If you have one afternoon for wine tasting in the Santa Clara Valley, put Blended Winemaker's Studio at the top of your list. Most people don't have nearly as much time as they'd like for friends, to relax and be refreshed, or to engage in hobbies. Wine tasting in no exception. It's a let down when I visit a winery and find it's more about the setting and the wine is lacking.
Blended is a collaboration of three boutique wineries, and here, it's all about the wine and the hospitality. One tasting room hosts wines from three very different, but three very passionate, winemakers.
The beauty of boutique wineries is that often the owners/winemakers are on site and love to talk about their wines. The day of my visit, all three Blended winemakers poured, served, and chatted about their wines. Visit the Blended Studios site for current tasting room hours and wine selection at: http://blendedwinestudio.com/
La vie Dansante
Jeff from La vie Dansante envisioned opening a wine studio in a co-op setting.
While autonomy is valued in America, collaboration has its advantages. Jeff wanted the wine co-op to be a place to share the tasting room space, equipment, labor, knowledge, the lease, and troubles. Elbow to elbow in the tasting room (literally) the Blended team welcomes wine fans.
Additionally, making wine has its challenges. Behind the scenes, they can offer support and problem solve together.
Jeff and Leanne have a multi year lease on the property. Many people look to see what they can get out of a situation. Conversely, Jeff and Leanne are focusing on what they can contribute. From the first conversation with the land owners in 2014 to today, each year Jeff and Leanne add something along the way. They turned the property's old barn into an insulated winemaking facility. Later, the tasting room was built. They like to demonstrate progress to their wine club members.
Medeiros Family Wines
Winemakers will go far if they know their grapes and they know their customers. Ted and Tammi Medeiros have a good sense of what their tasters want. They also mindfully nurture their wines from the grape to the glass.
Ted shared, “With so many (tasting rooms) opening up, tasters can pick and choose." There's been a change from the last 10 years. ”Newer tasters have a new goal--and that's more socializing." Wine fans are meeting at wineries to buy a glass or bottle, sit, and enjoy an outing or experience together.
Ted mentioned new wine-tasters “are looking for wines and wineries that are the diamond in the rough.” The Santa Clara Valley is an ideal place, in that many of the wineries are small and personal. “Winemakers can pour, serve, and chat.” It affords guests a chance to enjoy talking to the winemakers.
With the proud, glowing eyes of a parent, Ted showed me pictures of his vineyards and the fruit he manages. His Malbec is one cluster per cane. Ted can limit the size of the berries (grapes.) “Timing is critical; when to prune, when to cut back.”
More grapes per cluster, or bigger grapes don't equal better wine. It means a larger volume of juice (wine) but not better quality. He controls the quality of the grapes by growing and tending vineyards from 12 sites in the Morgan Hill—Gilroy area.
Community focused, Tammi shared how Medeiros Family Wines pour at regional wine festivals and events. Programs, like the Passport, “Are good for the community. It encourages people to discover their community.” Tammi also focuses on the tasting room and guest experience.
Medeiros Family Wines are relatively new to the Santa Clara Valley. After a few years in wine, Ted and Tammi began offering wines under their family label in 2012. “There's Old World longevity in the valley,” said Ted. “I hope to be that successful.”
I think they're on to something. Meticulous attention to fruit and knowing one's guests is core. Couple that with respecting the historic wineries of the valley, while forging their own path, the Medeiros family is poised for what's ahead in wine.
TASS Vineyards and Winery
Owners/winemakers Ron & Lynn Mosley produce TASS wines. Tradition. Art. Science. Style.
Ron's managed over 80 small vineyards in the Santa Clara Valley. As a vineyard manager, he's cleared acreage, planted vineyards, produced wine, and crafted wines for personal clients. His approach to wine is three fold. First is wine growing. Next comes winemaking by small lot production. Lastly, the wines reach tasters via marketing and direct sales.
Ron creates wines from Santa Clara Valley grapes. Since he also produces wines from a variety of vineyards for numerous owners, he also offers wines from other California regions. Ron commented that “Wine making is 90% ingredients.” He's given the right ingredients, now, as he says “Don't mess it up!”
