Kelsey Bench - Lake County AVA

Kelsey Bench AVA portion of Lake County AVA mapThe Kelsey Bench AVA derives its name from the nearby town of Kelseyville, which was established in the 1850s. Some of the oldest vines in Lake County live here on the Catfish Vineyard. Planted in 1901, the vines are head-pruned (no wires or stakes) and look like gnarly old men.  Steele Wines purchased the vineyard in 2000 and has been rehabilitating the old vines since, producing the Catfish Vineyard Zinfandel which is a field blend of small amounts of Carignan, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Cinsault. We don’t often see vines or wines like this today.

The bench lands and terraces of Kelsey Bench rise above the town of Kelseyville to the south toward the Mayacamas Mountains and Red Hills. The climate in the area is generally warmer than that of the Big Valley and cooler than the Red Hills, making it ‘just right’ for growing a variety of winegrapes, both red and white. Most of the vineyards are planted above 1,400 feet elevation, on the generally level areas around Bell Hill, Plunkett Lane, and Gold Dust. The soil here is unique and varies from the volcanic soils in the south similar to what you might find in the Red Hills, but most vineyards are planted on well-drained, alluvial Forbesville Loam, the majority of which is found on the Kelsey Bench. The combination of soil and climate make the area ideal for red grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel.


Jed Steele of Steele WinesWinemaker's Perspective

Jed Steele, Owner & Winemaker, Steele Wines

“The Kelsey Bench, along with Red Hills, are the top two major appellations currently developed in Lake County.

The reddish soils found in the Kelsey Bench are a loam with a moderate clay component. This soil is generally 3’-6’ in depth.  After this upper layer, you hit a strata of large cobblestones of volcanic origin that is strewn with small rocks. Small pieces of Obsidian are part of this rock mix but are not predominant.  This soil is moderately fertile with very good drainage.  In sum, a near perfect profile for the growing of high quality grapes.