Lava Cap is a small, family owned and operated winery dedicated to the production of premium estate bottled wines utilizing only mountain grown grapes. The winery is located high in the Sierra Nevada foothills in the heart of the Apple Hill region of El Dorado County. Our elevation - close to 3,000 feet - is about the maximum permissible for growing grapes due to the prevalence of intense periods of frost during early Spring months.
Lava Cap was established in 1981 with the purchase of a 65 acre pear ranch that dated back to the 1860's. This property, perched high above the deep canyon of the South Fork of the American River (not far from where gold was first discovered in 1848) at an elevation of 2,400 to 2,800 feet, is blessed with an abundance of water, excellent soil, and varied sun exposure. In 1990, an adjoining 18 acre orchard was purchased to allow for future expansion of the vineyards. Lava Cap now has over 100 acres of high elevation vineyard land in production or awaiting vineyard development.
As home to California’s highest altitude vineyards, El Dorado is also one of its oldest wine growing regions. When gold miners settled here in the late 1800s, many also planted vineyards and made wine to quench its local demand.
By 1870, El Dorado County, as part of the greater Sierra Foothills growing area, was among the largest wine producers in the state, behind only Los Angeles and Sonoma counties. The local wine industry enjoyed great success until just after the turn of the century when fortune-seekers moved elsewhere and its population diminished. With Prohibition, winemaking and grape growing was totally abandoned. But some of these vines still exist today and are the treasure chest of the Sierra Foothills as we know them.
El Dorado has a diverse terrain with elevations ranging from 1,200 to 3,500 feet, creating countless mesoclimates for its vineyards. This diversity allows success with a wide range of grapes including whites like Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as for reds, Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo, Barbera and especially, Zinfandel.
Soils tend to be fine-grained volcanic rock, shale and decomposed granite. Summer days are hot but nights are cool and the area typically gets ample precipitation in the form or rain or snow in the winter.
With its deep color, firm tannins and bold flavors, there is nothing petite about Petite Sirah. The variety, originally known as Durif in the Rhône, took on its more popular moniker after being imported to California in the early 1880s. Quintessentially recognized today as a grape of the Golden State, Petite Sirah works well blended with Zinfandel and finds success as a single varietal wine in the state’s warmer districts. Somm Secret—Petite Sirah is not a smaller version of Syrah but it is an offspring of Syrah and the now nearly extinct French Alpine variety called Peloursin.