High Valley AVA
Grape growing in High Valley dates to the 1870s and some ‘‘centennial vines’’ zinfandel still exist on the southeast ridge above the valley floor. While viticulture ceased during Prohibition, and walnuts, prunes, green beans, and other crops became the area’s popular agricultural commodities, today the High Valley AVA is known as one of the most exciting winemaking areas in California.
High Valley vineyards are… well… HIGH. At over 1,600 (some as high at 3,000) feet above sea level, as a group these are some of the highest elevation vineyards in California. This high elevation and the orientation of the valley (east-west) make this AVA unique not only in Lake County, but rare among the California Coastal Range. This combination of high elevation, orientation, and well-drained soils lead to quite powerful wines with great aging potential.
Matt Hughes, Director of Winemaking, Brassfield Estate Winery
The Winemaker's Perspective -
I believe High Valley is one of the most unique growing regions in California. We have elevation, a mix of volcanic and Franciscan soils, and amazing air flow coming across California’s largest natural lake. I see three distinct sub areas with-in the AVA. The valley floor, the slopes and hill tops on the East side of the valley near Round Mountain, and the ridge line perched above Clear Lake on the West side. The valley floor is certainly one of the coldest spots in Lake County and fruit ripens very slowly there especially as the days get shorter and the angle of the sun changes. We have a few Cabernet blocks on the edge of the valley and they are always the last grapes in the door during harvest. This area produces wines with balance and elegance. The slopes of Round Mountain are intense in every way. Very well drained bright red soils on steep slopes which experience large temperature swings between extremes. Fruit grown here is bold and powerful. The West side ridge line is where we see the maximum air flow from the lake and west coast marine layer. It’s not uncommon to see gust exceeding 30mph, and the wines grown here are dense, but retain a liveliness and a multi-layered fruit profile. We are continuing to explore this area as we expand our plantings there.