Shannon Family of Wines

Forging a Better Way

Besides making delicious – and affordable – wine, the Shannon Family of Wines is dedicated to two things: championing Lake County as a premier wine region and sustainable farming.

Located to the north of Napa County, Lake County is remote, mountainous, and underpopulated. A dominant feature is Clear Lake, California’s largest natural lake and the oldest lake in North America. The mountains in Lake County form the top end of the Mayacamas Range, where eons of volcanic activity generated the red dirt and well-drained soils that have attracted wine growers, such as Clay Shannon, to the region. At the end of the 19th century, Lake County rivaled Napa for acres under vine and prize-winning wineries. Sadly, almost all the vineyards were ripped out during prohibition, and for decades fruit and nut orchards dominated the agricultural landscape. Since the 1970s, with vineyards again expanding and new wineries being established, better understanding of the terroir around the region has led to the designation of seven Lake County AVAs. Some of the conditions that influence Lake County wine include high-elevation mountain vineyards, volcanic or alluvial soils, strong breezes and winds, cold winters, warm and dry summers, wide diurnal swings in temperature, pure air, and intense UV light. This terroir favors the hardy, California stalwarts Zinfandel and Petite Sirah as well as Bordeaux and Rhone reds. Cooler sites have significant plantings of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. Some wineries are experimenting with Italian and Spanish varieties that may be well-adapted to dry conditions.

Clay Shannon spent much of his career as a vineyard manager in the Napa Valley, but a desire to farm his own vineyards, and, as he puts it, to plant vineyards in mountains and in red dirt led him to start buying and cultivating land in Lake County. Since 1996, The Shannon Family of Wines has acquired about 2,000 acres (800 hectares) across several Lake County AVAs, with about half of that under vine and the rest remaining as natural forest. The company produces wine under several labels, including Clay Shannon, Shannon Ridge, Ovis, High Valley, Buck Shack, Vigilance, Urgency, and Playtime. In 2020, Shannon acquired the Steele Winery, also in Lake County, that was founded by legendary winemaker, Jeb Steele.

Because Clay Shannon spent much of his career as a vineyard manager, he manages his wine business and his estate with enormous reverence for responsible stewardship of the land. But Shannon also believes, “Sustainability isn’t some philosophical concept; it’s the way we live our lives.” Vineyards are farmed organically; friendly insects, bats, and predatory hawks and owls are introduced to control all manner of pests. Soils are kept healthy by composting organic materials, eliminating use of herbicides, and using flocks of sheep to mow down plants and deliver natural fertilizer. Wildlife corridors are maintained to connect tracts of forest so that wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and even bear, can migrate effortlessly. With adequate rainfall and water always a concern, vineyards are planted to drought-resistant rootstocks, and the winery is experimenting with grape varieties well-adapted to dry conditions, such as Nero d’Avola and Counoise.

Wine Maker

Joy Merrilees

Country

USA

Region

California


Photo Gallery



Wines from this Winery


SHANNON RIDGE Sauvignon Blanc

Shannon Ridge is a line of modestly-priced wines that are sourced from estate-owned vineyards in three Lake County appellations: High Valley, Red Hills, and Big Valley. Warm summer days and cool nights as well as the volcanic soils in mountain vineyards make for excellent terroir for Sauvignon blanc. The winery characterizes the wine as “brimming with lemongrass, mango, tangerine, and gooseberry flavors. Steely crispness is perfectly balanced by a lush tropical fullness and complex, lingering finish.” It would pair well with sashimi or a lazy spring afternoon under the cherry blossoms.

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¥3,190 (incl. tax)
SHANNON RIDGE Chardonnay

Shannon Ridge Chardonnay is sourced from mountain vineyards in the High Valley, Red Hills, and Big Valley appellations in Lake County. High Valley fruit adds lively citrus flavors and bright acidity, while grapes from Red Hills contribute a generous, ripe fruit character. Big Valley adds more balance with grassiness and mineral tones. As noted by the winery, “The balanced fruit and oak aromas of this Chardonnay blends seamlessly with flavors of ripe peaches, pineapple, vanilla, butter, and caramel for a silky-smooth lingering finish.”

