I love summertime when the weather calls for relaxing on the patio with friends, sipping a chilled glass of wine and watching families of hummingbirds at the feeder.
When I feel like escaping the summer heat, I head to Capitola and stop by It’s Wine Tyme, my favorite wine bar, where owner Tina Metzger has the best selection of boutique wines. I recently sampled three amazingly great wines that are perfect for summer sipping. The first pour was a Sauvignon Blanc from Pasos Vineyards with kiwi and passion fruit flavors – it’s a local favorite. The second wine with the intriguing name of Crazy Flower Wines, is a Merlot from Napa that has put Merlot back in the spotlight where it belongs. With its red berry flavors, a little black pepper and a toasted caramel finish, this wine is fantastic with anything grilled. Next up was a sparkling wine called Fragolino, which tasted like a glass of fresh strawberries.
Local Winery Buzz
Turn on Hummingbird Lane in San Martin and you’ll travel along a mile of grapevines – labeled by varietal – until you reach the tasting room of Clos LaChance Winery. Clos LaChance is a charmingly beautiful winery boasting 150 acres of vineyard.
I caught up with Cheryl Murphy-Durzy, the daughter of Clos LaChance Winery owners Bill and Brenda Murphy. The Murphy’s began making wine after they received a flier in their mailbox offering to plant a vineyard in their home’s 3/4 acre backyard. Soon after their first grapes were harvested, the big earthquake of 1989 knocked over the barrel and the bung – the barrel’s wine stopper – came out, oxidizing and ruining all the wine.
But in 1992, the Murphy’s wine earned 92 points from the Wine Spectator. In 1997, the owners of CordeValle wanted to lease some of their land to a vineyard. The timing was perfect for the Murphy’s, who sought to start their own winery. Clos LaChance Winery was born. (“Clos” is French for enclosed area and “LaChance” was Brenda Murphy’s maiden name).
Along with the occasional golf ball from CordeValle, Clos LaChance’s vineyard includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Petite Verdot, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier grapes. Cabernet lovers will be impressed with its finely made, best-selling Cabernet.
Clos LaChance combines Old World tradition with New World technology in order to make great wine. Monitoring systems are used to determine moisture content, sensors for nutrients and nitrogen content and a weather station that measures humidity and winds. An irrigation system is used to keep the soil at the appropriate moisture level.
Using a gravity flow system and minimum pumping, the grapes are hand-picked and hand-sorted twice: once out in the field and again on the table. Then the grapes are tasted, and only the best are aged in new French oak barrels.
“It takes great grapes to make great wine – you can’t make good wine out of bad grapes,” Cheryl said. “Once you have great grapes, let the grapes do the talking.”
Daughter Cheryl handles sales and marketing while Kristin, her sister, manages events, the bottling line and the backyard installation business called “CK Vines.” Many of their wines are named after the Murphy’s grandchildren.
Stephen Tebb, from Napa, is the consulting winemaker while the day-to-day winemaker is Jason Robideaux, of Santa Cruz.
There are so many things to love about Clos LaChance: $5 tastings in a spacious tasting room where you can purchase a bottle of wine, cheese and gourmet salami to enjoy in any one of three picnic areas; a slate patio with sweeping views of the vineyards and hills; live music every Thursday night through August; complimentary bocce ball; and best of all, award-winning wines labeled with whimsical hummingbirds.
More than 50 weddings and special events are held every year in the winery’s beautiful indoor banquet room. It’s no wonder the wine club is packed with local people. Clos LaChance is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Truffled Popcorn: Melt 1/2 cube of butter in a sauce pan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of truffle oil. Drizzle over a bag of any micro-wave popcorn (popped first). Sea salt to taste.
– Thomas Kruse: Basic Home Winemaking, July 7, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., $45 or $75/two people. Call: (408) 842.7016 or [email protected]
– Satori: Jewelry made by Elhadji Koumama from North Africa, July 7, 3-6 p.m.
– Clos LaChance: Thursday night music series through August.
– Leal: Groov’n N the Grove with live music by Soul Kiss, July 13, 6-10 p.m., $15.
– Guerra Cellars – Summer Concert Series: Little Texas on July 7, 6-10p.m., $25. Purchase tickets online at guerracellars.com.
Hecker Pass Winery: wine/cheese class with Bev Stenehjem, Sunday, July 15, 2.pm. $39. Call 408-930-6777.