"Santa Clara Valley--A place of wonderful discoveries"

.. By Carole Ehrler

Touring the Central Coast Wine Region was very reminiscent of 24 years ago, when I lived in Sonoma Valley. The Central Coast Wine Region is the oldest wine growing region in California. Between the French and Italian settlers, Santa Clara County’s Santa Clara Valley has developed a reputation for exceptional wines and received accolades from around the world.

The first stop on my winery tour in the areas of Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy was at Morgan Hill Cellars, formerly Pedrizzetti Winery, which was founded in 1913. With its production lines in full operation, Morgan Hills Cellars can produce over 40,000 cases per year. The Cellar can be contracted for wine production and includes storage, custom crush, custom bottling and labeling. The elegant La Fenice Tasting Room & Gift Gallery, with its Italian-Mediterranean architecture, offers free tasting of its Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Burgundy, Champagne, Port and Fruit Wines. The lovely large garden is enhanced with a wooden pergola. Morgan Hill Cellars’ entertainment area is large enough to host up to 250 guests.

Our next stop was for a picnic lunch and wine tasting at Award Winning Guglielmo Winery. The Fountain Courtyard is perfect to bask in the warm afternoon sun while feasting on great food and extraordinarily memorable wine. Established in 1925, third generation brothers George, Gene and Gary Guglielmo continue their grandfather’s legacy by offering value and premium wines that can be a part of an every day meal as well as very special occasions. The winery produces nearly 40,000 cases annually under three different labels, Guglielmo Private Reserve, Villa Emile Varietal Wines, and the oldest label, Emile's. Adjacent to The Courtyard is Villa Emile, which offers the charm of old-California along with the magic of vineyards and their grapes. The Villa offers a wishing well, large stage and dance floor for up to 400 guests.

An Old World European-inspired winery facility, Clos LaChance Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery which was launched in 1992. Its wines are produced from a 150 acre estate vineyard. Clos LaChance wines showcase the varietals’ diversity from the many microclimates from which each wine is produced and truly embodies the terroir. The winery produces wines under three categories: The Special Selections Series, The Estate Series and The Hummingbird Series. Under these three tiers, Clos LaChance offers high quality wines in several price categories. Located on the rolling San Martin hills, Clos LaChance is nestled near the sixth hole of the luxurious CordeValle Golf Club. The winery’s veranda presents breathtaking views of the South Bay's Wine Country and just one of the many locations for a wedding or event. We were warmly greeted by Manager David Dworkin before we settled in for the evening at Morgan Hills’ Holiday Inn Express. We had a wonderful night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast, which was included in the room rate. The location was perfect, and we had a short ride to our first winery of the day.

Martin Ranch Winery is not open to the public every day, but Thérèse and Dan Martin’s handcrafted wines are well worth the wait for the weekend they are open, the 3rd weekend of the month. On the weekend we visited Martin Ranch Winery, and every weekend they are open, the Tasting Room was open from noon to 4 p.m., which provide us the opportunity to sample their fabulous reds. The Estate Vineyards are located on the Southern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains, providing the microclimate for growing Cabernet grapes. Martin Ranch Winery produces wines under Thérèse Vineyards and J. D. Hurley labels. White wines are on the horizon to join their gold award-winning J.D. Hurley 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Theresa Vineyards 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Estate Cabernet Franc.

We toured Sarah’s Vineyard and tasted wines in the newly rebuilt Tasting Room, which is open daily. Estate grapes are grown at the eastern foot of Mount Madonna and the Southwestern corner of the Santa Clara Valley. Sarah’s Vineyard has a long history of grape growing and produces Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and sources other varietals from local vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountain and Santa Clara Valley appellations. Sarah’s Vineyard takes pride in creating food-friendly wines that express the unique qualities of this secluded pastoral area and winners of numerous awards, including a Double Gold for their 2004 Besson Zinfandel.

The Solis Winery was purchased in 1980 by the Vanni family and sits on Rancho de Solis, an 1830's Mexican land grant. The original vineyard consisted of varietals like Zinfandel and Carignane. The Vanni family broke new ground by planting Chardonnay and Merlot and later added Muscat Canelli, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Second generation Vic and Michael Vanni continue producing award-wining wines that can be sampled at the Tasting Room. The Solis Winery's Sangiovese has won California State Fair's "Best of Class of Region" for three consecutive years. The Johannisburg Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Merlot are all Gold Medal winners.

Kirigin Cellars produces premium quality wines in an old European manner, with the best aspects of modern American technology. There is no outside distributor, so wine can be sold direct from the Tasting Room at wholesale discounts. Kirigin Cellars’ Tasting Room is open daily and offers complimentary tasting, including their famous Vino de Mocca, a delicious proprietary dessert wine complemented by the richness of several natural flavors.  You can purchase a great bottle of Kirigin Cellars wine and bring a picnic to enjoy on their grounds. On most summer weekends, a cricket match can be watched on Kirigin Cellars’ sports fields.

One of the new kids on the block is Monte Verde Vineyards, a small family-owned winery that specializes in limited production crafted red wines. Monte Verde Vineyards’ production now includes Syrah Murabito Family Vineyards, Estate Merlot, Merlot Villa Palma Vineyards and Tres Amigos Red Wine Estate Vineyards. All are Central Coast wines. A gazebo tasting area is located outdoors near the vineyards. Picnic tables are available for guests, and co-owner Alexia Johnson will pour your wine and provide information about her pride and joy vineyards. Call for tasting hours.

That concluded our jam-packed two day Wine Tour and Tasting. It would have taken us another 4 days to visit the rest of the South Santa Clara Valley wineries for tasting, and I can’t wait to begin!

Morgan Hill Cellars, 1645 San Pedro Avenue, Morgan Hill. Free Wine Tasting, Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Phone 408-779-7389, www.wines@pedwines.net

Guglielmo Winery, 1480 East Main Ave, Morgan Hill, Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm Wine tasting, Phone 408-779-2145, www.guglielmowinery.com

Clos LaChance Winery, 1 Hummingbird Lane, San Martin, minimal charge for wine tasting, 11am-5pm (Hours subject to change for private events) Phone 408-686-1050, www.closlachance.com

Holiday Inn Express, 17035 Condit Road, Morgan Hill. Phone 408-776-7676, Toll Free 877-776-7670. www.hiemh.com

Martin Ranch Winery, 6675 Redwood Retreat Road, Gilroy. Phone 408-842-9197. www.martinfamilyvineyards.com

Sarah's Vineyard, 4005 Hecker Pass Highway, Gilroy. Phone 1-877-44PINOT. www.sarahs-vineyard.com

Solis Winery, 3920 Hecker Pass Highway, Gilroy. Phone 408-847-6306. www.soliswinery.com

Kirigin Cellars, 11550 Watsonville Road, Gilroy. Phone 408-847-8827. www.kirigincellars.com

Monte Verde Vineyards, 13775 Sycamore Drive, Morgan Hill. Phone 408-776-8938 www.monteverdevineyards.com

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Last Update:05/10/09

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