Big Valley District – Lake County AVA

Big Valley AVA, Credit Nathan DeHart for LCWC

Big Valley has a long history of agriculture. Early settlers from the 1800s recognized its potential and they named it the “garden spot of Lake County.” In the 1960s, Big Valley growers rediscovered the region’s winegrape potential, planting the first new vineyards in Lake County since Prohibition.

TopographyBordered 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.
ElevationVineyard elevations range from 1,326 to 1,418 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.

Once part of the ancient lakebed, Big Valley is covered in prime agricultural soils. It features a mix of gravel, clay, and loam soils that have been amended over millennia by runoff from the Mayacamas and young volcanic foothills of what is now Kelsey Bench. The gravel seams in Big Valley produce intense and balanced wines.

Acres11,214 acres
ClimateIts proximity to Clear Lake, along with cool air draining from surrounding higher elevations make this area one of the coolest of the Lake County AVAs. Afternoon breezes help cool the vineyards during the warm days, slowing the ripening process and ensuring grapes achieve good phenolic ripeness without sacrificing acidity. These breezes also dry the vineyard canopy and stave off vine diseases. In addition, the area is in a slight rain shadow of the surrounding mountains. Cool and dry conditions provide an ideal climate for growing early varieties with a short growing season, such as Sauvignon Blanc. However, the region also produces Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc that are generally lighter, elegant, with balanced acidity.
VarietalsSauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viogner, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Merlot.



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