Home News Ag Economics Lake County Wines Reach New a Pinnacle

Lake County Wines Reach New a Pinnacle

Lake County received the highest rating ever achieved by a wine from its region – receiving a 96 point rating for the 2016 Sol Rouge Petite Sirah from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Lake County, a small wine growing region directly north of Napa, used to be part of Napa County and was said to have grown as many grapes as Napa in the 1900s. However, the 1920 Prohibition brought an end to Lake County wine production as vines were removed and planted with other crops.

Lake County’s re-emergence in the wine industry began in the 1960s and grew from less than 100 acres in 1965 to nearly 10,000 acres today. Although large premium Napa Valley grape growers like Beringer and Beckstoffer Vineyards established themselves in the county, few wineries included “Lake County” on their labels, as most wine was often blended into that of Napa Valley and Sonoma wines.

In 2007, a dozen wineries in Lake County including Sol Rouge Winery, established the Lake County Winery Association to promote awareness. At the time, Lake County wines were relatively unknown or reviewed by the top wine magazines with only a few wines receiving a 90+ point rating. Most of these wines were made by Napa winemakers like Thomas Rivers Brown, maker of the Schrader Cellars Double Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon from Beckstoffer’s Amber Knolls Vineyard.

Today, the Lake County Winery Association has over three dozen vintners like Shannon Ridge, Gregory Graham, Brassfield, Hawk & Horse, and Obsidian Ridge, who commonly make wines in the 90-95 point range.  “We’ve seen a trend in higher ratings from all of our Lake County wineries and this rating is just another example of how wineries are producing world-class wines from Lake County,” said Helena Walsh, Director of Lake County Winery Association.

The 2016 Sol Rouge Petite Sirah put Lake County in a completely different league, scoring a 96 point rating by one of the top wine review magazines – the highest in the county’s 50+ year history of winemaking. “I actually never checked on how rare that rating was. I tasted the Sol Rouge Petite Sirah blind of course, along with a few other Petites from Lake and two other appellations, so when I scored it I didn’t know the AVA. It’s a magnificent wine and a great example of how good the Lake County terroir can be,” said Jim Gordon, Contributing Editor, Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

“When we planted the Sol Rouge Vineyard, we sought to grow the best possible grapes to make the finest wine we could,” said Bryan Kane, Co-Owner & Winemaker of Sol Rouge Vineyard & Winery. “When we came to Lake County, the highest rating from one of the Big 3 (Spectator, Enthusiast & Parker) was 92 points. So far, we’ve earned 90–94 points on 44 of our 51 Lake County wines, with the majority scoring 92-94 points.” Bryan attributes the higher scores amongst Lake County wines both improved winemaking and the excellent growing conditions.

“Lake County produces some of the most distinct winegrapes in the world, and over the years, we’ve seen a steady increase in recognition of the region’s wines,” said Debra Sommerfield, President of the Lake County Winegrape Commission. “This impressive rating further substantiates Lake County’s position as a top-tier winegrowing region.”

With all the recent devastation to the Napa and Sonoma wine growing regions caused by the Glass and LNU Lightning Complex fires, wineries have been looking to Lake County for grapes. Jim Smith of Case by Case Wine Brokers states, “We have been challenged as of late with the soaring demand of winegrapes from Lake County. I believe the work is out on what winemakers can expect from our wine growing region.”

“We are honored and excited to have received such a high rating on our 2016 Petite Sirah and expect that Sol Rouge and others will continue to aspire to make highly rated world class wines,” stated Jill Brothers, Sol Rouge Co-Owner and Winegrower.


Sol Rouge is a family estate located in the Mayacamas Mountains at elevations averaging over 1800 feet. North of Napa in the foothills of a dormant volcano which formed the North Coast wine country in the Red Hills Appellation of Lake County, this land contains rich, red volcanic soil and, from this unique profile, Sol Rouge derived its name – translating to “Red Soil” in French. This 70 acre estate is planted with Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut, Counoise, Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc in a “high vine density” configuration allowing each vine to focus on fewer clusters of fruit, leading to greater complexity. Nestled between Mt. Konocti and Benson Ridge, this aggressive sight is all hillside with slopes up to 60% and is said to be the most aggressive and tightly planted vineyard in the Red Hills, with nearly 6000 vines per hectare in some blocks. For more information, see http://www.solrouge.com

2016 Sol Rouge Petite Sirah Wine Enthusiast Magazine Review: https://www.winemag.com/buying-guide/sol-rouge-2016-petite-sirah-lake-county/

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