Inky color; berries, raspberry, red cherry, eucalyptus nose; black fruits, blackcurrant, blackberry, tart cherry, mocha, jam, pinch of pepper on the palate.
Relatively restrained sweet oak, tannin, balancing acidity, 15.2% alcohol. Lake County Catfish Vineyard vines more than a century old and deliver a concentrated load of brambly, rustic flavor. The wine actually is a field blend that also includes small amounts of carignan, alicante bouschet, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, and cinsault.
Catfish Vinyard was planted in 1901 outside farming town of Kelseyville, CA, west of Clear Lake. Steele and Shooting Star Wines were founded in 1991 by Jed Steele, who prior to that was founding winemaker and VP of production at Kendall Jackson. He began his winemaking career at Stony Hill Winery in Napa in 1968, then picked up a masters in enology degree at UC Davis, so you have a seasoned wine veteran shepherding these old geezer grapes into the bottle. In spite of his mass market KJ resume (production topped one million cases his final year at KJ), Steele focuses on bottlings of 1,000 cases or less with his Lake County winery’s two labels.
Lake County is one of the smallest inland wine regions in California, bounded on the west by Mendocino and Sonoma counties and by Napa to the south (it was part of Napa until 1896). Vineyards are squeezed around steep hills near the shore of Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California—25 miles long, next to an extinct volcano. The lake and vineyard elevations make this one of the coolest wine regions in California. $23-24
Second photo: Clear Lake, Lake County, CA