Zigzagging through the vineyards, Ron often randomly reaches and grabs berries (grapes) off the clusters. He'll pick 50-60 berries off of 50-60 vines.
Walking between the vines, he purposefully tries not to look at the fruit, but collects samples. Why? It's natural to want to pick the best, choice fruit and check it for flavor and ripeness. But Ron figures it's better to have a read on what the cluster is producing—some ready to pick, some needing more time.
Next, he combines the samples into a plastic bag, smashes the grapes, and checks the flavors. He tastes the combined grapes. He also uses a refractometer, a tool that measures the brix (grape sugars) in the grape pulp. This two-fold check combines the benefits of senses and science.
Ron shared,“Don't stress the vines. Let them live up to their potential.” He can evaluate each year, taking into consideration the weather, the vineyards, and the fruit. From there, he can “hold back or release the vineyard to balance it out.”
And speaking of balancing, Lynn's sharp eye for good color in wines, along with her attuned sense of smell, has influenced Ron's winemaking. Ron shared how women can often pick up essence, acids, and aromas in wines.
There is a mix of horticulturist, scientist, and tease in Ron. He has a way of keeping the tasting room lively, yet he's is very down to earth. One minute he's pouring wine, the next he's outside chatting with tasters and answering their questions.
Picture making a salad with a commercial, mass market, under ripe tomato vs. a fresh, red, flavorful tomato from a local farmer. It's easy to see the difference in quality, taste, and results.
This is similar with grapes. Ron highlights the virtues of knowing the quality of the
grapes with guests who are captivated and eager to understand wine.
This collaborative effort--three tasting rooms in one location--works!
Jeff is pouring his wines and keeping an eye on the big picture of the property.
Ted is showing pictures of his healthy vineyards.
So give yourself some time to linger and taste one or all three lines of wine.
Cheers to your Gilroy wine jaunt!
For more Santa Clara Valley tasting rooms, visit my Santa Clara Wineries page.
Sometimes, it's nice to visit a tasting room and park it for the afternoon. Enjoy a tasting, sip a glass, and savor the conversation and view with a friend.
Other times, it's fun to tuck into a region and visit a couple tasting rooms in a day.
I took a peak at two South Santa Clara County wineries and tasting rooms. I found wines that were just my style, and others that would suit friends I know. And all along the way, the wineries poured and shared their wines in a spirit of hospitality. Enjoy the tour!
Driving to Stefania Wines will change your image of Gilroy. No outlet malls here. No fast food. Instead, ancient oak trees frame the winding roads. Stefania and Paul Romero are the husband and wife team behind the wines. From managing vineyards and producing commercial wine over a decade ago, the couple has now taken the leap to producing their own line of wines.
Tag teaming makes it work. The hallmark of knowing one's strengths and the strengths of others allows Stefania and Paul to focus on what they do best. Most of the winemaking and guest services are handled by Stefania, while Paul focuses on sulfur tests, forklifts, and oak influence on the wines, to name a few.
The wines are made with fruit sourced in the local Santa Clara Valley and the surrounding region. While Stefania's favorite varietal is Syrah, she produces a variety of wines.
The casual setting offers patio seating, so bring along something to much on if you'd like. While you're there, be sure to ask about the home-crafted tasting counter. The Wheat Back coins were passed on to Stefania by her brother and carry sentimental value.
Heller Winery, San Martin
Owners and winemakers, Bill and Janet Heller, recently opened the doors of their south county tasting room in March of 2018. But they've had a pulse in the crafting of wine for twenty years.
After planting their vineyards in 2010, Bill and Janet had the patience and vision to wait until the grapes were ready to be produced into their own wines. Understanding that good wine can only come from good fruit, Bill said they are “very careful with their grapes and their vineyards.”
Bill and Janet pour their wines at their San Martin tasting room, and also poured at the Santa Clara Wines Passport Kick-Off night.
Here's to your discovery of local wines!
For more wineries in the area, visit my Santa Clara Wineries page.
Wineries of the Santa Clara Valley gathered for an evening of pouring the wines of their region...San Martin, Saratoga, Gilroy, and Morgan Hill!
