March 2024 Newsletter

Workers pruning at Brassfield Estate

In This Issue…

SAVE THE DATE: Master Vigneron Academy® Vineyard Tailgate, June 8
REMINDER: ‘Future of Agriculture’ Scholarship Applications Due April 5
News from UCCE: Pear and Grape Field Day, May 28
News from USDA: New Resources Available for Specialty & Small-Scale Producers
Lake County Wines & Vines in the News
Grape & Wine Marketplace
Weather & Climate Report
Affiliate Sponsor: American AgCredit

SAVE THE DATE: Master Vigneron Academy® Vineyard Tailgate, June 26

Tailgate and MVA logos
As part of LCWC’s Master Vigneron Academy®, Miguel Garcia will lead a tailgate session on soil health and irrigation management on June 26, 2024. Attendees will learn how to collect soil samples and assess soil health in the field and through lab analysis. The session also will cover carbon sequestration, the importance of organic matter for soil health, and how to implement sustainable farming practices. The session will include a discussion about soil properties that affect water movement and retention and the role of soil health in irrigation water management. Miguel will demonstrate how to use available technology to develop irrigation management plans: how to determine ideal irrigation time and adequate quantity of water to be used. Attendees will also learn how to evaluate the efficiency of the irrigation system and how to address shortcomings.

This workshop is designed for Spanish-speaking vineyard workers. Additional details coming soon.

REMINDER: LCWC ‘Future of Agriculture’ Scholarship Applications Due April 5

Future of Agriculture Scholarship graphic with apply now

Application packets for LCWC’s Future of Agriculture Scholarship must be postmarked no later than Friday, April 5, 2024.

This year, LCWC plans to award two $5,000 scholarships – one to a student headed to a four-year university and one to a student headed to a technical college, community college, or trade school.

Please encourage Lake County high school seniors who are interested in a career supporting agriculture to apply.

Further details about eligibility and how to apply may be found in the Scholarship Application on the LCWC website.

News from UCCE

UCCE Pear and Grape Field Day, May 28

UC Cooperative Extension Diversified Agriculture and Viticulture are collaborating to present the first UCCE Pear and Grape Field Day on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Hopland.

8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – Rosetti Orchards, 14200 Old River Road, Hopland

11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Campovida Winery, 13601 Old River Road, Hopland

The event will focus on the intersection between pear and winegrape production in the North Coast. Presentation topics will include site monitoring, cover crops, common pathogens, pests, soil health, water use efficiency, and more.


News from USDA

New Resource Available for Specialty and Small-Scale Producers

Finding the “right risk management fit” can feel overwhelming, especially for specialty and small-scale farmers and ranchers. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) recently created a new tool for specialty and small-scale producers: a searchable database of crop insurance agents who sell Whole-Farm Revenue Protection and Micro Farm policies, two of the most comprehensive risk management options.


In the News

Lake County Wine in the News Banner

In the Shadow of Mt. Konocti, California’s Newest AVA

Editor’s note: Full article was featured in The Volcano Issue of Wine Enthusiast, Winter 2024.

Wine Enthusiast coverOn August 4, 2023, the Long Valley-Lake County American Viticultural Area (AVA) was born. California’s newest government-approved viticultural area was most decidedly a labor of love, but it ultimately earned AVA status thanks to its unique terroir and, specifically, its distinctive soils that include volcanic rock.

“Everyone in what became the AVA was all-in when we began the application process,” says Joy Merrilees, vice president of Shannon Family of Wines, one of the handful of wineries in the newly minted AVA. “We spent a lot of time collecting data on the weather, soil types, growing degree days, all in an effort to document what makes Long Valley-Lake County different than the other sub-AVAs around it and the larger Lake County AVA that it is set in.”

The area includes five commercial vineyards and three wineries situated along the long, narrow valley floor surrounded and protected by foothills. At the time of filing, Long Valley claimed 149 acres under vine, but the region’s growers have been aggressively scaling up ever since.

“The majority of Lake County features volcanic soils, and then there’s the Big Valley District AVA, with heavier clay soil,” explains Merrilees. “Ours is a mix of silt and gravel, thanks to the Long Valley creek running through the center of it.” Further, she notes, the area is a transverse valley, running east to west, which is surprisingly rare. “There are only eight valleys like that in the U.S.”

The valley floor of the AVA is elevated, about 1,322 feet above sea level, with foothills that ascend an additional 200-500 feet. Long Valley-Lake County is also windy, which means the vineyards enjoy a natural air-conditioning system during the growing season, locking in fresh, bright flavors even during heat spikes.

“The wind and shorter window of sun means we have more acidity and structure than other typical valley fruit,” Merrilees says. “Getting our AVA approved was so important for us, because it allows us to tell the story of our land through aromas and flavors.”

