NEAR THE END of the Civil War, the U.S. government gave away 160 acres of land to anyone willing to help settle the West. Vineyard owner Andy Beckstoffer has his own version of that Homestead Act: He has offered famous winemakers and vintners a free trip by helicopter to California’s Lake County to check out his vineyards—along with “favorable terms” for the purchase of grapes.
Mr. Beckstoffer is one of the largest—not to mention most enterprising —vineyard developers in the county. He owns about 1,000 acres in Lake County and about the same amount of land in Mendocino and Napa counties. But right now Mr. Beckstoffer is particularly focused on Lake County, which he believes has the potential to produce some very good, very reasonably priced Cabernet. And he’s not alone; almost two months ago, the Gallo family made a very big commitment to the county with the purchase of the 2,000-acre Snows Lake Vineyard, whose 800 acres of vineyards are primarily planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. According to Gallo Senior Vice President Roger Nabedian, it’s the largest purchase that Gallo has made in at least 10 years, in terms of both money and size.