September 2020 Newsletter

High Valley AVA, Lake County, Calif. by Nathan DeHart

In this Issue…

LCWC Kicks Off New Ad Campaign
California Wine Month: Explore Lake County’s AVAs
Recorded Webinar: Two Invasive Species Threatening Grapevines
Lake County Wines in the News
Jed Steele: An Integral Part of Lake County’s Past, Present, and Future
Shannon Ridge Purchases Steele Wines
VIP Harvest Light Tower
Grape & Wine Marketplace
Weather & Climate


LCWC Kicks Off New Ad Campaign

LCWC Advertisement for Wine Enthusiast, November 2020The Lake County Winegrape Commission kicks off a new advertising campaign with full-page ads running in the November and December issues of Wine Enthusiast magazine. The campaign will also feature banner ads on Wine Business Monthly’s Daily News Email.

The ad campaign focuses on the region’s high-elevation, volcanic terroir and its influence on grapes and the wines they produce – a message that is unique to Lake County and designed to create a positive and lasting impression on winegrape buyers, members of the trade, and wine consumers.


California Wine Month Banner, 2020

California Wine Month: Explore Lake County’s AVAs

The Lake County Winegrape Commission is hosting a virtual exploration of Lake County AVAs on social media in conjunction with California Wine Month. Viewers will learn about the unique qualities of Lake County AVAs throughout the month of September by following the LCWC on these platforms:

Facebook: @LakeCountyWine
Instagram: @lakecountywinegrapecommission
YouTube: Lake County Winegrape Commission

A Lake County prize package will be awarded to one participant at the end of the month through an online raffle. Learn more.


Recorded Webinar: Two Invasive Species Threatening Grapevines

In July, Dr. Cindy Kron, UCCE IPM Advisor, presented a webinar detailing how to identify two insect species that are of potential concern to vineyards – the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug and the Spotted Lanternfly – as well as the origin, biology, hosts, and behavior of these species.

Presented by UC Cooperative Extension, Lake County Department of Agriculture, Lake County Farm Bureau, and Lake County Winegrape Commission.


Lake County Wine in the News Banner, microphone and six glasses of white wine set up for technical tasting

Lake County Wines in the News

A Global Guide to Great Cabernet Sauvignon

Editor’s note: This article appears on the Wine Enthusiast website. The article features wines from Obsidian Ridge and Shannon Ridge.

It’s hard not to love Cabernet Sauvignon, but with so many good options available, it can be tough to know where to begin…

Livermore, Lake and El Dorado may not have the same ring to them as Napa, but these Northern California wine regions punch above their weight when it comes to high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon… To the north of the Bay Area, Lake County, especially the Red Hills District, and El Dorado County in the Sierra Foothills boast high-elevation vineyards on volcanic soils. This means low yields of Cabernet grapes, for firm tannins and great fruit concentration in the resulting wines.

Read the full article.

Stellar Sauvignon Blanc on a Budget? Look to California

Editor’s note: This article appears on the Wine Enthusiast website. The article features the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc from Boatique Winery.

An international jet-setter, Sauvignon Blanc has proven time and again that it’s perfectly at home in regions across the globe.

In the United States, the grape’s notable history dates back to the 1960s when Robert Mondavi bottled his famous Fumé Blanc-an oaked version of the variety. Today, as one of the most widely planted varieties in California, many great Sauvignon Blanc bottlings can be found. Look to Napa and Sonoma for sure, but excellent values can also be found from Lake County, Mendocino County, the Central Coast and beyond.

Read the full article.


Honoring Jed Steele…

On behalf of Lake County winegrape growers, we raise a glass to Jed Steele to celebrate his legendary career and recognize his role in solidifying Lake County’s reputation as a premier winegrowing region. He has inspired and influenced many young winemakers with his focus on quality and consistency, sharing of knowledge, and ability to nurture a true sense of place from one vintage to the next.

Thank you, Jed, for the many years of fine winemaking and your spirit of generosity and camaraderie. We wish you the best in retirement!

– Lake County Winegrape Commission Board of Directors and Staff


Grower Spotlight

Jed Steele: An Integral Part of Lake County’s Past, Present, and Future

Jed Steele’s pioneering roots in Lake County winemaking sprawl across the North Coast wine region and span five decades.

Portrait of Jed Steele of Steele Vineyards, Lake County, by Nathan DeHartJed began his winemaking career working in the cellar at Stony Hill Winery in Napa Valley before obtaining his master’s degree in enology from UC Davis in 1974. He spent the next eight years as the winemaker and vineyard manager at Edmeades Winery in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley before a phone call altered the course of his life and career, leading him to Lake County.

Creating Appeal With A First Lady’s Palate

Fetzer winemaker Paul Dolan was on the other end of the line, urging Jed to join a startup winery in Lake County called Kendall-Jackson. That resulted in a meeting between Jed and Jess Jackson, owner of the fledgling winery.

The pair huddled over hamburgers at the Gaslight Grill in Lakeport. “I was very impressed with him,” Jed recalls.

Soon, Jed set off on an adventure that is still unfolding. He was heavily involved as Kendall-Jackson bloomed over the first nine years of its existence. Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay became a favorite of first lady Nancy Reagan, who insisted on it being served at the White House. Word of her preference for K-J Chardonnay got around when Pulitzer Prize-winning San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote a piece in which he referred to the Chardonnay as “Nancy’s wine.”

