Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Independence Day Weekend 2011 (Day 3) – Lake County, California

On the 4th of July, the third day of my holiday wine excursion, having visited two wineries on the east side of the lake and a tasting room in the north I decided to visit two wineries in the south in Lower Lake on my way home.

Vigilance Winery and Vineyards - Lower Lake, California


Vigilance Vineyards & Winery, built on a hillside slope, has an absolutely stunning view over a forest of vineyards below with the Anderson Marsh sanctuary in the distance. 
After strolling the vineyards I ventured into the tasting room.

My first wine taste was the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. Without fail, every winery I visited in Lake County produces a quality Sauv Blanc which I suspect will become what this region is known for in being able to create not only wines of high quality but of superb value. This wine displays a classic profile of lemon zest, grapefruit, great acidity and a prolonged mineral finish and sells for only $15.

My next two white wines were Rhone varietals, the first was the 2008 Shannon Ridge “Single Vineyard” Rousanne. A crisp wine with tropical aromas of passion fruit and pineapple followed by dried peaches with great acidity and minerality. A really nice wine for $19.

The next wine was the 2009 “Single Vineyard” Viognier, a floral bouquet of tropical aromas of mango and bananas followed by peaches a very distinct character of cream soda and ginger with a lingering finish. This wine sells for $19 and I brought one home.

My first red wine was the 2008 Cimarron (a well structured blend of  37% Zinfandel, 35% Syrah, 18% Petite Sirah, 5% Barbera, 3% Mourvedre, and 2% Tempranillo) which has a wide distribution of about 8,000 cases and it is available at BevMo. All of the flavors of these varietals are well integrated, each contributing to the profile of this wine harmoniously with depth and texture. On the nose and palate I picked up blackberry preserves, allspice and a hint of vanilla on the return. A nice wine for $20.

My next red wine was the 2008 Shannon Ridge “Single Vineyard” Barbera. A full bodied wine, fresh and lively with inky aromas of blackberry and violet, followed by black cherry, cedar, dark Chocolate, cherries, and spice. Well balanced with a lush, silky finish. A nice wine for $24.

To see more pictures of Vigilance Vineyards, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Vigilance Winery and Vineyards
13888 Point Lakeview Rd.
Lower Lake, CA 95457
Phone: 707-998-9656

Gregory Graham Wines - Lower Lake, California

At every winery and tasting room I visited in Lake County, every server highly recommended that I check out Gregory Graham Wines. So, in the grand finale of my exploration of Lake County wineries I saved this one for last. 

Owner and wine maker Greg Graham set out to produce world-class wines from Lake County about nine years ago. For 22 years he was the winemaker at Rombauer Vineyard in the Napa Valley, and then in 1992 he began making his own wine using grapes sourced from Napa, Carneros, and Knights Valley. Then in September 2000 he began making wine form his own vineyards when he and his wife Marianne purchased a 13-acre Zinfandel vineyard in the Red Hills Appellation of Lake County.

Following the purchase of the property near Lower Lake, Greg replanted the seven acres of the Zinfandel with Rhone varietals, Syrah and Grenache. In 2004 they had their first production from these vines and later that year they expanded by purchasing the adjacent property which included a 13-acre vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Greg Graham has an impressive list of wines (13 varietals) but I was only interested in tasting Lake County grapes so I only tasted 7 (with my spit cup in hand). 

My first wine was the 2008 Dry Reisling. Sourced from the Roumiguere Vineyards in Lakeport, this wine displays a classic Alsatian profile - neat, graceful and well-balanced, crisp, light in body, with apricot, peach, lemon/lime and tropical fruit, followed by petrol the nose followed by a steely minerality on the finish. A great wine for only $15!

My second wine was the 2009 Viognier. Sourced from the Bartolucci Vineyards in Finley (south of Lakeport), this wine is very similar to Vigilance’s Viognier and likewise sells for $20.

My first red wine was the 2007 Grenache – AWESOME! A HUGE nose consisting of bright cherry, raspberry and a big bouquet of flowers with hints of licorice and white pepper. On the palate it is a fleshy and fruity with black currant, blackberry followed by vanilla and sweet oak that lingers for days. A great wine for $20 so I brought one home!

My second red wine was the 200 Estate Syrah. A dark inky wine with dark fruits (plum, blackberries etc.) and a distinct character of crispy bacon – the only way it could be more appealing is if it smelled like MORE bacon. A really nice wine for $18.

My third red pouring was the 2008 Cinder Cone Reserve, a unique assemblage of Rhone and Bordeaux varieties – 48% Syrah, 24% Cabernet and the rest is Grenache and Malbec - from their estate Crimson Hill Vineyard. On the nose and palate I picked up blueberries, blackberries, hints of lilac and fresh cracked pepper. The wine sells for $24. In case you are wondering, the name “Cinder Cone” comes from the red soil in the vines are planted in the rock of an extinct volcano.

My fourth red wine was the 2008 Estate Zinfandel. This wine is not everyone’s style of wine - dried fruits, figs, brown sugar, loads of jam and a hint of sweetness on the tail end. It sells for $24 and I bought one to share with friends.

My final wine was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Redhill Vineyards. This is a very earthy Cab with black currant, anise and some noticeable oak. Not bad for $18.

To visit or for more information:

Gregory Graham Wines
13633 Point Lakeview Rd
Lower Lake, CA 95457
Phone: (707) 995-3500

My trip to Anderson Valley and the Russian River on the first day was everything I expected it to be and I hope to return again soon.

On the other hand, the Lake County wineries were quite a surprise. I was not anticipating the beauty of the region, the high level quality of the wines nor their extremely reasonable prices especially in comparison to their southern neighbors in the Napa Valley. If you are looking for an affordable, beautiful wine country get-away without the crowds and the snootiness of the Napa Valley, then I HIGHLY recommend checking out the Lake County Wine Country!