48 Hours In Santa Clara Valley: A Vintner Project Guide
Located just south of Silicon Valley, about an hour away from San Francisco is California’s first premium wine production region: The Santa Clara Valley. It’s home to over 30 wineries ranging from long-established family operations to newer craft wineries.
All just a short drive from each other, the wineries of Santa Clara Valley make for the perfect weekend escape to wine country. There’s been no better time than now to experience the wineries of Santa Clara Valley. It’s currently experiencing a resurgence with smaller craft wineries producing a broad range of premium wines from across the diverse American Viticultural Area. Below is the Vintner Project guide to 48 hours in Santa Clara Valley.
Where to Visit
Cooper – Garrod Estate Vineyards – Located just 50 minutes south of San Francisco, Cooper-Garrod is a family owned and operated estate winery in the foothills above Saratoga. The Garrod family has deep roots in Santa Clara Valley. Their wine program started as a hobby for retired NASA research pilot George Cooper back in 1972 and over the years grown into a successful commercial winery. Today, George’s son, Bill Cooper is the head winemaker at the family estate. He produces a wide range of organically farmed wines including a line of blends under the label ‘Test Pilot,’ a tribute to his father’s work as a WWII and NASA pilot.
(22645 Garrod Rd., Saratoga, CA 95070; www.cgv.com)
Guglielmo Winery – The Guglielmo family has been making wine in Santa Clara Valley since 1925. Today, third generation brothers George E., and Gene retain the family tradition of producing premium varietal wine from more than 80 acres of Santa Clara Valley estate vineyards. They host a wide range of fun events from Yoga in the Vines to paint nights. View their events calendar in advance or just pop-in for a tasting, relax, and take in the rich history.
(1480 East Main Avenue, Morgan Hill, CA 95037; www.guglielmowinery.com)
Lion Ranch – Relatively new to the Santa Clara Valley wine scene, husband and wife team, Kim and Todd Engelhardt produce an impressive selection of Rhone varietal wines. They do all the farming and winemaking themselves with occasional help from family and friends. Todd is also an emergency room physician at a local hospital and they have two young boys. I’m not entirely sure how they juggle such busy lives but whatever they’re doing, it’s working. Their wines are absolutely fantastic and Lion Ranch is a must visit for anyone visiting Santa Clara Valley.
(645 W San Martin Ave., San Martin; lionranch.com)
Fernwood Cellars – Located on the historic Redwood Retreat Road, Fernwood Cellars is a craft winery run by second generation wine maker Matt Oetinger. Matt’s been making wine since his first harvest in 1995 and only produces wines from grapes he grows. The grounds at Fernwood Cellars, which have been in Matt’s family for over six generations, are often the picture-perfect backdrop for many events including weddings and their annual Lobster Boil which is scheduled for June 8th. For more information on the event and Fernwood Cellars, click here.
(7137 Redwood Retreat Rd, Gilroy, CA; www.fernwoodcellars.com)
The Stomping Ground is a former industrial facility in Gilroy, California that has been transformed into a unique state of the art winemaking studio by visionaries and winemakers Jason Goelz (Jason-Stephens WInery), Janu Goelz (Alara Cellars) and Tim Slater (Sarah’s Vineyards). The 7-acre property was purchased in 2016 and will eventually include on-site restaurants, gourmet food artisans, community events and concerts. Currently, the facility is home to several premium craft wineries including:
- Jason – Stephens Winery – Jason Goelz started Jason – Stephens Winery in 2008 with the goal of creating balanced wines that stay true to their varietal characteristics while maintaining structured, bold flavors and seamless textures. He produces an impressive range of wines from a quaffable Rose to a complex Carménère. Visiting Jason – Stephens Winery is a must for any wine lover visiting the Santa Clara Valley.
(6500 Brem Lane, Gilroy, CA 95020; www.jstephens.com)
- Alara Cellars – With only one vintage under her belt as winemaker and proprietor of Alara Cellars, Janu Goelz has quickly emerged as the rising star to watch in Santa Clara Valley. Her big, bold and incredibly delicious wines have received numerous awards and recognitions: Alara Cellars was recently named one of the 10 Hottest Brands by WineBusiness.com. We highly recommend her 2016 Negrette and 2016 Late Harvest Viognier.
(6500 Brem Lane, Gilroy CA 95020; alaracellars.com)
- Calerrain Wines – Husband and wife team Geoff and Chantelle Mace created Calerrain Wines with the goal of exploring California’s Coastal vineyards and discovering how the vast and varying terrain can influence wine. Their current offerings include both a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands and a Grenache Rose from Monterey County.
(6500 Brem Lane, Gilroy CA 95020; www.calerrainwine.com)
Sarah’s Vineyards – Proprietor and mad scientist Tim Slater produces world-class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rhone-blends at his estate vineyard in Gilroy. Tim employs traditional techniques and modern tools to produce some of the most elegant and respected wines in the Valley.
(4005 Hecker Pass Hwy., Gilroy, CA 95020; www.sarahsvineyard.com
Martin Ranch Winery – Husband and wife team Dan and Therese Martin produce three separate and unique labels at their charming boutique ranch winery. They each have their own unique set of wines and together craft their third label, Soulmate, with fruit sourced from the best vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Note – Martin Ranch Winery is only open the first and third Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the month from 12pm to 4pm.
(6675 Redwood Retreat Road, Gilroy, CA 95020; www.martinranchwinery.com)
Where to Stay
Cottage Creek Vineyards – This charming and spacious one-bedroom cottage on a small vineyard in Morgan Hill is in the heart of wine country. It has been recently remodeled into a comfortable, relaxing and enjoyable space yet maintains a lot of its historical character. It has a 400+ sq ft patio which overlooks a creek – the perfect setup to relax and unwind after a busy day of wine tasting across the valley. Click here for more information.
When to Visit
Spring Passport – March 1st – March 31st – Follow the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail and wine taste at 32 wineries the entire month of March. As a Passport holder you have the opportunity to meet the talented winemakers and staff and learn how they produce some of the world’s finest award winning wines. You can expect up to three, one-ounce pours at each winery you visit during the month. Wineries may have food and entertainment, pour special select or library wines, offer barrel samples and attractive discounts.
Spring passports can be purchased online here or at participating wineries. Visit the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley for more information.