The History of Wine in Clear Lake

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The history of wine production in Clear Lake California dates back well into the 19th century. After the first vineyards were planted in 1857, it became apparent that the region had a climate that was well-suited for wine production. Additional settlers were drawn by a favorable climate as well as the largest freshwater lake in California.

By the mid 1880s, over 600 acres of vineyards were planted in the region. The other major industries of the day were health spas and mineral water. This was due to the many natural springs nearby.

The Clear Lake Dam was completed in 1914 and is still used to control the height of the water. It was built to lessen the impact of periodic flooding.

In the years immediately prior to Prohibition, there were 36 wineries and over 5000 acres of vineyards in the region. Oral histories point to Zinfandel as the major varietal grown during these early years. In response to this unfortunate law, much of the arable land, including vineyard acreage, was converted to pear orchards. None of the Pre-Prohibition wineries are still in existence.

The History of Wine in Clear Lake

Little viticultural activity occured from the 1920s to the early 1970s. After selling Parducci Winery to the California Teacher’s Association Pension Fund, John Parducci set his sights on the region. Orville Magoon and Jess Jackson were the other major instigators of the industry’s re-birth. (of Guenoc and Kendall-Jackson respectively)

The City of Clear Lake was incorporated in 1980. Official AVA status followed in 1984. Recently, there has been increased interest in developing vineyards in the region. This is due to relatively affordable land prices and a favorable climate for growing many different grapes.