The Unique Terroirs of Lake County

The wines of Dancing Crow come from vineyards in Lake County at the northeastern corner of California’s North Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA), one of the world’s most prestigious wine regions, which also includes Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

Though less well known than their famous cousins to the south, the seven AVA sub-appellations in Lake County are attracting national, and international attention, for their exceptional quality and unique characteristics: as noted by a contributor to Jancis Robinson’s blog last year who wrote, “despite its level of obscurity, Lake County remains one of California’s most interesting and valuable wine regions.”

Dancing Crow’s Vineyards are located in the Big Valley and Kelsey Bench AVA’s – only a few miles apart as the crow flies, but offering very different soils and grape growing environments. Interestingly the area is also renowned for its orchards. Bartlett pears from the the Big Valley area are famous and the pear orchards that are ubiquitous in this AVA are a good indicator of the best sites to produce excellent quality Sauvignon Blanc, just as the walnut orchards of the Kelsey Bench indicate the potential for fine red wines.

Dramatic Topography and Soil Diversity

Lake County was shaped by periods of intense volcanic activity. Mt. Konocti, rising above Clear Lake to an elevation of 4,304 feet is a dormant “stratovolcano” formed by eruptions that propelled volcanic ash and lava for miles, and to depths of many feet. These complex volcanic materials, weathered for millennia by streams and rivers, lie next to, and sometimes combine with, ancient lakebeds and their characteristic deep, fine-textured, clay, loams and silts.

A Mountain Climate

In addition to the intriguing diversity of soils, the whole area around Clearlake is a high plateau – the lake itself sits at 1350 feet – and the unique mountain climate affords many natural advantages to the viticulturist: crystal clear air (the cleanest in California), drier air (fog is rare), and high intensity UV light (which results from both dry air and elevation). The vineyards’ proximity to the lake’s thermal mass and both Mount Konocti and the Mayacamas Range to the west, is significant, as afternoon and evening breezes have a cooling effect on the vineyards. Hot summer daytime temperatures of over 90° F will often drop to 50° F at night and this significant diurnal temperature change is another key to producing quality grapes.

Another advantage of these climate conditions is a reduction in pest and disease pressure, enabling softer, more environmentally sound farming practices. Dancing Crow Vineyards are certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.

To learn more about Lake County winegrowing and wineries visit – the Lake County Wine Grape Commission and the Lake County Winery Association

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