December 28, 2016 by Joe Kukura

Winter is a cool time of year to visit northern California wine country, as the mild climate keeps this region comfy and lush with temperate conditions. Wine lovers already know winter is an ideal time to visit Lake County, with smaller crowds and more opportunities to interact with and learn from the winemakers themselves. But the winter months in Lake County offer more than just wine tasting. It is an abundance of natural scenery where bald eagles nest in plain sight, and the rarest of elk roam alongside deer and foxes.

And although snowfall is generally rare here, except on the high-altitude mountaintops of Mount Konocti and the very appropriately named Snow Mountain, these mountains still form a wonderful, lush California winter backdrop to Lake County’s cozy winter scene, with winter hiking and stargazing, plus plenty of lively nightlife and restaurants all on tap.

Winter season is the peak time of year for bird-watching.  Bald eagle appearances are common, and you’ll also see exceptional blue herons, western grebes and hundreds of other bird species. On top of that, Lake County is one of the only spots where you’ll see the extremely rare tule elk, a magnificent animal once thought to be extinct.

Horseback riding is another memorable experience in these mountains, whether you’re a beginner or an expert rider. With a number of guided tours and overnight lodging for those who bring their own horses, Lake County has plenty of great places to ride on its mountain trails.   

bass fisherman

Bass Fishermen

In addition to the spectacular mountainside, the real centerpiece of Lake County is 68-square-mile Clear Lake, the oldest lake in North America. Clear Lake does not freeze over, which makes fishing a year-round activity, with more fish per acre than any other lake in the United States. Casual fishing continues through the winter, with major tournaments beginning with the Clear Lake Team Bass Tournament on March 18, 2017.

If all the outdoor sporting activities begin to wear you out, there is plenty of sports action to watch this winter, with the College Football Playoff and the NFL playoffs (and of course the Super Bowl), and a full slate of NBA games being broadcast on big screens at all Lake County casinos. Or take the game into your own hands and try your luck at some poker, slots or other table games operated with integrity by the Pomo people of northern California.

OMeara Bros Brewing_02

O’Meara Bros. Brewing Company

And if you’re looking for more entertainment on tap for those long winter nights, live music and entertainment comes alive here. For live music lovers, a live band performs every Sunday and Monday night at Blue Wing Saloon and every Friday at O’Meara Bros. Brewing Company. Keep an eye on the Lake County events calendar for all kinds of live shows as they’re announced. Meanwhile, Soper Reese Theatre offers live entertainment and classic movies during the winter weeks.

Still, despite all of the outdoor and leisure activities that can be enjoyed in Lake County, wine tasting is always on the menu. Winter is the calmest time of year for Lake County’s award-winning wineries, with no grapes to harvest in these months. That means you’ll get more individual attention from the vintners at Lake County tasting rooms.

Bottled wine is in season all year long, and your wine country drives get some early rejuvenation when Lake County wildflowers bloom bright yellow mustard flowers starting in late January.

Take wintertime for the win in Lake County, where the California wildlife scene lives the mild life for a great time both indoors and out. Visit Lake County this winter, where those wintertime blues are covered up in lush layers of green.