History of the Lake County Wine Industry

Winemakers by the score are discovering the bounty of Lake County’s agriculturally rich valley, which surrounds ancient Clear Lake and the rocky red volcanic soil around Mt. Konocti, a dormant volcano. The first Lake County vineyards were planted in the 1870s. By 1900 Lake County wines were winning awards in international competition, and the region was earning a reputation for producing some of the world’s best wines.

However, in 1920 Prohibition brought an end to Lake County wine production. Most of the vineyards were eventually ripped out and planted with other crops.

Lake County’s re-emergence in the wine industry began in the 1960s when a few visionary growers discovered the area’s wine grape potential and began planting new vineyards. From less than 100 acres in 1965, vineyard acreage has grown to 8,400 acres today and is expected to double in the next few years. With the growing popularity of Lake County wines, Lake County’s grape and wine industry continues to expand. Existing wineries are growing, and new vintners are moving into the region. Today the county has over 30 wineries. Several out-of-county wineries own vineyards in Lake County, including Kendall-Jackson, Constellation Brands Inc., and Sutter Home.

Included in California’s prestigious North Coast American Viticultural Area, Lake County is a region whose quality can stand on its own. Unique geographical factors such as the microclimates, soil types, and Clear Lake itself all contribute to the growing of outstanding grapes. Our fine wines and quality fruit are rapidly re-establishing Lake County’s reputation for producing excellent wines. Lake County wines are consistent award winners at major wine competitions and have been enjoyed at the White House.

The Lake County Winegrape Commission, one of only four winegrape commissions in California, has also contributed to the Lake County’s success as a up-and-coming wine region. Established in 1990, the commission supports and manages the marketing efforts of grape growers in Lake County. Those growers in turn are committed to the success of their product from the vineyards and to the wineries they sell to.

Quality grapes and quality marketing. From vineyard to winery to consumer, Lake County is building on its viticultural past and looking forward to an even brighter future.

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