Big Valley AVA: Putting Lake County on the Map

Big Valley AVA MapWe can thank the Big Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) for putting Lake County on the map as one of the premier California regions, specifically for Sauvignon Blanc. There are many factors that make this AVA a perfect place for growing world-famous grapes.

Starting in the 1960s, Big Valley growers saw the potential of the region and planted the first vineyards in Lake County since Prohibition. For the past 10 centuries or so, runoff from the Mayacamas’ volcanic foothills of Kelsey Bench has eroded into the clays and deposits that make up the Big Valley AVA. Additionally, this premier location next to Clear Lake, North America’s oldest lake (dating back two and a half million years), creates ideal grape growing conditions.

Big Valley AVA is made up of gravel, clay, and loam, which is nurtured by the bright sunlight and cool nights in Lake County. This combination is the key to making impressive Sauvignon Blancs and intense Zinfandels and Cabernet Francs. The vineyards sit at an elevation between 1,330 to 1,440 feet, which allows for higher UV levels. The intense UV light promotes greater tannins, thicker skins, and high phenolic content. The unique clay and soils created from the erosion of the evolving watershed produce a track of gravel deposits and well-drained soils.

In addition to the soils of Big Valley AVA, the climate also plays an important role. Diurnal cycles result from increased airflow, combined with warmer days and cooler nights, help the grapes retain acidity and yields the best wines. Additionally, when temperatures rise in the summer, warm days are controlled by the thermal mass of Clear Lake.

The Big Valley AVA was officially established in 2013 and is now recognized as one of the AVAs that make Lake County such a unique winegrowing region because of its distinct soils and prime location. We are lucky to be able to create wines that play off of the unique quality and characteristics of Big Valley AVA. Come visit one of our two tasting rooms and taste for yourself why it deserves this special recognition!