CLEAR LAKE: Part 2- Ring Round the Lake

by Annette Bignami

You don't have to leave pavement to get around the lake. You do have to make a choice at the junction of Highway 20 and 53. Many visitors follow 20 past Clearlake Oaks, Lucerne and Nice to Lakeport. I prefer to head south on Highway 53 and then follow frontage roads through Lower Lake, with side trips to Middletown, Cobb and Kelseyville.

Each of these communities offers something a bit different. All have spruced up and locals seem determined to make each and every visitor welcome. Clearlake Oaks and Glenhaven have hundreds of homes built along canals where fishermen find black bass and sheltered waters. Lucerne and Nice reflect a European ambiance. Lakeport is the major shopping center of the area. Kelseyville and Middletown. Lower Lake offers a look at the Homestead Mine and a chance to visit nearby Stuermer Winery.

Checking on the vinesWine tours are wonderful! You enjoy that special feeling of casual welcome found in the Napa and Sonoma Valley before they were overrun by tourists. Lake County produces some notable wines too. Just make sure you check their hours as not all wineries are open every day and Robert Roumiquiere -- we adore their Johannisburg Riesling and Chateau Robert Roumiquiere Johannisburg Riesling -- has no tasting room.

Guenoc, near Middletown, is open daily and their picnic tables overlook a pond and hillside. I found the Petit Sirah and Chardonnay memorable. The Lola Langtry House on the premises can be toured by special arrangement.

Kendall-Jackson Winery open afternoons makes a number of wonderful wines and the picnic areas overlooks the vineyards. Their unusual desert wine, Muscat-Canelli went perfectly with a pear and walnut cake.

Konocti Winery near Kelseyville has daily afternoon tastings, picnic tables and a full range of wines.

Locals say dining out around Clear Lake has improved! Last trip we enjoyed Konocti Kline's Oak Barrel Restaurant in Kelseyville that specializes in seafood -- they make a killer pear cake! Cafe food isn't bad; most local restaurants serve fine catfish from the lake.

Visitors should plan to stay overnight. There must be at least 50 RV parks around the lake. Other lodgings range from the Konocti Inns dozens of rooms through hundreds of housekeeping cabins and bed and breakfasts. I found the Bell Haven Resort's housekeeping cabins clean and tidy under the trees. There's a 200 foot pier and an antique shop, swimming beach and nearby boat rentals.

Campers enjoy a host of private campgrounds with hookups on or near the water, and Clear Lake State Park has 147 site, a new visitor center, boat ramps and, sad to say, no RV hookups -- just a dump station. We find the upper campsites quieter than those near the water. Given the choice we stay in Clearlake Oaks so we can fish the protected waters nearby.

With so much to offer Clear Lake looks better each year as an winter alternative to shoveling snow, a green spring option or a fall destination worth the visit during the wine harvest. Even summer heat is acceptable when the fish bite and cooling breezes blow off the lake.