Red Hills Lake County AVA

Red Hills AVA, Obsidian RIdge Vineyard and Konocti Mountain, Credit Nathan DeHart for LCWC

Soil, climate, and elevation—these are the keys to understanding Red Hills. More than any other appellation in Lake County, the Red Hills AVA exhibits the influence of the area’s volcanic past. Mt. Konocti, whose peak lies just north of the Red Hills AVA, last erupted 11,000 years ago, but the volcanic activity that created Mt. Konocti is largely responsible for the terrain in this AVA. The earth here includes black obsidian, quartz crystals and volcanic gravel content. It’s rich in iron, which is responsible for its strikingly red color and the region’s name.

TopographyLocated in the northern Mayacamas Mountains, the Red Hills of Lake County frame the southwest edge of Clear Lake. Comprised of dozens of volcanic hills ranging from 1,350 to over 3,700 feet above sea level, the appellation lies right over the North Coast Magna Pocket. As a result, the Red Hills are the latest formation of the volcanic and tectonic processes that created many of the famous hillside regions of the North Coast.
ElevationThe average elevation for vineyards in the Red Hills AVA is higher than any other in Lake County. Vineyard elevations range from 1,350 to 2,600 feet, with the majority of the AVA’s acreage planted at or over 2,000 feet.
SoilsThe most suitable viticultural soils lie above very deeply fractured rock (to 20 feet in many places) which allow for deep root penetration, and are characterized as well-drained, “lean” or “skeletal” soils with up to 35% rock fragments. Even the deep soils are relatively low in water holding capacity, in part because only about half the volume is soil, and half of it is rock. Overall, the Red Hills soils are relatively low in fertility, especially in regards to nitrogen and phosphorus. In short, grape vines work harder in this area, which can produce smaller berries with intense flavor. Cabernet Sauvignon in particular does extremely well here.
Acres32,215 acres
ClimateTemperatures in the area are usually a few degrees warmer during the day than any other appellation in Lake County. Low relative humidity and varied topography permit quick cooling of ridgetop vineyards in the late afternoon and evenings. Both factors allow for good acid retention during ripening.
VarietalsCabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, & Petite Sirah

 

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