Commission’s Seaplane Rides are Paying Dividends

August 21, 2012 • Susan Stout, Contributing Writer

KELSEYVILLE – In the late 1800s visitors to Lake County arrived by
stagecoach, and steamers provided transportation between towns located on the shores of Clear Lake. Today, the Lake County Winegrape Commission is bringing guests to the Sea plane flying in the air
area by seaplane and offering tours of wineries and vineyards throughout the county.

Hosting wine writers, sommeliers, radio and television personalities, and
consultants via the seaplane rides/wine tours is paying off for Lake County, according to
Winegrape Commission President Shannon Gunier.

“We are seeing the first ‘dividends’ from our latest promotion of Lake County’s
wine industry,” said Gunier. “Lake County wines and vineyards have been the focus of
articles and blogs by well-known industry writers. Paul Franson, a regular contributor to
several publications, and W. Blake Gray, an author, columnist and publication
contributor, were guests on two separate seaplane ride/wine tour events.”

Writing about a visit to Beckstoffer vineyards as well as Brassfield, Shannon
Ridge and Ceágo, Franson touted Lake County in both the Napa Valley Register and in
the online magazine, Wines & Vines.
Gray wrote about his visit in his blog entitled The Gray Report and in his column
for Wine Review Online (
on_Lake_County.cfm). “People think writing about wine is all fun and games, but my
visit to Lake County was hard work,” Gray scribed in his column. “But I thought it was
important work, because Lake County is trying to position itself as the next great
Cabernet Sauvignon area in California.”

In his blog of July 13 (
much-more.html), Gray said, “We landed at Ceágo, which gets lots of visitors
by boat on weekends, and enjoyed lunch with Ceágo owner Jim Fetzer. Everything came
from his certified biodynamic property, including the lamb that had fattened itself on the
cover crop for his vines before being grilled in the open-flame oven. Lavender was being
harvested, and after we watched it distilled into aromatic oil, we had lemon bars with
lavender and a delicious lavender honey cake.”
Gray continued, “I particularly liked Ceágo’s unoaked Chardonnay, which was
lively with plenty of stonefruit flavor and very refreshing on a 99-degree day. ‘I hate oak
on Chardonnay,’ Fetzer says. I don’t always agree, but when the grapes are as vivacious
as his, he’s right: why hide all that character?”
A second blog by Gray, on July 26, focused on Clay Shannon’s use of sheep for
vineyard maintenance.

Favorable publicity for Lake County’s wine industry is the goal of the seaplane
ride/wine tours, said the Commission president. It is an idea that was conceived by the
Commission’s Marketing Committee. “We have known for years that ‘if we can get you
here, we can sell you on Lake County,’” said Gunier. “Plus, we are up against some
heavy competition from Napa and Sonoma; we have to differentiate ourselves in a
dramatic way.”
“We also have requested from our growers a list of prospects. We would fly them
up and give the grower an opportunity to take them around,” she added. Winegrape
growers who would like to invite distributors, winegrape buyers, journalists or other
media for the seaplane ride and wine tours are encouraged to contact Gunier to add
individuals to the list of invitees.
“We are pleased with the results from the first three tours. We hope to entice
many more wine writers, wine industry representatives, and media. We enjoy showcasing
our vineyards, wineries, and winegrape growers’ methods, as well as Clear Lake and
other attributes of our county. We think we have a winner with our seaplane rides and
two-day itinerary with each group.”
Three seaplane ride/wine tour events have been conducted by the Winegrape
Commission. The first guests, in April, included wine writer and sommelier Chris Sawyer
and marketing specialist Stacie Jacob of Solterra Strategies. Jacob is the former executive
director for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.
The tour in June welcomed guests Leslie Sbrocco, the host of KQED television’s
Check, Please!; Tina Caputo, editor-in-chief for Vineyard & Winery Management
magazine; Ziggy Eschliman, known as “The Wine Gal,” Sonoma County radio
personality, sommelier and wine and spirits educator (mentioned on her website as one of her summer wine picks is the 2009 Shannon Ridge Petite Sirah, Lake County); and Franson, author and contributor to Wine Business Monthly, Wine Enthusiast, Decanter,The San Francisco Chronicle, Food & Wine, and Wines & Vines.

Among the visitors by seaplane in July were Gray, author of California Winetopia
and former wine writer/editor for The San Francisco Chronicle; Randy Caparoso,
contributing editor of Sommelier Journal (; Sally
Mohr, one of only 17 master sommeliers in North America and the second woman in the
United States to achieve that distinction; and John Vankat, wine writer for the Arizona
Daily Sun.
Additional rides combined with tours of Lake County’s vineyards and wineries
are planned, said Gunier.
For more information about the Lake County Winegrape Commission, its events
and marketing promotions, visit its website at or call the
Commission office at 707-995-3421.



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