North Coast AVA
Jed Steele crafts high-quality, small-lot wines for his name sake winery while promoting Lake County as a premier wine-producing region in California.
Established in 1992 by renowned California winemaker Jed Steele, Steele Wines has grown to become one of the most popular wineries in Northern California’s Lake County region. With an extensive range of high-quality, small lot, vineyard-designated wines made from the finest vineyards in Lake and Mendocino Counties, Steele Wines practices true craftsmanship while constantly experimenting with new varietals and diverse sites.
Jed Steele has been making wine in California for over 50 years and last year celebrated his 28th anniversary of Steele Wines. His winemaking career began back in 1968 at Stony Hill Vineyard in Napa Valley, where he assisted in the cellar before obtaining his Master’s Degree in Enology from U.C. Davis. He went on to become the winemaker and vineyard manager at Edmeades Winery in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley for eight years, and then landed the position that would alter the course of his career forever: Jed became the founding winemaker for Kendall Jackson in Lake County.
While at Kendall Jackson, Jed Steele developed the concept and style of the Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay - still one of the most popular Chardonnays in the history of California wine today. Jed also grew the winery to over 1 million cases in just nine vintages, but when the environment became too corporate for his liking, Jed stepped aside to start his own brand - Steele Wines.
Steele Wines was born in Lower Lake in California’s Lake County. From the beginning, it was always Jed’s vision to make a number of different varietal wines in small lots, using minimally invasive winemaking techniques and allowing the vineyard and grape variety to dictate the style. His growth has been slow and steady over the years. In 1996, he expanded the business by purchasing Mt. Konocti Winery in Kelseyville and moved his production to that facility - a place the winery still calls home today.
Currently, Steele Wines produces nearly 40 different wines, most in lots of under 1,000 cases. This reflects Jed’s fascination with many different varietals and vineyard sites. The winery also owns five vineyards, leases three additional vineyards, and purchases grapes from select sites from Santa Barbara County to Washington State.
In 2020, Steele Wines was acquired by Shannon Ridge Family of Wines, another family winery in California’s Lake County. Jed Steele will assume a supporting role in the winery going forward, still assisting in the production of Steele Wines, but also enjoying retirement at his properties in Lake County, Montana and Florida. Shannon Ridge will strive to continue Jed Steele’s legacy and plans to make Steele Winery the go-to destination in Lake County. We hope our Gold Wine Club members enjoy this duo of Steele wines, made by one of California’s most recognizable winemakers.
Map of the area
Jed Steele, Winemaker
For Jed Steele, it’s all about minimalism when it comes to winemaking. A New Yorker by birth, Jed has been a winemaker for over 50 years, and with that time comes a lot of experience with grape growers and vineyards across the state. Jed has made wine from just about every wine region in California, from Santa Barbara to Mendocino, and everywhere in between. Over the years, he’s defined his style as maintaining a light hand in the winemaking to better highlight the aromas and flavors of the high quality fruit, and it has always set his brand apart.
At Steele Wines, Jed uses standard, non-GMO yeasts, natural fermentations and no extra additives or enzymes and during fermentation, he uses gravity flow as much as possible. All of this ensures that he doesn’t bruise the wine during its time in the cellar, which helps retain fresh aromas and flavors in the finished wines. From handpicking grapes to gentle processing and bottling, Jed makes sure the grapes are cared for from vineyard to bottle.
Over the years, Jed has influenced and mentored several winemakers in the Lake County region and he continues to garner accolades for his high-quality Lake County wines.
Wine Wizard, Test Your Wine IQ!
1. There are so many styles of Chardonnay! Light and delicate, ripe and fruity, and rich and oaky - just to name a few. What are the rules on pairing foods with each style of Chardonnay?
While Chardonnay can enhance many dishes, there are some important don’ts to follow to ensure your wine isn’t destroyed by the food it’s served with. In general, DON’T pair Chardonnay with aggressively seasoned food (avoid super spicy dishes), bitter foods (bitter greens, vegetables, and spices like turmeric), acidic foods (raw tomatoes, olives, and tangy vinaigrettes), or pungent cheeses (avoid aged goat and sheep’s cheeses). Also, serving Chardonnay too cold can dull it’s pairing potential. Crisp, delicate Chardonnays pair best with lighter dishes like baked fish or poultry with butter and herbs. Ripe, fruity Chardonnays pair best with richer foods like creamy pastas or lighter proteins with fruit, and rich, oaky Chardonnays pair best with foods that have toasty flavors - think toasted nuts, pastry crust, and grilled or smoked fish and poultry. For all Chardonnays, creamy, mild cheeses (Brie or Fontina), risottos and cream-enhanced soups, sauces and pastas are all good food pairing choices.
2. What does a secondary fermentation (malolactic) do for Chardonnay?
Malolactic fermentation is a process in winemaking that converts malic acid to lactic acid. It is a standard process for all red wines, but it is a stylistic choice for white wines - most commonly for Chardonnay. This secondary fermentation tends to create a rounder, fuller mouthfeel and buttery flavors in Chardonnay. Chardonnays that do not go through malolactic will retain their leaner style, tart acidity and fresh green apple flavors. Some winemakers even opt to combine methods to find a happy medium in the finished product.
3. Why are there different toasting levels of oak barrels?
Oak barrels are sold at different levels of toasting so winemakers can achieve the flavors, texture and aromatics desired in the finished wine. Heavily toasted oak imparts bolder aromas like coffee and chocolate, while medium toasted barrels contribute mellower scents like allspice, dulce de leche, toasted bread and vanilla. Lightly toasted barrels can be great for white wines and Pinot Noirs because they add oak tannin for an enriched mouthfeel without having an overwhelming oak character.