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.
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