Lake County Travel Itinerary
If you are spending more than a day at the lake, resorts and bed & breakfasts dot many lakefront areas around Clear Lake. Following are some recommendations. The Lakeport English Inn, lakeportenglishinn.com, offers High Tea and warm accommodations, along with turndown service and a special British bedtime treat. Nearby, the Mallard House , www.mallardhouse.com, personalizes your visit with terrific, friendly service in a traditional California vacation setting. Located beyond Upper Lake, The Lodge at Blue Lakes, TheLodgeAtBlueLakes.com, offers nicely kept rooms and lake recreation without motors at the side of Highway 20.
For family-friendly, extended stays, you might spend time with the good old boys at The Beachcomber Resort, www.beachcomberresort.net, in Lucerne. Enjoy boatloads of water fun; maybe learn to drive the boat at this throwback to another era of classic California vacationdom. The Blue Fish Cove Resort, www.bluefishcove.com, in Clearlake Oaks is another old-time favorite one WineCountry.com staffer remembers from childhood, run by nice people, with pedal boats and wave runners available for rent.
Though the Magoon family has retired from Guenoc & Langtry Estate Vineyards & Winery, www.guenoc.com, the spectacular views of the Guenoc Valley and the historic home of colorful old-time theater star Lilly Langtry are still the perfect setting for a picnic. Nearby Middletown and the Guenoc Valley are off the lake, so Guenoc will be your first or last tasting opportunity if you are approaching or leaving via Highway 29. Petite Sirahs, which have won numerous medals, and the awesome Vintage Port are standout wines at Guenoc.
Moving towards the lake, at Ployéz Winery, www.ployezwines.com, European transplant Gerald Ployéz practices an interesting Eurocentric winemaking style. The only winery producing sparkling wine in the county, we also liked the Gamay Beaujolais. This sprightly, lightweight red has a deep, dry masculine temperament. With its rock bottom low alcohol at 12.5%, it is a tantalizing food wine! The winery is also known for its musical events, featuring local talent and the many stars who reside on the lake. On June 19, The Ployéz Jazz Festival kicks off a Saturday Evening Jazz Series running July through October.
Visiting Brassfield Estate Winery requires an appointment, but is worth it! This ambitious winery is already delivering on its phenomenal potential. After a short twisty drive, you arrive in the hot new High Valley area which has spectacular volcano views, history and an impressive new winery tableau. The friendly staff loves showing off additional sweeping views of the valley from the hillside ridge vineyards if you arrange for a longer tour. Visit www.brassfieldestate.com.
The Brassfield Zinfandel is fruit forward in a way that will be familiar to fans of Monterey County wines. You also might enjoy the gentle, not overdone sweetness of the tasty, winery-only Gewürztraminer, which was a perfect compliment back at home to the subtle spiciness of hot pepper marinated ahi tuna. Currently, tasting is available by appointment only, but is easy to arrange. Call (707) 998.1985.
Brassfield Estate Winery is open 7 days a weeks (excluding major holidays) from 11-5PM (12-5PM Dec – Feb). No appointment is necessary for tasting. We offer a guided vineyard, cave tour and wine/cheese pairing for $40 by appointment.
Pioneers in the area for more than 25 years, Clay and Margarita Shannon have developed world-class vineyards throughout Lake County. The 2005 Lake County Grower of the Year recently began offering its own superlative wines at Shannon Ridge Winery, www.shannonridge.com, a charming new tasting room in an historic one-room schoolhouse in Clearlake Oaks. The wines here are first-class, and offer great value. The Sauvignon Blanc is made from only the higher elevation fruit produced in the area. The red wines are consistently terrific at Shannon Ridge; you owe it to yourself to taste through the complete list offered!
As members of the Fetzer family emerge from non-compete agreements following the sale of their venerable Mendocino County brand, new projects are being revealed, and Ceago Estate Wines, www.ceago.com, is perhaps the most exciting and ambitious of all. Biodynamic, sustainable farming rises to a new level, completely friendly to neighbors like turtles and bald eagles. Impressive faux-granite walls flake at your fingertips. They are made from RASTRA, an attractive, innovative, energy-efficient recycled material. You will want to visit this property for the wines, and to get a handle on plans that include an Eco-focused set of 40 casitas you will want to have first dibs on.
While Ceago’s new Lake County plantings proceed to fruition, Redwood Valley in Mendocino County and McNab Ranch south of Hopland supply the grapes, which are now married to state-of-the-art Lake County hospitality. Boaters can stop at the picturesque dock here, then explore wines like the Ceago Kathleen’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, one of the most popular wines in the area. The Rosita of Cabernet and Merlot is another perfect match to the Mediterranean climate and attitude.
In Upper Lake, the Blue Wing Saloon recently opened, as well as the completely revamped Tallman Hotel, www.tallmanhotel.com, with eight hotel rooms and four more cottage duplexes. Yes, Clear Lake hospitality is on the move! If you are hungry, try the Blue Heron restaurant down the street, a casual favorite of locals for family style meals and tasty Mexican treats.
A little inland from the lake between Lakeport and Kelseyville, Steele Winery, www.steelewines.com, beckons. Former winemaker and vineyard manager of cult winery Edmeades in Anderson Valley, Jed Steele also presided as founding winemaker and general manager at the birth of industry giant Kendall Jackson. In recent years he has upgraded the wines at the old Konocti Winery, under both the Steele and Shooting Star labels.
The great staff here is ready to help you explore wines made with fruit carefully chosen from unique spots around California; Pinot Noir and Zinfandel wines from the legendary DuPratt Vineyard in Mendocino are good examples. The Lake County Shooting Star Sauvignon Blanc and the Steele Catfish Zinfandel, made from the fruit of 105 year-old vines, were particularly impressive. A Farmer’s Market operates on the property Saturdays from 9-12 during summer.
The Wildhurst Vineyards, www.wildhurst.com, tasting room experience expresses the charm of old-time Kelseyville, while Winemaker Mark Burch (who also makes wine for others) shows he is ready to break out to megastar status. We liked the light, 2.5% residual sugar Johannesburg Riesling, a tasting room exclusive, for its wonderful floral nose and soft flavors, but the leading pick here is the Cabernet Franc. Dry and with good intensity of flavor, this rather young wine is showing tremendous potential as a sipping superstar at only $14!
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