Appetizers
July 2, 2011
Dunne picks will come in handy for Lake County wine event

Jennifer Hammond at the Lake County economic development program recently sent a note that the seventh-annual Lake County Wine Adventure would be getting under way soon. It's a two-day passport event that runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 30-31.

Buy your tickets to the event early, and you can get them for $35. Buy them on the day of the event at any participating winery, and you'll pay $40. A ticket entitles you to two days of activities, which includes wine tastings and hors d'oeuvres at each winery, a logo wine glass, art exhibits, and entertainment.

You can get more information by calling (800) 595-9463 or (707) 355-2762. You can also visit www.lakecountywineries.org.

Hammond's email reminded me of two features articles that wine critic Mike Dunne wrote for The Bee a little over a year ago, suggesting wineries, inns and activities for Lake County visitors. I decided to again share his lists with you, though I've updated the information where necessary.

IF YOU GO
Ceago Vinegarden: Ceago Vinegarden turns out solid takes on the county's two most fundamental varietals, sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, while hinting at the future with a citric and spicy syrah rose. 5115 E. Highway 20, Nice; (707) 274-1462; www.ceago.com.

Steele Wines: Jed Steele, the man most often credited with reviving winemaking in Lake County, today oversees the production of about 80,000 cases a year at his Kelseyville facility. While he draws grapes from afar, he remains devoted to Lake County fruit with such releases as the lean and silken Writer's Block grenache and the fleshy yet sharp-edged Shooting Star barbera; 4350 Thomas Drive (at Highway 29), Kelseyville; (707) 279-9475; www.steelewines.com.

Langtry Estate & Vineyards: Ever since British actress Lillie Langtry arrived in Lake County in 1888, wine has been made on her estate, which now spreads over 23,000 acres, though just 400 are planted in wine grapes. Long recognized for its petite sirah, Langtry today is gaining prominence for the structure and elegance of its cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux-inspired blends. 21000 Butts Canyon Road, Middletown; (707) 987-2385; www.langtryestate.com.

Gregory Graham Winery: Gregory Graham has received awards in such prestigious contests as the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and The Dallas Morning News' Wine Competition. 13633 Point Lakeview Road, Lower Lake; (707) 995-3500; www.ggwines.com.

Six Sigma Ranch, Vineyards & Winery: Visitors can relax on the manicured grounds around the old stage stop made over into a cozy tasting room, where the sauvignon blanc is as friendly and alert as Fly, the resident border collie, the tempranillo as soothing and enduring as the surrounding oaks. 13372 Spruce Grove Road, Lower Lake. (707) 994-4068; www.sixsigmaranch.com.

Shannon Ridge Vineyards & Winery: Clay and Margarita Shannon pour releases from their estate vineyards. Their proprietary blend Wrangler Red is immensely popular, and their 2006 reserve cabernet sauvignon was the only example of the varietal to win a gold medal at Lake County's recent first wine competition. 12601 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks; (707) 998-1480.

STAYING PUT
Featherbed Railroad Bed & Breakfast Resort: Rooms range from $150 to $220. www.featherrailroad.com; (707) 274-8378; 2870 Lakeshore Blvd., Nice.

Tallman Hotel: A search on the hotel's website showed no availability for this weekend, but call to find out whether there have been cancellations. More than a boutique hotel that blends respect for history with an appreciation of modern amenities, the Tallman Hotel is Upper Lake's cultural focal point. In addition to 17 rooms, some in the original 1896 structure, some in a cluster of contemporary outbuildings, the grounds include the Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe and a conference center, all of which double as the backdrop for frequent blues performances, winemaker dinners and the like. Next door is Sheldon Steinberg's antique plumbing shop, The Elegant Bowl, where he restored many of the vintage bath fixtures in the hotel. Rooms range from $159 to $249. www.tallmanhotel. com; (707) 275-2244; 9550 Main St., Upper Lake.

The Bungalow: Several quaint bed-and-breakfast inns dot the shoreline around Clear Lake, but the arts-and-crafts-style Bungalow seems to generate the most recommendations from locals. It has just three rooms, but it is roomy and tidy, and boasts a deck overlooking the lake. Rooms range from $140 to $170. www.thebungalow.com; (707) 998-0399; 10195 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks.

CHOWING DOWN
Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe: You'll find a diverse California and Mediterranean menu with such dishes as pan-seared crab cakes, risotto fritters filled with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, and baby back ribs gleaming with housemade barbecue sauce in the dining room, as well as on the spacious and well-shaded patio. Every wine on the list, incidentally, was made within 30 miles of the restaurant. 9520 Main St., Upper Lake; (707) 275-2233.

Saw Shop Gallery Bistro: Once a saw shop -- check out the vintage chainsaw atop the bar -- the sunny, homey quarters today house a combination art gallery and bistro. The art ranges from acrylic landscapes on old circular saw blades to refined jewelry, while the New American menu is similarly diverse, including pork pot stickers with Thai chili sauce, steamed mussels fiery with jalapeno peppers, a pan-roasted pork loin chop with local pears and sauteed radicchio, and seared sea scallops with Southern grits and a Tabasco beurre blanc. 3825 Main St., Kelseyville; (707) 278-0129.

DIVERSIONS
Bring your bike: Cycling in Lake County is scenic and relatively easy, with gradual grades and several roads with shoulders. Lake County Pathways has published detailed guides to 11 suggested routes, including one entirely around Clear Lake (68 miles, a gain of about 500 feet; allow six to eight hours, more if you plan to taste wine). Pick up the guides at the Lake County Information Center, 6110 E. Highway 20, Lucerne.

Clear Lake State Park: Campsites, picnic areas, trails and access to the lake for swimming, fishing and boating help explain the popularity of Clear Lake State Park among outdoor enthusiasts. 5300 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville; (707) 279-4293.

Kayaking: Kayak rentals are popping up all around the lake, and at least one winery (Ceago) and one casino (Konocti Vista Resort) provide tie-up facilities. The group Konocti Regional Trails is working to establish a series of linked hiking trails that it hopes ultimately will encircle the lake, and also has mapped out seven water trails on Clear Lake, downloadable at www.konoctitrails.com.

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