Big Valley District AVA

Big Valley AVA - Lake County

Runoff over millennia have eroded the Mayacamas’ young volcanic foothills of Kelsey Bench into the ancient clays and deposits of Big Valley on the shores of Clear Lake, North America’s oldest lake, estimated to be two and a half million years old. Big Valley’s mix of gravel, clay and loam, bright sunlight from the 1,400 feet elevation, and cool nights produces remarkable Sauvignon Blancs, establishing Lake County as one of the premier California regions for the varietal. Along with the volcanic Kelsey Bench, the gravel seams in Big Valley produce intense and balanced Zinfandels and Cabernet Francs.

Big Valley growers were among the first visionaries to discover the region’s winegrape potential and began planting vineyards in the 1960s, the first in Lake County since Prohibition.

Topography Bordered by Clearlake on the north, the Mayacamas on the west and south, and Mount Konocti on the east, Big Valley is a structural basin that is part of the larger Clear Lake basin.
Elevation Vineyard elevations range from 1,330 to 1,440 feet in Big Valley. Higher elevations and Lake County’s pure air allow for greater levels of UV light, as much as 10% more than neighboring sea level valleys. This UV intensity triggers thicker skins, greater tannins, and intense wines with high phenolic content.
Soils The evolving watershed has eroded into the fertile blocks of clay and loam soils of Big Valley, resulting in swaths of gravel deposits and well-drained soils.
Acreage 3,288 acres (Big Valley and Kelsey Bench)
Climate Warms days are moderated by the thermal mass of Clear Lake. Afternoon breezes carry down from the ridges of the Mayacamas and initiate afternoon cooling that often results in 50° diurnal cycles, key to retaining acidity in mature wine grapes. Cold winters and dry summers allow for low rates of pesticide and other applications.
Varietals Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viogner, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Merlot.

Lake County AVA Map

One-page overview of the Big Valley AVA (PDF)

Calendar of Events