Jun 26, 2013

Sampling Santa Clara Valley

Tasting wine is supposed to be just that, tasting. Not seeing how many places you can hit and how fast you can move on to the next one until you drop. Sometimes though a little expeditious tasting is in order. While trying to get a handle on the *Wineries of Santa Clara Valley* region we discovered that while the numbers seemed like just a few trips would be needed, the experience did not allow for that to happen. Basically this is going to be a multi-part Adventure, as what we have discovered is, not only are there some very nice wines, there are also some very nice people to spend time talking to. The area also has a very long history that is a big part of the makeup of the area. The following places are some we have visited so far in the order they are shown on the map. This part one of, well we are not sure, but there definitely will at least a few more Adventures in this area to come.
Aver Family Vineyards. Only open on the first and third weekends of each month or for special events, we got lucky the day we decided to visit was one of those weekends. Walking up the the house we were greeted by mom, who was in charge of welcoming visitors and collecting the tasting fee and providing the redemption coupon to be applied with purchase. Tasting on the patio with none other than John Aver himself pouring, we started out with a nice light easy to drink Chardonnay. We then moved on to the reds. Some excellent wines were tasted while John gave a brief history of Aver Family Vineyards and the wines. Although purchasing one of each red was what was wanted in keeping with the 2013 resolution of more less expensive wines we left with a bottle of 2010 Family Album, a red wine blend. The story behind the label is just heart warming. However buyers remorse (or lack of buying) set in later and another trip was planned for the next time they were open to get some of the 2007 Blessings, Petit Sirah. While the 2009 was very good the 2007 was really in the zone and ready to experienced. Unfortunately on the return visit the 2007 was sold out. But not to worry there was still some 2009 Blessings Petit Sirah to be had. Lesson here is 'small case production means if you like it get it while the getting is still possible'.

Pronounced (gool-yell-mo) is a third generation family owned winery in Santa Clara Valley. They have been making wine here Since 1925. What in 1925 you say! Yes indeed, in 1925, 16 years after landing on Ellis Island, Emilio and Emilia took their saved earnings and they purchased fifteen acres in Morgan Hill in the Santa Clara Valley, commonly referred to at time as the 'valley of hearts delight' due to the bountiful orchards and rich agricultural community. It was at this time the Emilio Guglielmo Winery, was founded.
Guglielmo Winery produces a wide variety of award-winning varietals from more than 100 acres of Santa Clara Valley estate vineyards. They are one of the larger Santa Clara producers and do about  40,000 cases annually under three different labels, Guglielmo Private Reserve, TRÉ, and our oldest label, Emile's. We were lucky enough to get to spend a little time with Greg Richtarek, the Director of Marketing one afternoon. During the visit Greg was full of interesting information and stories of the history of Guglielmo Winery, and also about the area of Santa Clara. As it turns out, Greg is the VP of the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley association and so had a lot of enthusiasm and information about the area as a whole.

Greg showed off the winery with pride and talked about how things are in constant change. Improvements to different parts of the winery, so as in the end to continue to produce good wines at good prices, and to provide a great experience for their customers. They have a number of event areas of different sizes and functions to accommodate all kinds of requirements. The continued effort to improve is obvious everywhere.

With a lot of talking and walking there was only a little time for drinking on this day so had to enjoy just a couple of tastes. It was a very warm day so got on the whites fast. They have some lovely whites that will make almost anyone happy. The price point / enjoyment of the TRÉ Chardonnay was too good to pass up.
We will be headed back here for sure to taste all the offerings and to enjoy one of the great looking cheese and meat platters as well. Go by and check em out and enjoy a relaxing afternoon.

Jason-Stephens Winery
Driving down the access road into Jason-Stephens Winery is like heading out to the redwood picnic grounds through a vineyard. The area adjacent to the tasting room is a great spot to sit under the trees and listen to the nearby creek and enjoy a picnic and a good bottle of your favorite Jason-Stephens wine. There are plenty of wines to choose from that are sure to please.

Tasting one afternoon with Jason Goelz was a great experience. Talking about each of the wines we tasted, and hearing right from the man himself about the season in the vineyard, the challenges that particular vintage and or vineyard had and the different approaches to dealing with it. We even were treated to an impromptu blending seminar just for us, of a couple of white wines, blended together and how subtle percentage changes affect the balance of flavors and  and how the right combination can make 1+1=3. Taking advantage of the local micro-climates Jason talked about the very hands on approach to each and every wine they make. He is also a big believer and proponent of the SIP process and was quick to share some of the unique things they are doing to set themselves apart even in this arena. It was a great afternoon of wine and conversation and in a very nice and welcoming tasting room. Go by and check out Jason-Stephens Winery for yourself. You will be glad you did.

Lightheart Cellars
Lightheart Cellars is probably one of the smallest estate wineries in the Santa Clara Wine Region, featuring handmade, single vineyard wines. They are open on the first and third full weekend of every month and by appointment for private tastings. This is a true small, hand made style family winery. Their production is still small enough that the most effective way to bottle is by hand. Lightheart Cellars have an outdoor tasting area, set adjacent to the estate vines and crushpad. A relaxing back yard feel where the owners Jane and Sheldon Haynie are more often than not both there pouring your tastings. Along with some lovely wines they also have on offer, Mead. Jane's son Noah is the Mead Master. Noah is happy to converse on mead making, its storied history and its resurgence in popularity and how it is made from Honey instead of grapes, Mead's are a traditional libation from Northern latitudes where there were bees but not vines. Think King Arthur.

While Sheldon still has a day job he is always busy at five in the morning in the vineyards and every afternoon as well. As he puts it, he does the outside work and most of the heavy lifting. Jane is the wine maker and is deeply immersed in learning everything she can as fast as she can. Both have skilled backgrounds that have enabled them to get up to speed quickly, with Sheldon in the semiconductor field and Jane as a clinical RN, they bring a very analytic approach to all aspects of the winery. Their ability to quickly assimilate the new knowledge and apply it will help guide them to ever more success.
Spending time talking with Sheldon, Jane and Noah and getting to know then and their passion for Lightheart Cellars and Alderin's Meadery made for a great afternoon. Sitting, chatting and tasting wine with the people who have their hand on all the aspects from vineyard to glass in a comfortable relaxing setting was pretty darn cool.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

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We are always on a WineWalkabout looking for a good drop. Please comment and ask questions about the things you like or would like to read and see. Don't drink without pants on!