“Our climate, volcanic soil and dry-farming techniques make for incredibly concentrated flavors and longer hang times,” adds Greg Stratmann, owner of Long Valley’s Stonehouse Cellars, who also comments that the remoteness of the AVA has also helped ensure little to no disease pressure throughout the region.

Clay Shannon, proprietor at Shannon Family of Wines, is equally enthusiastic about the future of the AVA and the quality of the fruit grown. “I have been really impressed by Pinot Noir here,” he says. “We have higher humidity, lower temperatures at night and fewer growing days than other areas of Lake County, with a blend of volcanic, limestone and silt soils unique to North America. That helps create Pinot Noir that is varietally true, while in the surrounding areas, growers really struggle to get that same level of balance and complexity.”

It’s too early to name a flagship grape for Long Valley-Lake County, but for now, Shannon appears to be hanging his hat on Sauvignon Blanc.

“It’s super strong aromatically with fresh fruit and spice,” he says. “It smells like a light Sauvignon Blanc, but don’t be fooled. It has a lot of muscle.”

LCWC Ad in The Volcano Issue of Wine Enthusiast

A full-page ad promoting grapes from Lake County Winegrowers appears prominently on the back cover of the Winter 2024 issue of Wine Enthusiast, titled “The Volcano Issue.”

Brassfield Estate Winery: A Blending of Volcanic Terroir-Influenced Wines, and the Splendid Outdoors of Lake County

Editor’s note: Full article was posted on Wine Bulletin’s website.

“The 5,000-acre winery estate is a microclimate mosaic, shaped by elevation, sun exposure, and soil composition. Certain microclimates yield exceptional wines, like the extraordinary Malbec from the Volcano Ridge vineyard, located on the dormant Round Mountain Volcano’s slopes. The elevated valley floor, with its shorter growing season, produces world-class Sauvignon Blanc. The volcano significantly influences the vineyards’ terroir, with its potassium-rich volcanic soils crucial for healthy grape growth.

Winemaker Carlos Valadez, with over 17 years of experience with these vineyards, understands the importance of preserving the terroir’s authenticity and the wines’ varietal character. Specific blocks proven to be the best contribute to the Single Vineyard and Reserve programs, a small percentage of overall production. Proprietary blends and experimentation shape the winery’s style and identity, with different blends tried each year for the Serenity White and Eruption Red blend. The goal is to maintain a consistent style and balance, along with an ageability factor.”

Read full article.

Ratings & Reviews

Congratulations to these Lake County wines, which Wine Enthusiast reviewed:

  • Exit West 2021 Estate Red (Red Hills), 92 Points
  • Langtry 2021 Old Soldier Road Tephra Ridge Vineyard Red, 90 Points
  • Langtry 2021 Tephra Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 93 Points
  • Langtry 2021 Tephra Ridge Vineyard Merlot, 93 Points
  • Langtry 2022 Viognier, 90 Points
  • Motif 2022 Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Hills), 90 Points
  • Pech Merle 2022 Big Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 90 Points
  • Six Sigma Ranch 2020 Diamond Mine Red, 90 Points
  • Six Sigma Ranch 2022 Asbil Valley, Michael’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, 93 Points
  • Six Sigma Ranch 2022 Marianne’s Vineyard Rosé, 90 Points

volcanic wines logo

REMINDER: Volcanic Wines International (VWI), in collaboration with Wine & Spirits Magazine, has announced the first annual Volcanic Wine Awards Competition. Set to launch this spring in New York, the competition aims to honor exceptional wines grown in volcanic terroirs worldwide.

Entry deadline is April 15. Wines will be judged on May 8 and winners will be announced at the International Volcanic Wines Conference on June 18.


LCWC Grape Marketplace


In the market for bulk wine? Visit the Marketplace page of the LCWC website for an up-to-date list of Lake County bulk wine and grapes available for sale.

Weather Banner

Weather & Climate

View March report from Dr. Gregory Jones.

Affiliate Sponsor: American AgCredit

American AgCredit logo

Winescape cover

The Spring 2024 issue of “Winescape,” a new wine industry report series from Terrain and American AgCredit, presents key takeaways from the preliminary California Grape Crush Report. Author Chris Bitter provides several important insights for all growers, including why diversification can be a sound strategy, particularly in today’s environment: “Simply put, a vineyard planted to multiple varieties is likely to generate a more stable cash flow over its economic life.”

Read more in the new “Winescape”:


    LCWC Executive Committee Meeting 2:30 pm
    LCWC Executive Committee Meeting @ LCWC Office
    May 21 @ 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm
    Agenda – LCWC Executive Committee Meeting, May 21, 2024
    LCWC Board Meeting 3:00 pm
    LCWC Board Meeting @ LCWC Office
    May 21 @ 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
    Agenda – LCWC Board Meeting, May 21, 2024
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