Summer Twilight

MARIBELLA WINE Gino Fortino stands in his vineyard in Gilroy holding a bottle of wine named after his mother, ‘Beautiful Marie.’Photo: Bev Stenehjem

For terrific summer fun, it’s hard to beat a concert at Fortino Winery in Gilroy. On a very warm evening, a group of us arrived just as the sun was setting and in time to snag the last table. We came stocked with picnic baskets full of submarine sandwiches, heirloom cherry tomatoes and summer salads.

It wasn’t long before Ernie Fortino, the winery’s founder and family patriarch appeared, shaking hands and posing for photos with his many fans. Ernie’s children, Gino and Terri, who have taken over the winery now that Ernie has retired, were also giving out warm welcomes and hugs. Gino does most all of the vineyard management and winemaking.

Our group of 10 chose several bottles of wine to go with our picnic fare: a crisp chardonnay ($15), a fruit-forward merlot ($24) with soft tannins, an earthy and smooth Sangiovese ($28), and their best-selling Maribella ($21) blend. Maribella, named for Ernie’s wife, is Italian for “beautiful Marie” and is an easy-drinking wine that paired well with our picnic. Sharing these different bottles provided us with our very own private wine-tasting party.

At twilight, the music started—the nine-piece band got everyone up and dancing like no one was watching. We returned to our table ready for the refreshing Almond Champagne ($21) that had been chilling in an ice bucket. Always a crowd-pleaser, this sparkling wine, tasting of marzipan, was the hit of the night.

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