But as Kendall-Jackson’s size grew in proportion to its fortunes, Jed chafed at the shift toward a more corporate environment. “Going to board meetings and having to wear a tie all the time didn’t sit comfortably with me,” he says. After nine years with Kendall-Jackson, Jed decided to strike out on his own. He considered Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino, but realized he already was where he wanted to be: Lake County.

Leasing Lower Lake Winery, Steele Wines launched in 1991. Five years later, Jed purchased the former Konocti Winery facility and moved production to Kelseyville. Over the years, he has been an integral player in the region’s winemaking resurgence.

Seeing Promise in an Emerging Lake County

Lake County’s viticulture and winemaking history trace to the 1870s. By the early 1900s, Lake wines were gaining international recognition. But Prohibition threw the industry into a tailspin. Vineyards were plowed under. Pear and walnut orchards sprung up, thriving on the rich soil in the county lowlands.

In the 1960s, demand for grapes began to soar, and vineyards re-emerged. But interest did not immediately correspond with success in Lake County winemaking’s second act. “Soil that’s good for pears is not necessarily good for grapes,” Jed explains. “For some white grapes, it’s fine. But for most reds, it’s a little too heavy.”

Fortunately for Lake County’s resurging wine industry, the region features a range of soils and terrains, much of it created by volcanic activity thousands of years ago. Soils in the uplands – the Red Hills, High Valley, the upper areas of Kelsey Bench – were formed from relatively recent lava flows, providing a base from which reds can thrive. As winegrape growers recognized this, they gradually planted vineyards in these locations and the resulting grapes began to attract interest from winemakers.”So once that change started to happen,” Jed says, “the quality of the wines increased significantly.”

When Jed began planting for his own winery, Bordeaux and Rhone varieties were instant winners and they continue to be successful. Seventy percent of the grapes his winery uses today are harvested in Lake County.

“It’s a really good place to grow grapes,” Jed says. “The soils are great. The land is still, compared to neighboring counties, relatively inexpensive. So it’s a great investment for a lot of wineries who tapped out in Napa and Sonoma. Lake County still remains a location where people can grow good-quality grapes very economically.”

In addition to inspiring Lake County grape growers, Jed has also influenced and mentored several winemakers in the region. He continues to accrue accolades and provides a benchmark for the ever-increasing quality of Lake County wines. In these and many other ways, Jed embodies the past, present, and future of Lake County winemaking.

Read other Lake County grower profiles.


Shannon Ridge Purchases Steele Wines

Editor’s note: This article appears on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website, behind a paywall.

The two most prominent wine companies in Lake County, the region just north of Napa County known for affordable wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, are merging.

Clay and Angie Shannon, owners of the Shannon Ridge Family of Wines, an ambitious, fast-growing wine company, have purchased Steele Wines, Lake County’s most recognizable wine brand, from its founder, Jed Steele. Read the article.

Shannon Ridge Family of Wines logoSteele Winery logo


Affiliate Sponsor

VIP Harvest Light Tower

“Our first 6 weeks we saved thousands on payroll alone by eliminating extra equipment and reallocating employees.” – Lucas Pope, Halter Ranch Vineyard

Flyer for Vineyard Industry Products Harvest Night LightThe Lazer Star Night Harvest Light Tower from Vineyard Industry Products (VIP) is now available, just in time for winegrape harvest:

  • Quantity discounts
  • Targeted lighting at the fruit zone
  • Lights up to 4 rows
  • Customizable lighting options
  • Total lumens: 90,000
  • Amp draw: 13.8v: 31.9
  • Attaches easily to 3-point hitch
  • Roadable

Download a flyer to learn more or call us for more information: 800-544-2210


LCWC Grape Marketplace

Grape & Wine Marketplace

For an up-to-date listing of Lake County grapes and bulk wine for sale, visit the Marketplace page of the LCWC website.

Grapes for Sale

  • Cabernet Franc: 30 tons. Red Hills AVA, Robertsbridge Vineyards. Contact Craig Shannon at 707-349-7892 or
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: 15 tons. Clear Lake AVA, Red Horse Ranch. Hand-picked, small lots available. Contact Ron Ryskalczyk at 707-295-6400 or
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: 80 – 100 tons. Kelsey Bench AVA, Desafinado Vineyards (formerly Sweetwater Vineyards), price negotiable. Contact Deborah Cullen at 707-239-9135 or
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: 10 tons. Red Hills AVA. Contact Nahani Bohan: 707-279-2675 or
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: 25 – 30 tons. Red Hills AVA. Contact Mike Ryan: 707-900-1586 or
  • Chardonnay: 200 tons. Big Valley AVA. Contact Tim Roos: 209-499-6722 or
  • Malbec: 65 tons. Red Hills AVA. Contact Nahani Bohan: 707-279-2675 or
  • Muscat: 65 tons. Big Valley AVA. Contact Larry Rogers: 707-489-6006 or
  • Petit Verdot: 15 tons. Red Hills AVA. Contact Nahani Bohan: 707-279-2675 or
  • Petite Sirah: 171 tons. Red Hills AVA. Contact Nahani Bohan: 707-279-2675 or
  • Pinot Noir: 80 tons. Big Valley AVA. Lyon Ranch, Clone 32. Contact Jaime Rosas at 707-262-2899
  • Riesling: 10 tons. Big Valley AVA. Certified Sustainable. Contact Rhonda Wallace at


Weather Banner

Weather & Climate

“The forecast for September through November points to the likelihood of a warmer than average period for much of the western US. The overall precipitation outlook is pointing to near average conditions for California and Oregon, and slightly wetter than average in the inland PNW…”

Download the September weather report (PDF) from Dr. Gregory Jones.


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