Red Hills Lake County AVA

Red Hills AVA portion of Lake County AVA map

When Andy Beckstoffer, perhaps Napa Valley’s best known and most respected grape grower, was looking to expand operations, where did he look? He chose the Red Hills in Lake County. That alone would make most folks sit up and pay attention. But Andy isn’t alone in his belief, and many others such as Clay Shannon of Shannon Ridge Winery and Peter Molnar from Obsidian Ridge, know that the Red Hills AVA is the place to be.

What makes the Red Hills AVA truly unique is its combination of soil, climate, and elevation. More than most of the appellations in Lake County, the Red Hills see the greatest influence from the area’s ancient volcanic past. This has led to a distinct soil which is well drained and rich in minerals like iron, which gives it a reddish color and the area its name. The climate in the area is usually a few degrees warmer than any other appellation in Lake County, with a diurnal swing (difference between high and low temperatures during the day) that is dramatic. Finally, the average elevation for vineyards in the Red Hills AVA is higher than any other in Lake County. This blend of soil, climate, and elevation leads to distinct wines with lush round mouthfeel and good richness and texture on the finish. In particular, Cabernet Sauvignon thrives well here.


Joy Merrilees of Shannon Ridge Family of WinesWinemaker's Perspective

Joy Merrilees, Director of Winemaking, Shannon Ridge Family of Wines

The temperatures in the Red Hills, day and night, are usually warmer by a few degrees than any other appellation in Lake County, and the volcanic soil is very well drained. It’s unlike any other appellation in Lake County. The wines we make from the Red Hills generally have a lush round mouthfeel and good richness and texture on the finish. This creates beautiful stand-alone wines, but also compliments when blending with wines from other appellations.

Read about Red Hills in the News  - "The rise of the Red Hills of Lake County"  San Francisco Chronicle

Dig Deeper - Soils of the Red Hills Lake County AVA

The soils in the Red Hills AVA are formed in volcanic parent material, all of which extruded from still visible, local sources (Mt. Konocti, a composite volcano; a ‘caldera’; a ‘maar’ or lesser cones and vents). Some soils are rich in obsidian (Glenview, Arrowhead, and Bottlerock soil series) while others are characterized by very hard, gray andesite stones (Konocti, Benridge soil series), and still others are free of stones to several feet in depth (Aiken soil series). The most suitable viticultural soils lie above very deeply fractured rock (to 20 feet in many places) which allow for deep root penetration, and are characterized as “lean” or “skeletal” soils with up to 35% rock fragments. Even the deep soils are relatively low in water holding capacity in part because only about half the volume is soil, and half the volume is rock. The Red Hills soils are relatively low in fertility, especially in regards to nitrogen and phosphorus. When managed well, these soils have a very high ability to absorb heavy rates of rainfall, which is advantageous to groundwater recharge.

Topography and soil types of Red Hills Lake County AVA vineyards