The Wines of the Santa Clara Valley Passport Kickoff party was an amazing chance to tour the valley all within a few feet. Winemakers gathered and poured three of their wines. Guests tasted as few or as many wines at they liked.
I tasted around 25 wines. No, I didn't drink all of the pours. Yes, my handy 8 ounce paper spit-cup came with me and was well used. There were over twice as many more wines to try. The experience was a full introduction the Santa Clara Valley wine region. The Merlots were less mineral-like than coastal Merlots. The Zins were less spicy and offered more warm fruit than California Foothills' Zin. The Cabs shined!
The golden mantra of travel is “ask the locals.”
One of the highlights of any wine event is meeting people. A group of local tasters shared their thoughts on the wines. They were so passionate about the area, they could have gathered and been a marketing team for the region!
Here's what they had to say about the Santa Clara Valley Wine Country.
The winemakers were eager to chat about their wines. Here are a few highlights.
Miramar Vineyards, San Martin: owner, Ed Castro
GSM (Grenache, Syrah, & Mouvedre) is a red blend of wine.
It's a light bodied wine but still full flavored—which makes for a perfect red wine on a hot summer's night. Dry, good tannins, and flavors of pomegranate, this would pair well with food, or small bites.
90% of their grapes are from the Santa Clara area, offering seven different varietals.
Within a couple of years, Miramar plans to craft their wines using all Estate fruit.
Gary Robinson, from Left Bend Winery, is winemaker for Miramar wines.
(see my feature on his wines and tasting room on Los Gatos.)
The 2013 Syrah boasted a deep, rich red color and was not as inky purple as Syrahs can be. A bit more body and mouth feel, the dry, boysenberry flavors made for an enticing wine.
Dorcich Family Vineyards, Gilroy
They have of vineyards. 5 acres on Montebello Rd. up the Santa Clara Valley,
the Estate Vineyards on Day Road in Gilroy, and in San Martin.
They offer, Sauv, Chard, Mouvedre, Merlot, Malbec, Estate Cab, 100% Petite Sirah, and Petite Verdot.
Their “Dad's Blend” wine is a compilation of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.
TASS Vineyards and Winery, Gilroy: owners/winemakers Ron & Lynn Mosley
TASS: Tradition. Art. Science. Style.
Ron has managed over 80 small vineyards in the Santa Clara Valley. As a vineyard manager, he's cleared acreage, planted vineyards, produced wine, and crafted wines for personal clients.
His approach to wine is three fold. First is growing. Next, winemaking by small lot production. Lastly, the wines reach tasters via marketing and direct sales.
Ron creates wines from Santa Clara Valley grapes. Since he also produces wines from a variety of vineyards for numerous owners, he also offers wines from other California regions.
Lynn's sharp eye for good color in wines, along with her attuned sense of smell, has influenced Ron's winemaking. Ron shared how women can often pick up essence, acids, and aromas in wines.
Ron commented that “winemaking is 90% ingredients.”
He's given the right ingredients, now, as he says “don't mess it up.”
I ordered a glass of Sparkling Rose', a salmon steak, and a Wedge Salad
with classic blue cheese, tomato, and bacon.
The Creme Brulee' and coffee were a perfect ending to the meal.
This made up for the many In and Out Burger trips I've made between wineries.
September is Passport Month, so there is still time to taste at the Wineries of the Santa Clara Valley.
And even better, most wineries are open year round. (Link to WSCV)
Cheers to your Silicon Valley Wine Jaunt!
Take along some Nose & Palate Tips on your next tasting room visit.
Santa Clara's luscious wineries,
just down the road from your commute.
September is Wine Passport Month for the
Wineries of Santa Clara Valley (WSCV.)
One Passport gives tasters access to dozens of Santa Clara wineries and tasting rooms.
To plan your own Silicon Valley wine jaunt and for tix visit WSCV (Link.)
Solis Winery, Gilroy
Clos LaChance, San Martin
Martin Ranch Winery, Gilroy
Sycamore Creek, Morgan Hill
Here's to your Santa Clara Wine outings.
For more wineries in the area visit my Santa Clara Wineries page.
September is Wine Passport Month for the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley (WSCV.)
