wines at 9505 Upper Lake, 707-275-8030)
Rosa d’Oro Vineyards (3915 Main Street, Kelseyville, 707-279-0483) – 2012 Sanviovese, 2013 Refosco, 2012 Aglianico, 2013 Negro Amaro, 2012 Trigrammaton (Carménère, Tinta Roriz/Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc)
Six Sigma Ranch Vineyards & Winery (13372 Spruce Grove Road, Lower Lake, 707-994-4068) – 2014 Asbill Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 Diamond Mine Cuvee (Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah)
Wildhurst Vineyards (3855 Main Street, Kelseyville, 707-279-4302) – 2014 Reserve Chardonnay
If you’re looking for some other winery suggestions, we’ve enjoyed these other wineries on prior occasions as well: Fore Family Vineyards, Langtry Estate and Vineyards, Robledo Family Winery, Vigilance Winery and Vineyards.
Lake County Attractions
Lake County is the perfect destination for a romantic couple’s getaway, a long weekend retreat for friends, an overdue girlfriends’ get-together or a fun family vacation. If you need a place to stay, there are options of all types and budget levels. You’ll find historic hotels, budget-friendly motels, lakefront resorts, vacation rental homes, bed and breakfasts, casino lodgings, and even family-friendly campgrounds.
The region is also a stellar destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with over 600,000 acres of public lands serving as a backdrop for these activities:
- Clear Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in California, with 68 square miles of surface area, over 100 miles of shorelines with multiple boat launches, and seven water trails containing 50 miles of paddling trails
- Konocti Regional Trail bike routes let you travel through the area’s beautiful scenery along country roads, city streets and state highways at your own pace and schedule.
- Lake County is well-known for its cornucopia of fish, and Clear Lake has catfish, carp, crappie, bluegill and bass (in fact, the majority of fish caught here are largemouth bass). For a possibly quieter experience, Blue Lakes has rainbow trout, catfish and black bass, and no boats here may exceed 5 mph
- The Konocti Challenge, on October 1, offers four separate routes for cyclists at 20, 40, 65 and 100 mile lengths, with fun rest stops along the way and the day ends with a barbecue. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lakeport, the 2015 event raised over $10,000 for the Lake Area Rotary Fire Relief Fund.
Actual (or hopeful) highrollers should know there are four separate casinos in Lake County offering games of chance: Konocti Vista Casino Resort, Robinson Rancheria Resort and Casino, Running Creek Casino and Twin Pine Casino and Hotel.
Summer 2016 Lake County Events
Looking for a special event in Lake County to enhance your visit? If you’re looking for a wine event, maybe the Lake County Wine Auction or the People’s Choice Wine Tasting will appeal to you. Outdoor events include the Lake County Rodeo and the Lake County Fair. Or, for live performances, you may want to consider the Blue Wing Blues Festival or A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare at the Lake. Read more about these events below, and follow the links for details.
Middletown Days – June 17-19, Middletown
Come watch horsemen and horsewomen show off their roping and riding skills at the 55th annual community celebration, a fundraiser to help develop and maintain the local park. Activities also include a Parade, Playday Games for the kids, a Dolly Parton Lookalike Contest, a Chili Cookoff, a Bloody Mary Horsheshoe Tournament, and a Western Dance.
Home Wine and Beer Makers Festival– June 18, 2016, Lakeport, 1 pm to 5 pm
Taste some of the best efforts of amateur wine makers and home brewers (along with some of Lake County’s leading commercial wineries and brewers) at Lakeport’s Library Park. Live entertainment comes from the David Neft Duo as well as the Konocti Fiddle Club and classical guitarist Travis Rinker.
Maxine Sherman Memorial Fireworks – July 3, 2016, Clearlake Oaks, 9:30 pm
This annual firework show starts at dark on the night before the 4th of July, launched from the Clearlake Oaks Boat Launch. Your best areas for viewing are on the water, anchored east of Rattlesnake Island, or Clearlake Oaks Beach on Island Drive from the shore.
Lake County Rodeo – July 8 and 9, 2016, Lakeport
Attend the 87th annual Lake County Rodeo, a professional rodeo sanctioned by the California Cowboys Pro Rodeo Association (CCPRA). The two-day event starts on Friday with the crowning of the Miss Lake County Rodeo Queen and a “Cutest L’il Cowpoke” contest. Activities include Local Barrel Racing and Team Roping, as well as CCPRA events such as Bull Riding, Bare Back Riding, Calf Roping, Steer Wrestling and Barrel Racing. The weekend wraps up on Saturday night with a Rodeo Dance.
People’s Choice Wine Tasting – July 30, 2016, Kelseyville, 3 pm to 6 pm
The Lake County Wine Awards Competition already took place on June 8th, but you can taste the winners at Moore Family Winery and see how your opinion compares to the judges’. Sip award winning wines, taste Lake County olive oils, nosh on small bites, and enjoy live entertainment.
Black Label Wine Release & Music Festival – July 30, 2016, Kelseyville, all day
Take advantage of a full day’s worth of excitement (and in/out privileges) at the 2nd annual festival, commemorating the release of Chacewater Winery’s high quality Black Label Reserve wines. Activities include hot air balloon rides, a 5K fun run, food and craft vendors, and the musical lineup includes Jones & Fischer, Paige Anderson & Fearless Kin, and Twice as Good. Proceeds will help the Lake Family Resource Center and #LakeCountyRising.
