In Lake Co., Wine Comes First

In California, just north of Napa Valley, sits the region of Lake County, which is well versed in the growing of grapes for wine production. Those involved with the vineyard business pride themselves in producing affordable bottles of wine without sacrificing quality.

Lake County has been harvesting internationally recognized wine since the 1900s. The area boasts more than 8,400 vineyard acres, 167 growers, and 32 wineries.

While the vicinity is most recognized for its Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet, BTR had the opportunity to sample some of its finest blends. All were recently bottled from the region’s crops within the past five years.

Photo by Michele Bacigalupo.

The Jelly Jar Hearsay White Blend (2013) contains 85 percent Semillon, 10 percent Sauvignon Blanc, and five percent Muscat Canelli. The bottle hails from Dorn Vineyard in Kelseyville, California. The grapes were “planted 20 years ago at 1,500 feet elevation in Lake County.” The area fosters supreme growing conditions for grape production, due to its ideal climate, altitude, and lack of pests.

Semillon is a golden grape, which has origins in 1960s Bordeaux. The grape is often blended with the more acidic Sauvignon Blanc in order to balance the taste. Muscat Canelli contributes an element of fruitiness to the mix.

The three grapes were “hand picked on the same day, whole cluster pressed together, and then co-fermented.” It can be said that the well-suited blend “was married from first pick.”

While the wine may appear pale in color, Hearsay White is far from lacking in flavor. As is characteristic of Semillon wine, the blend is full bodied. A powerful, sharp bite accompanies the taste. This palate-cleansing tartness can be attributed to the bottle’s melon and apricot tones.

Writer’s Block Grenache (2012) of Steele Wines is another blend out of Lake County. It’s one of several in the Writer’s Block product line; the label bears a depiction of Shakespeare and promises to liberate writers from the feared blank page. The Grenache grapes are first crushed and fermented. The grapes are then “laid down to rest in a light French oak regimen.” A small percentage of Counoise and Syrah are introduced later on to enhance a fuller body and richer texture.

As one of the most heavily distributed wines in the world, Grenache is often praised for its versatility. The Writer’s Block blend is “multifaceted,” and pairs well with a wide range of food. Steele Wines, however, advises that the bottle is best matched with “a little sunshine, some good friends and literary dialogue.”

Even more varied in its grape selection is the blended Ed’s Red (2012). Its grapes are sourced from vineyards throughout California, gathered from Lake, Sonoma, and Amador County. The blend includes hints of plums, cherries, raspberries, vanilla, chocolate, and spice. It contains 50 percent Merlot, 25 percent Zinfandel, 15 percent Petite Sirah, seven percent Barbera, and three percent Syrah.

The bottle is heavily bodied and pairs well with a variety of plates. Ed and his wife, Catherine, the owners of Ed’s Red, highly recommend pairing the drink with “mammoth (or vegetarian equivalent).”

Any of the blends mentioned above may serve as an easy solution for the indecisive mind. While the meal, setting, and company in question each play an integral role in choosing the wine, a bottle that contains a variety of grapes is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Out of all the bottles described, I’m most inclined to reach for the Writer’s Block Grenache–conjuring both a sweet berry flavor as well as Shakespeare’s poetic muse.