One Passport gives tasters access to dozens of Santa Clara wineries and tasting rooms.
Aver Family Vineyards was my first stop this Passport season.
For your own tix visit: Wineries of Santa Clara Valley (Link)
The Santa Clara Valley is a jewelry box of long standing wineries and
tasting rooms, as well as up and coming vintners.
Many people think of the Sonoma, Napa, or Paso Robles regions when planning a winery outing.
But the Silicon Valley is home to our very own wine region, and one worth exploring.
Progressing from high-tech and finance backgrounds, John and Carolyn Aver journeyed into wine. The couple have traveled extensively. After tasting in Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone, and Bordeaux, they developed a love of wine. John is a collector of Bordeaux wines. In 2005 they took the plunge and purchased the 8 acre site. Now their lives incorporate farming, manufacturing, and hospitality in their Aver Family Vineyards.
The property is tucked in the Uvas Valley, nestled in the southern end of the Santa Clara Valley. The winery and vineyards feel a bit like a world within a world, or a story within a story. It's a gem of a setting just miles from the frenzy of the Silicon Valley.
The Avers produce Rhone varietals; wines that are often found in the Rhone region of France. Many winemakers in the Santa Cruz Mountains produce Rhone wines. But what's unique to Aver wines is that John intentionally lets his grapes sit on the vine a little longer than other local wine growers and producers may.
Some would argue this could produce wines that are too sweet or heavy. But quite the opposite. Aver Family wines are often dry, with balanced tannins to acidity, smooth—and notably, the wines have such personality! They offer a bit of spice, deep flavors of fruit, and pair effortlessly with food.
John is the vineyard manager. The vineyard is the place he loves to be. John said, “The worst day in the vineyard is better than the best day in the office.” He and his assistant Carlos do all the vineyard work. Winemaker, Kian Tavakoli, works in collaboration with John to craft their Rhone focused wines.
The winery's motto, “ Where Friends Become Family,” is evident in all the Avers do. They have a dedicated staff who know the Aver story and wines. The winery offers European Wine Tours for club members, and each year the tour sells out quickly with a waiting list. While I was visiting, one taster signed up to be a Club Member. Carolyn offered her a hug, exclaiming, “Welcome to the family.” It was sincere and cheerful. Not a drop of cheesy.
Wine tastings are offered in the Avers' Italianate courtyard. However, the day I visited, it was over 100 degrees so the wine tasting was hosted in the cellar—with air conditioning. Carolyn showed me around the courtyard. For being a newer winery, the patio and setting had an Old World feel to it. That's due to Carolyn's keen eye for detail. She sourced items in Europe, then had them sent to the US in a shipping container. The aged, recycled materials “have life to it,” as she said. For example, 300 year old roof tiles were used as courtyard tile-pavers and an antique water trough is now a fountain.
You can rest easy knowing you're enjoying organic wines. John said, “Great wine comes from great fruit.” We've heard this sentiment in the wine industry. And at the Aver vineyards, John takes steps to bring this to life. When they first bought the property, he shifted the vineyards from being conventionally farmed to holistically farmed.
John is soil focused. In this he uses mulch to keep the soil moist and cut down on water usage. He also does not till the soil. He feels that all the rich, organic matter is found in the top six inches of soil. John attends soil conferences in an effort to learn and implement better vineyard practices that eventually taste great in the glass! After this harvest, look for the new herd of sheep as part of their eco-vineyard care.
For the tastings:
Family is very important to the Avers.
The Family Album line of wines has pictures of family members past and present,
including; John's dad, mom, and grandmother, Carolyn's mom and dad, and
even the vineyard canine family members.
John's mom, Susan who is in her 80s, is often greeting tasting guests.
The Grace Rose' is named in honor of John's and Carolyn's mothers who are gracious,
and demonstrate that grace each day.
If you come tasting at Aver Family wines for a day, you just may become family!
You can save the airfare and enjoy Rhone wines here in the Santa Clara Valley,
at Aver Family Vineyards.
Here's to your Rhone wine jaunt!
For more local Rhone wines visit my feature on Bottle Jack Winery.
Join me at California Wine