Shakespeare at the Lake – July 30 and 31, 2016, Lakeport, 6:30 pm – 10 pm
Demonstrating once again that “The course of true love never did run smooth,” live performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream unfold in Library Park with Lake County’s fantastic scenery as a natural backdrop. This is the inaugural “Shakespeare at the Lake” event produced by the Northern California Shakespeare Festival, presented by Mendocino College with the Lake County Theatre Company and the City of Lakeport. The best part? Performances will be free to the public.
Blue Wing Blues Festival – August 5, 6, 7 and September 5, 2016, Upper Lake, 6 pm – 9 pm
Enjoy an intimate evening with two great blues bands plus a buffet BBQ dinner in the garden between the Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon Restaurant. Tickets are limited to 100 each evening, and headliners include Barry “The Fish” Melton Band (Aug 5), Daniel Castro Band (Aug 6), Chris Cain Band (Aug 7) and Kenny Neal and his Family Band (Sept 5).
Lakeside Car and Boat Show Weekend – August 12-14, 2016, Lakeport
Check out the fun at a high-performance boat demonstration and free concert on August 12, the core Car and Boat Show on August 13 followed by an old-fashioned good time at Lakeport Auto Movies Drive-In, and a special wine cave tour and wine tasting at two local wineries on August 14. The general public can attend for free and also enjoy vendors, live entertainment and more (and many of the merchants on nearby Main Street will have specials). The Lakeside Hot Car & Boat Show is also a fundraiser for Operation Tango Mike, a non-profit organization sending monthly care packages to deployed troops.
Taste of Lake County – August 17, 2016, Lakeport, 5 pm to 10 pm
Experience the excellence of Lake County wines (from over 20 local wineries) and delicious hors d’oeuvres (from local restaurants) in this quaint town’s beautifully restored historic downtown. Do some shopping at the local businesses and then you can finish your evening by joining in the street dance at 8 pm.
Catfish Derby – August 26-28, 2016, Lakeport
Attention, fishermen (and fisherwomen): This is the 5th year for the Lakeport Yacht Club’s annual Catfish Derby. After paying an entry free, you may be able to win money back as the Yacht Club will pay for the heaviest fish caught (1st to 5th place for adults, 1st to 3rd place for kids, only one submission per person). FYI, Clear Lake is a phenomenal catfish, bass, crappie and bluegill lake.
Lake County Fair – September 1 to 4, 2016, Lakeport
It’s time once again to “Party with the Animals” at the Lake County fairgrounds. The first fair was in 1880 here and the 2016 Fair offers free live music and entertainment, a carnival with game booths, and over 3,000 categories of exhibits as well as a Livestock Auction on the 3rd. If you’re interested in camping overnight at the fair, you should move quickly as they are taking reservations now.
Clear Lake Seaplane Splash-In – September 16-18, 2016, Clear Lake
Here’s one of the largest sea plane fly-ins on the west coast, offering three days of education and fun starting with a Barbecue at the home of local volunteers Tom and Ruth Lincoln. On Friday, the “Prop Wash” event translates into a wine tasting featuring Lake County wines and finger foods from local caterer Lake Event Design. Saturday activities include seaplane displays, vintage military aircraft, plane rides for the public, and plenty of offerings from arts & crafts, food & beverage, and industry vendors. Saturday evening, a Barbecue and Evening Gathering is open to registered pilots and guests only.
Lake County Wine Auction – September 17, 2016, Clearlake Oaks
We don’t have details yet for this year’s event (other than its location at Cache Creek Vineyards), but the 2015 Auction (which had to be cancelled due to the Valley Fire) was set to include Wine and Food Tastings, a 3-Course Dinner, both Silent and Live Auctions, and Live Entertainment. The Lake County Wine Auction comes from the Lake County Wine Alliance, a nonprofit organization that has contributed over $1.2 million to worthwhile community programs in Lake County.
Kelseyville Pear Festival and Parade – September 24, 2016, Kelseyville
The 2016 Kelseyville Pear Festival celebrates 24 years of Lake County’s agricultural heritage. Enjoy fresh pears, pear products, pear baked goods, cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts booths, agricultural memorabilia, an antique tractor and farm equipment display, and don’t forget the Pear Festival Parade. There’s also a Pear Dessert Contest you can enter if you want (entries have to be turned in between 11 am and 1 pm on September 23).
FYI, other live performances coming to Lake County this summer include:
- KXBX Summer Concert Series in Lakeport: Chad Bushnell on June 24, Jarabe Mexicano on July 1, Lao Tizer on July 8, Fargo Brothers on July 22, McKenna Faith on August 5 and more
- Langtry Estate: Twang Ditty on July 1, The Special Guests on August 5 and J. Silverheels Band on September 2
- Moore Family Winery: Wonderbread 5 on July 23
- Twin Pine Casino and Hotel: Three Stars of Country Music (Chuck Wicks, Josh Gracin, Joshua Scott Jones) on June 25, Australia’s Thunder From Down Under on July 23 and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on August 19
Lake County is an attractive travel destination any time of the year, and the wonderful wines certainly help, but summer is a particularly appealing time due to the warm weather and the lakes. If you need more information about the area, the Lake County Chamber of Commerce and the Lake County Marketing and Economic Development Program have put together a comprehensive Lake County Visitor Guide which can probably tell you anything else you want to know about the area to help plan your own adventure.