Suddenly Smitten with Lake County Sauvignon Blancs

March 25, 2018

The Wine World Has Fallen in Love with Lake County Sauvignon Blancs

Better known for our fishing hole than our fine wines, Lake County, just north of Napa Valley, is California’s fastest growing grape growing region, and ripe for discovery.
With seven different appellations and a staggering variety of terroirs, most of Lake County’s grape growing bets were focused on the prestigious red varietals grown here – many destined to become Napa Valley wines. Look closely at the next bottle of big red anything from our famous neighbor and you’ll likely see a significant percentage of Lake County grapes in the mix.
One would think France’s Loire Valley, where sauvignon blanc originated, would be the epicenter of this wine’s influence. But it was New Zealand’s lime-y, grassy, herbaceous and overtly green interpretation that captured the world’s attention, becoming the oft-imitated flavor profile popularized by the country’s Marlborough region.

Brassfield Estate Winery's Matt Hughes, Lake County Sauvignon Blancs
Brassfield Estate Winery’s Matt Hughes

That is, until Lake County started giving the Kiwis a run for their money – and market share. Now, it’s Lake County’s sauvignon blancs that have suddenly smitten the wine world.
What was once considered a pre-cursor to the “serious” white wines, the region’s sauvignon blancs are known for their aggressively agreeable, fruit forward, and sunshine-y citrus flavors. Sauv blancs bring the party – and like to be drunk young.

Sip In the Sun

The elegant Brassfield Estate Winery, located at the southeastern end of Clear Lake, takes full advantage of the high elevation and diurnal terroir of its High Valley Appellation. Blazing temperatures at high elevation, with prolonged UV exposure, create the perfect growing conditions for sauvignon blanc.
“Sauv blancs grapes can take the heat,” says Brassfields’ award-winning winemaker, Matt Hughes. “The longer hang time allows us to maximize the sugars, balance the acidity – and capture all that sunshine.”
Brassfield Estate Winery
10915 High Valley Road
Clearlake Oaks, CA 95423
Tasting room open daily, cave tours by appointment.

Joy Merrilees, Shannon Ridge, Lake County Sauvignon Blancs
Joy Merrilees, Shannon Ridge. Photo: Muse Photography

Local Girl Makes Good…Wine

Beginning her winemaking career in New Zealand, Lake County native Joy Merrilees returned to the US and quickly climbed from “cellar rat” to Shannon Ridge’s Director of Winemaking. As one of a cadre of young, talented Lake County vintners, Merrilees is making a name in the world of wine with her distinctive sauvignon blancs.
“We grow grapes in three different vineyards, at some of Lake County’s highest elevations. The prolonged UV exposure really brings the sugars out. Our sauvignon blancs are redolent of grass and grapefruit, with hints of stone fruit and apples – more of a ‘Sancerre-style’,” says Merrilees. “Resulting in a fruit forward wine with a soft mouth feel.”
Shannon Ridge Winery
13888 Point Lakeview Road
Lower Lake, CA 95457

Christian Ahlmann, Six Sigma Ranch & Winery, Lake County Sauvignon Blancs
Christian Ahlmann, Six Sigma Ranch & Winery

Certifiably Sauv Blanc

Kaj and Else Ahlmann purchased a 4,300-acre cattle ranch in 2004 and turned it into the award winning Six Sigma Ranch and Winery. Named after the certification process Kaj pioneered, the vineyard has crafted medal-earning sauvignon blancs since they started harvesting.
“Our Asbil Valley vineyards have 12 different soils – from clay to volcanic,” says Christian Ahlmann, Six Sigma’s Vice President. “Each imparts their own characteristics. Our sauv blancs are known to be lively and citrus-y with a nose of lime blossoms, spring grasses and elderflower. It’s like drinking sunshine.”
Six Sigma Ranch & Winery
13372 Spruce Grove Road
Lower Lake, CA 95457

The Master

Recognizing Lake County’s grape growing potential early on, Gregory Graham was already a noteworthy vintner before seizing the opportunity to make wines under his own label. He and wife Marianne saw an opportunity to be part of the regions’ winemaking renaissance – and lead Lake County in sauvignon blanc world domination.

“I make wines people like to drink.”

Gregory Graham Wines
13633 Point Lakeview Road
Lower Lake, CA 95457

Are You Experienced?

2018 Sauvignon Blanc Experience
Ready to learn all you can about this burgeoning white wine? Check out the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Experience. A 2-day symposium and tasting in Lake County, CA. May 4 – 5, 2018
2018 Sauvignon Blanc Experience
Chacewater Winery & Olive Mill
5625 Gaddy Lane
Kelseyville, CA 95451

Sauv Blanc Experience Winemaker Dinner

Everything you ever wanted to know about Sauvignon Blanc (but were afraid to ask at the symposium…). Don’t be shy – if there’s anything more fun than drinking wine – it’s talking about wine!
Take your 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Experience appreciation to new heights – or at least a high elevation. Join Brassfield Estate Winery’s award-winning vintner Matt Hughes, and Chef John Luther (formerly of Chez Panisse) for an intimate affair of sipping and sampling, in a spectacular setting.
Enjoy a tour of Brassfield’s gracious estate, nature preserves and high elevation vineyards on your way to Perspective Estate – the winery’s elegant ridge top residence overlooking Clear Lake. Mingle with Matt, while he gets you up to speed on all things Sauvignon Blanc – and other noteworthy Brassfield crus. You’ll be sniffing and swirling in no time.
Saturday, May 5, 2018 – 5 – 9pm
Reserve your place at the table soon – seating limited to 26, tickets $150.

Purchase tickets $150

Brassfield Estate Winery
10915 High Valley Road
Clearlake Oaks, CA 95423

Where to Stay

Stonehouse Cellars
500 Old Long Valley Road
Clearlake Oaks, CA 95423

The Lodge at Blue Lakes
5135 State Highway 20
Upper Lake, CA 95485

The Tallman Hotel
9550 Main Street
Upper Lake, CA 95485

photography & video: ramona d’Viola, ilumus photography + marketing