Beginnings - History of the Lake County Wine Industry


Winemakers by the score are discovering the bounty of Lake County’s agriculturally rich valley, which surrounds ancient Clear Lake and the rocky red volcanic soil around Mt. Konocti, a dormant volcano. The first Lake County vineyards were planted in the 1870s. By 1900 Lake County wines were winning awards in international competition, and the region was earning a reputation for producing some of the world’s best wines.However, in 1920 Prohibition brought an end to Lake County wine production. Most of the vineyards were eventually ripped out and planted with other crops.

Lake County’s re-emergence in the wine industry began in the 1960s when a few visionary growers discovered the area’s wine grape potential and began planting new vineyards.

Historical figures and antique car in front of lake and mountains


Early Wine History

  • 1861: First winery in Napa Valley; Lake
    County established, carved out of
    Napa County
  • 1870s: First vineyards planted in Lake County
  • 1888: Actress Lillie Langtry buys 4,000
    acres for vineyard development
  • Wines gain international recognition by
  • Prohibition: Most vineyards replanted
    to other crops

Re-emergence of Wine Industry

  • 1960s: Vineyards replanted, region
  • 1960s – 1990s: Lake County grapes
    used primarily for blending
  • 1974: Jess Jackson plants
    vineyards in Lake County
  • 1982: Kendall-Jackson winery
    opens in Lakeport

In his own words, Myron Holdenried was one of the Lake County pioneers in the resurgence of the Lake County wine industry.

“I had recently finished at UC Davis, and we were raising Angus Cattle and Bartlett pears.  The cattle business was very weak at that time and several of us, Walt Lyon, Reid Dorn, Floyd Silva, and I were looking for alternative crops.  The Extension Service including Russell Gripp and John Smith, Farm Advisors, were recommending that we look into viticulture.  After visiting with John Parducci and others in Mendocino County and with the help of Amand Kasamatis in Davis, we planted vines in 1966.”