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The Impact of High Valley’s Climate on its Wine

High Valley is located northeast of Clear Lake. At 7 miles wide and 20 miles long, Clear Lake has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in California. It has a moderating influence on High Valley’s climate.

Vineyards in High Valley experience one of two different climates. The valley floor is generally quite a bit cooler than the ridgelines. This is because cool settles at these lower elevations overnight.

Wind moderates temperatures during summer and winter. On hot summer days, afternoon winds cool the vines and help retain acidity. On cold spring mornings, these same winds raise temperatures and help protect the vines from frost. This is particularly important just after budbreak when the canes are very young and delicate.

Without these winds, spring frosts would be a threat until early summer. Local growers have actually observed the wind melting the frost from the vines in on cold mornings. Winters can be quite cold and snowfall is not uncommon at higher elevations of the High Valley AVA.

Like the Red Hills across Clear Lake, the temperature of High Valley varies significantly between day and night. This fluctuation can be over 60 degrees Fahrenheit which is one of the highest in California. High Valley does not get a lot of rainfall by Lake County’s standards. It can be a bit sporadic and ranges from 15 to 40 inches a year. In drier years, growers are able to tap into the region’s naturally high water table for irrigation.

High Valley has a very long growing season. Moderate weather during fall allows growers the option to let their grapes hang on the vine. While this is not practiced by everyone, proponents argue that it allows the flavors to develop longer. But grapes need sufficient acidity if they are allowed to hang. If they do not have enough acid, they will make flabby wines.

Brassfield Estate is probably the most recognizable winery in the region. In 2005, Jerry Brassfield filed the petition to gain AVA status for High Valley.

> Lake Country Wineries

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