Is Lake County’s “Signature Red” Actually a Blend?
It is written nowhere that a great wine region needs a signature grape, but most great wine regions happen to have one. Napa Valley is all about Cabernet Sauvignon, and Willamette Valley is all about Pinot Noir. Paso Robles has Zinfandel, and Burgundy has Pinot and Chardonnay. (The French do actually have rules about these things, but that’s a topic for another day.)
In Lake County, Sauvignon Blanc reigns king of the whites. But the signature red is unclear. Here at the ranch we are enamored with Tempranillo, a grape that fits our climate perfectly. (Our enthusiasm has been encouraged by embarrassingly gushing comments from wine journalists who have called ours “the best California Tempranillo in this critic’s experience.”) Other growers do great Tempranillo here too. But some of those same journalists have also written high praises for Lake County’s Petit Sirah, even suggesting that it should be our region’s signature. Meanwhile, there are vintners betting big on Cabernet Sauvignon.
All that to say, the issue is unsettled. We can all agree to meet over a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, to disagree on a signature red.
A glance at soils and climate in our region helps explain the confusion. Within our own fence line at the ranch, we have dozens of soil types and countless micro-climates. The minimum temperature within our 4,300 acres can differ 8 degrees on a given night. So it’s no wonder that no red grape has emerged as an exclusive best fit for Lake County.
This was a recent topic of discussion over lunch with our team at Six Sigma. We had selected for blind tasting the two red blends pictured (we wine industry folks must practice to stay sharp!) The wines were different, but it was striking the similarities that came through and overpowered wine-making practices and even the varietals. Our region has a real sense of place (the French call it terroir) that rings true no matter the grape.
Could it be that there is no single red varietal for Lake County, but that we should embrace the diversity and become a region of Sauvignon Blanc and Red Blends?
Keep an eye out for great Lake County Red Blends. We love our signature Tempranillo here at the ranch, but Lake County’s signature red just might be a blend.
Pictured are Fults Family’s Wildfire, a lovely compilation based on Petite Sirah, and our own Tempranillo-based Diamond Mine Red Blend. Other great Lake County blends include Brassfield’s Eruption, Gregory Graham’s Cinder Cone and (one of my personal favorites) Obsidian Ridge’s Half Mile. All benefit from expert blending and show the distinctively dusty, muscular structure of our region.
What are some of your favorite Lake County blends? What great wines are missing on my list?