Brassfield Estate Winery: A Blending of Volcanic Terroir-Influenced Wines, and the Splendid Outdoors of Lake County

By Published On: February 8, 2024

Credit: Brassfield Estate Winery

In 1973, Central California cattle ranch owner Jerry Brassfield was captivated by the agricultural potential and serene environment of Lake County’s High Valley region. This led him to purchase a 1,600-acre property, marking the start of his wine industry journey.

Jerry’s vision expanded over time as he acquired more land. His global travels fostered a love for high-quality wines, particularly those estate grown, produced, and bottled. This insight spurred him to establish Brassfield Estate Winery in the 1990s, with a commitment to overseeing all aspects from planting to bottling.

Transitioning from a cattle and wildlife preserve to a world-class vineyard and winery presented challenges. The most significant was petitioning the government to recognize the uniqueness of the High Valley area, characterized by its volcanic geology and elevation range. Jerry spearheaded the petition for its recognition as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). Other hurdles included establishing vineyards on steep slopes, securing water rights, and assembling the necessary resources for production.

The 5,000-acre winery estate is a microclimate mosaic,  shaped by elevation, sun exposure, and soil composition. Certain microclimates yield exceptional wines, like the extraordinary Malbec from the Volcano Ridge vineyard, located on the dormant Round Mountain Volcano’s slopes. The elevated valley floor, with its shorter growing season, produces world-class Sauvignon Blanc. The volcano significantly influences the vineyards’ terroir, with its potassium-rich volcanic soils crucial for healthy grape growth.

Credit: Brassfield Estate Winery

Winemaker Carlos Valadez, with over 17 years of experience with these vineyards, understands the importance of preserving the terroir’s authenticity and the wines’ varietal character. Specific blocks proven to be the best contribute to the Single Vineyard and Reserve programs, a small percentage of overall production. Proprietary blends and experimentation shape the winery’s style and identity, with different blends tried each year for the Serenity White and Eruption Red blend. The goal is to maintain a consistent style and balance, along with an ageability factor.

Their Malbec, akin to those from Argentina, owes its unique character to the young volcanic soils rich in potassium, adding a distinct, almost salty note to the wine. The High Valley Malbec stands out with its unique nuances and variations, influenced by the specific vintage and microclimate.

Credit: Brassfield Estate Winery

Unlike many wineries that use Petit Verdot as a blending grape, Brassfield Estate Winery celebrates its single-varietal bottling. Exceptional expressions of this grape variety in specific vintages inspire standalone bottlings, available exclusively to their wine club members and at the tasting room.

Lake County, with its raw, volcanic beauty, offers a unique wine experience, attracting those who appreciate a relaxed pace, rugged landscapes, abundant wildlife, and hassle-free wine enjoyment.  They envision a bright future for Lake County wine tourism through collaboration with local organizations to promote this historically significant wine-producing area. As wine tourism grows in crowded areas, they anticipate Lake County emerging as a new destination, similar to Paso Robles’ rise. With a national and global focus, Brassfield Estate Winery aims to host numerous visitors, creating ambassadors to spread the word about their important work.

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

Credit: Brassfield Estate Winery

2017 Malbec- a stunning example of the variety from the High Valley appellation in California. The wine displays a deep purple color with a ruby rim, and offers a complex bouquet of black-skinned fruit, new leather, violet, cedar, and charcoal. The palate is full-bodied with layers of blackberry, date, and spice flavors. The tannins are silky and sweet, and the finish is long and savory.

2020 Proprietary Red Wine Blend “Eruption”- rich, with layers of dark fruit, black pepper, vanilla, and chocolate, supported by a velvety texture and firm tannins that provide structure and depth.

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon- bouquet of blueberry, black raspberry and blackcurrant. The palate provides a remarkable balance of ripe fruit and silky tannins. The finish is long and persistent, with a hint of volcanic minerality.

2019 Syrah- displays a deep ruby color and a complex nose of blackberry, plum, pepper, and spice. The palate is rich and velvety, with layers of ripe dark fruit, and spice balanced by fresh acidity and firm tannins.

2019 Petit Verdot- opulent and layered flavors, ranging from black cherries and blueberries to decadent dark chocolate. The tannins are superbly sculpted and refined, providing a solid backbone for the wine.

2022 Serenity Rosé of Pinot Noir- juicy and refreshing, with flavors of ripe red berries, citrus and a touch of minerality. The finish is long and smooth, with a crisp acidity and a creamy texture.

2022 Sauvignon Blanc- on the nose, it offers fragrant nectarine, tropical pineapple, and lemon. The medium-bodied palate showcases a  balance of flavors, with a citrus-driven intensity that lingers.

About the Author: Joe Campbell

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Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : joe@winebulletin.net .