Wine Tasting & Wings- A perfect 1/2 day in Upper Lake
Updated: Apr 20, 2019
One of our favorite days of wine tasting in Lake County takes us north in the county to Upper Lake where we begin with a visit to the new Shannon Ridge tasting room in the old Bartlett Springs Water Company.
On your way to Shannon Ridge along Hwy 29 we always take the Nice/Lucurne cut off and grab a peekaboo view of the entire lake.
Stop #1 Shannon Ridge is the largest winemaker in Lake County reportedly bottling 360,000 cases in 2019. They produce several different labels all of which are approachable and equally important---excellent value for your dollar. Joy Merrilees heads up the all women wine making team and in my estimation belongs on anybody's list of up-and-comers in the wine industry. I had the pleasure of working with Joy during the couple of years I was on the road selling Steele Wines for Jed Steele and she is very talented woman. Joy was Jed's assistant wine maker and learned the ins and outs of the trade from one of the industry's most respected wine makers + she is lots of fun!
We like to taste through the wines they are pouring any given day in the tasting room. The wines always represent a good cross section of Lake County's best fruit. We usually end up buying the current vintage of Sauvignon Blanc- it is as one local says,
"Lake County's sunshine in your frig".
Joy also makes a super delicious Rose that can stand up to anything out of Provence. We say this with confidence because every summer we entertain guests at our ranch and host a blind Rose tasting - Joy's Rose always hangs towards the top of the list (okay, okay, Provence win the top spot) We joined the Shannon Ridge wine club many years ago and it has become one of our favorites. They have a few signature wine club events each year one of which is the BBQ and sheep shearing party at Sheep Camp- an amazing restored sheep ranch in the hills overlooking Clear Lake. It is a social moment extravaganza.
Stop #2- The Blue Wing Saloon at the Tallman Hotel. On your way to downtown Upper Lake you can make a pit stop into a great old antique store Vintage Antiques on Hwy 20 before you come to the town of Upper Lake. We have found some rustic treasures there over the years- windows, shutters, stoves, silver and depression era glass, sometimes the Auction Barn next door is open and it too is worth a walk-through.
"We Love the Blue Wing". Lynne & Bernie Butcher restored this historic landmark to perfection a decade ago. There is a vintage hotel on the property and a new but super tastefully designed mid-building with more rooms (some with Japaneses soak tubs on the deck) and across the courtyard is the stand alone restaurant and bar. We like to sit at the old bar that was carved out of a black walnut tree found on the property. There is always icy cold Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap in addition to all the local wines and craft beers. The menu is always evolving with fresh locally sourced food but the one constant is always the Blue Wings. These are superb, meaty well dressed wings - a little spice - tons of blue cheese crumbles and lots more for dipping. Like the rest of the world we have ordered wings all over the country and without a doubt Blue Wings are our #1 favorite. Everything on the menu is excellent, grab a big meal because you are just getting started.
Stop #3 Main Street Upper Lake. The Upper Lake Mercantile is just out the door from the Blue Wing. It has super tasteful locally made crafts and art. We have bought many cool paintings there over the years and always stop in to see what's new. In the summer months there is a courtyard behind the building with really unique art for sale. Prices are more than reasonable.
Kitty corner from the Mercantile is the cowboy. The cowboy is a mural painted a long time ago. Unfortunately it is often locked, hidden away from the damaging effects of the sun. If by chance it's open when you are in town it is a great and rare social moment to capture.
There many stores to explore and on weekends a horse and buggy to take you on a tour of town. Now your are ready for The Lake County Wine Studio for your next tasting. Susan your owner/host makes it possible for many small wine makers in Lake County to have their wines poured for the public. We always enjoy and take home a bottle of Bryan Kane's Sol Rouge. Bryan has been making wines from his vineyard in the Red Hills AVA for years. With limited production his wines are nice to open up for any occasion. Another hard to find wine Susan has on hand is Obsidian Ridge.
Stops in order;
#1- Shannon Ridge Tasting Room
#2- Vintage Antiques
#3- Blue Wing Saloon
#4- The Upper Lake Mercantile
#5- Lake County Wine Studio