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¥3,190 (incl. tax)
SHANNON RIDGE Petite Sirah

In the early 20th century, Petite Sirah was one of the most widely planted grapes in Lake County. Shannon Ridge Petite Sirah reminds us that these high-elevation appellations comprise excellent terroir for this varietal. Pour a glass and take in the inky purple/black in color, aromas of dusty ripe plums, and rich flavors of blueberry jam, blackberries, chocolate, earth and spice. It’s a fruit-forward, full-bodied wine with a nice structure of acidity and tannin. Restrained ABV of 13.9% ensures it will harmonize with rather than overwhelm your meal.

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¥3,190 (incl. tax)
SHANNON RIDGE Cabernet Sauvignon

Shannon Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from three appellations in Lake County. This is a juicy, fruit-forward wine that will liven up casual dining on weekdays or weekends. Moderate alcohol (13.8%), refreshing acidity, and lively tannins will make an excellent match with burgers or pizza. According to the winery, this Cab “offers blackberry and dried cranberry characters with notes of pepper and allspice. The lengthy finish shows hints of cedar along with ripe fruit and toasted oak.”

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¥3,190 (incl. tax)
CLAY SHANNON Sauvignon Blanc Betsy Vineyard

The Clay Shannon Sauvignon Blanc is sourced primarily from a single vineyard in the High Valley AVA. This high-elevation area features a unique east-west orientation that funnels in cool air off the lake as well as gravelly volcanic soils. Harvesting grapes at low brix gives the wine minerality and structure. The wine includes a small amount of riper fruit from Red Hills, which added body,  and Big Valley, which added high-toned, grassy notes to the aromatics. The winery says, “In the nose, you find lime, apricot, passion fruit, and flowery peach as well as some herbaceous notes like bell pepper and grass. On the palate: bright acidity combined with a viscous mouthfeel and a long finish.”

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¥4,290 (incl. tax)
CLAY SHANNON Chardonnay

Clay Shannon Chardonnay is mainly sourced from cool sites in the Red Hills AVA (43%) with the rest from vineyards around Lake County. The wine was made to emphasize the fresh flavors of pure Chardonnay with little influence of oak or malolactic fermentation. The winery’s notes describe “aromas of pear, nutmeg, honeydew, lemon zest with just a hint of butter. On the palate: Meyer lemon, Fuji apple, vanilla & baking spices. Bright, clean with a creamy texture.”

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¥4,290 (incl. tax)
CLAY SHANNON Pinot Noir Long Valley Ranch

The Long Valley Ranch Pinot Noir is sourced from a single vineyard located in a cool spot in the region: the western edge of an unusual valley that runs East-West. Planted at an elevation of 400 m., the vineyard is situated between mountains that soar up to over 900 m. Cool air funneled in from Clear Lake and wide diurnal temperature swings make for excellent acidities and fruit flavors. Scoring this wine 92 points, the Wine Enthusiast noted “Full of red cherry, red currant and orange tea flavors, this multidimensional, full-bodied wine is a standout. It layers subtle cinnamon, clove and vanilla accents among the lively, ripe fruit flavors while good acidity and light tannins provide great balance.”

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¥4,290 (incl. tax)
CLAY SHANNON Cabernet Sauvignon

Clay Shannon Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from vineyards in two Lake County AVAs: High Valley (56%) and Red Hills (44%). These high-elevation mountain vineyards benefit from well-drained soils, cooling breezes and winds, clean air, and high UV light, conditions that produce wine with texture, tannin, and intensity. Blending High Valley’s dark, deep, and rich flavors with the brighter notes of Red Hills ensured this wine is complex, layered, and deeply satisfying. While the wine is young, decanting is recommended - or cellaring for six months or a year or more.

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¥5,390 (incl. tax)
OVIS Cabernet Sauvignon High Valley

Ovis is Latin for sheep. Clay Shannon named his flagship label Ovis to honor the large herd of sheep that lie at the center of his sustainable farming practices. Letting sheep graze the cover crop in the vineyard reduces the need for herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer; because they also till the soil, tractors are used less, further shrinking the carbon footprint of the operation. Ovis is sourced mainly from the best blocks in the estate’s Round Mountain Vineyard in High Valley AVA. The wine aged for 30 months in 90% French and 10% American oak. The Wine Enthusiast rated this wine 92 points, describing it as “full of black cherries, black olives and blackberries, this firmly structured and full-bodied wine wraps its fruit in firm, fine-grained tannins and spices them with oak notes of cinnamon, cedar and wood smoke. Best now to 2028.”

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¥10,890 (incl. tax)