Lake County: Home of Volcanic Wines

Bruce Merrilees in Lake County's Red Hills AVA, (c) Nathan DeHart

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Lake County vineyards growing on volcanic soils

Why All the Buzz Around Volcanic Wines?

Volcanic wines are beginning to get a lot of attention in the wine world these days. This increased interest in wines grown on volcanic soils is partly the result of a generation of wine drinkers looking for new and unusual flavors and varietals.

For those who make and love wine, it’s a compelling topic. Experts agree that the soil in which grapevines grow has a substantial impact on the character of the grapes those vines produce.

But what exactly are “volcanic wines”?

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Lake County’s Volcanic Past is Very Present

Named for a volcanic caldera lake centered on the Clear Lake Volcanic Field, Lake County features some of the youngest volcanic soils in California. Two volcanoes dominate the landscape: Cobb Mountain on the northern slopes of the Mayacamas mountain range; and Mt. Konocti, towering over Clear Lake. Both are home to high-elevation vineyards.

Although the soils across the county are mainly volcanic in origin, the presence of rust-colored volcanic dirt is particularly notable in the Red Hills and High Valley AVAs.

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Clear Lake Volcanic Field

Explore Lake County’s Volcanic Geology

Lake County’s landscape is dominated by Mt. Konocti and other mountains in the Clear Lake Volcanic Field. Lying next to Clear Lake, the Volcanic Field consists of lava domes, cinder cones, and maars with a powerful magma chamber beneath.

When Mt. Konocti last erupted about 11,000 years ago, it created what are today the youngest volcanic soils in the North Coast region of California. These soils are well suited for Cabernet Sauvignon, producing wines of complexity and finesse.

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Continue Exploring…

Find more resources on volcanic wines around the world.

Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power

By John Szabo, MS

Equally informative and beautiful to look at, this book explores and reveals the latest research into volcanic wines. Presenting the subject in everyday English accompanied by stunning photos, Master Sommelier John Szabo deftly blends science, nature, and his own personal experience.


Visit the author’s website

Volcanic Wines book cover & author John Szabo


Sunset, Lake County, Calif., Wine Enthusiast "Volcanic California," Credit Michael HousewrightVineyards on Canary Islands from Bloomberg article (c) iStockphotoVineyards on Canary Islands, Food & Wine article (c) Getty Images

The Producers Behind California’s Volcanic Wines

Members of the highest-rated wineries in Northern California talk about how they tame Lake County’s extreme soils to produce exceptional wines.

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Boom: Volcanic Wines Are Heating Up Around the Globe

Crisp, vibrant vintages bottled from grapes grown in volcanic soil are popping up in top restaurants. Here’s what you need to know.

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Volcanic Wine 101: What You Need to Know

From Mount Etna on Sicily to the Spanish island of Lanzarote, grapes grown in volcanic soil are producing some of the world’s most interesting wines.

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Additional Articles of Interest

Why Volcanic Wines Are Erupting in Popularity Right Now (Robb Report)

Dr. Vinny: Why Are Wines from Volcanic Soils So Good? (Wine Spectator)

Establishing a Volcanic Wine Category (Beverage Daily)

Volcanic Soils and their Effect on Wine (JJ Buckley Fine Wines)

The Volcanic Wines of Italy (Wine Enthusiast)

The Volcanic Wines Of Southern Italy (Wine 4 Food)

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