Guenoc Valley AVA

Guenoc Valley, Lake County, by Nathan DeHart

A small inland valley of about 23,000 acres, Guenoc is detached from the other Lake County AVAs, sitting in a southeastern section of the county by itself. When it was approved as an appellation in 1981, it was the first time an AVA designation was granted to an area with just a single winery. That remains true today: Langtry Farms is still the only winery in the AVA. There is a singularity here that reflects the spirit of its most famous resident.

In 1888, the 19th-century actress and socialite Lillie Langtry defied the conventions of her time and forged her own path. Fiercely independent, Langtry purchased a 4,000 acre ranch and winery in Guenoc Valley and established her presence there. The winery she owned operated until Prohibition, at which time winemaking in Guenoc Valley took a pause for some 50 years. Today Guenoc is a serene valley of rolling hills, oaks, grasslands, craggy outcroppings, cinder cones, and a dozen small lakes. The are just north of Napa Valley is relatively low in elevation for Lake County, making it one of the region’s warmer areas.

TopographyThe Middletown region lies within the North Coast AVA, south of Clear Lake and just north of Napa. Guenoc Valley is the only sub-appellation within the region and straddles the county’s southwestern border with Napa Valley. Middletown and Guenoc include both valleys as well as rolling volcanic formations and hills.
ElevationVineyard elevations range from 700 to 1,500 feet. 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 grape skins, greater tannins, and intense wines with high phenolic content.
SoilsThe terrain in this AVA is largely volcanic in origin, and its shallow gravel and loam soils are well-suited to premium wines. Free-draining and rich in magnesium, these soils cause the vines to dig deep into the ground for water and nutrients.
Acres5,177 acres
ClimateThe valley floor is about 1,000 feet above sea level, but vineyards are planted in the hills at elevations up to 1,400 feet to take advantage of the cooler air. Vineyards are also established in the valley where small, sheltered microclimates provide a slightly cooler environment. Generally speaking, the summer heat in Guenoc Valley leads to an early harvest to maintain the acidity of winegrapes. Petite Sirah does well here, as do Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, producing full-bodied wines with lively acidity.
VarietalsCabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc

 

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