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 Organic 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

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

Shannon Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from vineyards planted as high as 750 m. The intense and persistent fruit flavors will liven up casual dining on weekdays or weekends. Moderate alcohol (13.5%), 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

The Clay Shannon Sauvignon Blanc is sourced primarily from Long Valley, an organic 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. Grapes were harvested at medium-low brix, balancing bright acidity with ripeness. While most of the wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel, a small amount saw time in acacia to enhance the mouthfeel and add floral notes. The winery says, “In the nose, you find white peach, passion fruit, and lime zest, as well as some herbaceous notes like bell pepper. Presents a rounded mouthfeel, well balanced with a refreshing acidity, enhancing its flavors.”

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

Clay Shannon Chardonnay is sourced from cool sites in the Lake County AVA. 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 Zinfandel

“Junior” is an intensely flavored Zinfandel that entices with aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum, and a hint of black pepper. Crafted from grapes grown in high-elevation vineyards in Lake County's High Valley, it exemplifies the region's signature bright fruit, spice, and textured richness.  The Wine Enthusiast noted a “vivacity of fresh fruit that adds an excellent midpalate lift and keeps the energy going through to the lengthy finish. Cottony tannins gently coat the palate and are well-met by the concentration of ripe black cherry, plum, and bramble fruits, which are further complemented by herbes de Provence, fresh forest floor, and nuanced spices.”

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

Does the idea of Pinot Noir from inland Lake County cause a bit of cognitive dissonance? Fear not, as the qualities of Clay Shannon Pinot Noir — from the light garnet color to the bright red fruit aromas and zippy acidity – really can measure up against many a wine from the coastal vineyards of Sonoma. The Long Valley is unusual in that runs East-West, instead of the usual North-South. 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. In 2021, 60% was sourced from the Long Valley Ranch,  on the High Valley side of Clear Lake, while 11% came from Red Hills (on the other end of the lake) and 22% from outside the county.

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¥4,290 (incl. tax)
CLAY SHANNON Petite Sirah

Clay Shannon Petite Sirah is estate-grown and sourced mainly from two high-elevation Lake County appellations: High Valley (57%) and Red Hills (33%). These vineyards get plenty of sun but are also whipped by fierce winds, producing tiny berries with huge but refined tannins. The wine is loaded with rich purple and black fruit but accented with brighter notes of red fruit, herbs and spice. Fans of Zinfandel, Syrah, or spicy red blends take note!

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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)
CRICKET FARMS Brut Lake County

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¥6,490 (incl. tax)
OVIS Cabernet Sauvignon High Valley

Latin for sheep, Ovis honors the large herd of sheep that lie at the center of Clay Shannon’s 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 75% French oak and 25% American oak. According to Clay Shannon, "This blend is a combination of our highest tiered vineyard parcels, farmed specifically for maximum concentration and flavor. The deep garnet color, wonderful aromatics, and matured tannins are a dead giveaway of its High Valley origin."

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¥10,890 (incl. tax)