Lake County Wine Tasting

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In order to celebrate Neil’s Birthday weekend, we headed out to Lake County. We have been here once before almost two years ago,( (, and were fortunate to be able to stay in the guest house at a vineyard.

We came to relax and what goes perfect with that, some wine tasting! We made our way around Lake County, finding out that you can visit “Upper Lake” and “Lower Lake.” (see the wineries at A friend of ours lives up there so she showed us around and took us to some favorite spots.

Throughout the weekend we went to 3 tasting rooms and a wine club pick-up party. There was a good amount of tasting so we will share some highlights.

Gregory Graham (

2012 Viognier
2013 Lake County Chardonnay
2013 Carneros Chardonnay
2010 Estate Grenache
2010 Syrah
2010 Cinder Cone Reserve
2010 Magma Red
2012 Estate Zinfandel

Maryann is the tasting associate that helped us here. I imagine it would be a cool place to see more of the winery process, as we walked right by the tanks when we came in. The tasting room is right off the vineyard too. It was pretty quiet while we were there and you can taste upto 12 wines, free of charge so we had our run of the place. We didn’t want to overdo it at our first place so we limited ourselves to 5 tastes each.

The white wines seemed to resonate more with our flavor palate here. We were both pleasantly surprised to identify pineapple in the viognier. The Lake County Chardonnay was part steel and part oak which made it crisp then soft. The Carneros Chardonnay was a little smoky and had some toast and butter. The red wines came off as pretty dry to us, but to be fair they were varietals that are typically pretty dry. My favorite red wine was the Cinder Cone Reserve which had a nice familiar aroma, although I couldn’t pinpoint which one of the grapes it would have been. There were fruit flavors and a kind of light texture. Neil preferred the Estate Zinfandel with it’s big berry nose and surprisingly sweet then spicy flavor. I didn’t write my notes down but I think I noticed a floral aroma. He convinced me to buy a bottle of it.

Shannon Ridge at Vigilance tasting room (

2014 Vigilance Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Dalliance Unoaked Chardonnay
2012 Vigilance Cimarron
2012 High Valley Barbera
2012 High Elevation Cabernet Sauvignon

We got here just in time to taste a few wines before they closed up. The tasting room was kind of busy but the view was amazing, so we chose to take our wines outside to enjoy them. There is a $5 fee to taste their five wines but it is waived with purchase. There is also a cute gift shop with tons of wine swag to choose from!

The wines in our tasting menu look like all different brands but it is a sampling of the different Shannon Ridge collections. As I read through my tasting notes for these wines, it seems they really made me ponder. The Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay were both aged in steel but I tasted toast and butter. How could that be? The Cimarron took me back to my college days when I drove a Cadillac Cimarron. Ironically, I found out the Cimarron is a type of beast, how appropriate! And not that it was beastly but I got huge notes of black pepper in this wine’s aromas and flavors. The Barbera is pretty funny because apparently we tried it two times this weekend and we didn’t realize it. Also we wrote different notes both times. I guess the Cabernet would be the only one we didn’t think too much about; Neil called it “very cabby” but that is his usual description of a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Laujor wine pick up party (

2014 Sauvignon Blanc-musque
2014 Rose of mistaken identity
2013 Sangiovese
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 Cabernet-Collies Cuvée

As part of the wine pick up party, Laujor served caprese paninis, salad and desserts. What a cool option to be able to try the wines with food. There was another amazing view of Lake County, right in front of us. So we set up at a table and ended up staying for three hours, enjoying the sunshine, views and wines. There’s that relaxation we were looking for! And if you are wondering, like we were, Laujor is the correct spelling. It looks like a French word but is actually the combination of the owner’s 2 kid’s names.

You will note that the tasting menu has 2 different Cabernet Sauvignons. These were the 2 wines included in the wine club shipment. Quite the good deal too, only $50 flat for 2 bottles quarterly. Neil and I picked up quite a collection of fruit flavors during these wine samples, including cantaloupe, melon, and berries including blueberry, cherry and some blackberry. And although the alcohol did appear in a couple of the food pairings, I found the Sangiovese to have a better flavor after the food. Neil liked the Sangiovese too, describing it as having a blueberry spice aroma, a light and bold texture and a light spice. As far as the Cabernets were concerned, I liked how they both smelled but the dryness and tannins are just a little too much for me. I guess that’s why you need to let a Cabernet Sauvignon age and then breathe for so long.

Lake County Wine Studio (

Bodkin Muscat Caneli 2014
Cache Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2011
Tempranillo Tejada reserve “T” 2007
Wildhurst Reserve Merlot 2011
High Valley Barbera 2012 (apparently our 2nd time this weekend)
Smiling Dogs Ranch 2012 (60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon)

The Lake County Wine Studio was the final stop on our Lake County wine tasting tour. What a great place to bring it to an end, since they represent brands from all over the county. And, coincidentally, we visited this shop last time we were in Lake County and realized it when we arrived. Its a fun place to stop because there are so many brands to taste and they are only $1 per try. Apparently they do quite a few events here, too! When we walked in, there was a painting party with a full shop of ladies and they were talking about the next event happening in only a few days.

We chose to only taste 4 wines each at this tasting. It was fun to be able to see all the wines in front of you and choose what you want. Our friends did a couple side by side tastings with the two rosés and another 2 wines. Neil and I weren’t quite as methodical and as it happens, we chose a wine that we already had this weekend, the Barbera. That’s just how it goes when you’ve already had 20 tastes over the weekend.

The Muscat Caneli was interesting: tart, minerally and citrus fruits, quite different from the sweet Moscato’s that are usually available. We had tried the sparkling Sauvignon Blanc by the same brand, earlier in the day, so when we saw it for sale there we had to pick up a bottle. Following the theme that we were enjoying the white wines of Lake County, the Cache Creek Chardonnay was nice. It had definite oak influence, with a buttered toast aroma and butterscotch flavor. It would have been a good wine for WineAndCheeseFriday but it seems we’ve already had a few Chardonnay’s this year with another one on deck. We’ll save that one for next time. Once again, the red wines were on the dry side but Neil found the Tempranillo to be meal-worthy. I might try the Smiling Dogs Ranch wine again, too. There were nice berries and a floral flavor.

In addition to the wines listed from the tasting rooms, we enjoyed a rosé, white blend, Syrah, red blend, and Cabernet Franc, all from the vineyard we were staying in. Who can pass up a chance to stay in a vineyard and drink the fruits of their labor?

As you may expect, it was a terrific weekend in Lake County. I am familiar with their wines and terroir from my time at the wine shop. I think I’ve been away from that volcanic soil for a while and that’s why so many of the wines seemed dry to me. Guess next time we go I’ll have to drink more wine the week before to condition my palate!

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