Wine Passport Weekend goes first-class

Gina Soled, from Gilroy, greets Happy, a 2-year-old Chihuahua, one of six dogs on that live on the property at Satori Cellars during Passport Weekend.

If you haven’t purchased your ticket for the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley’s Spring Passport Weekend, do it. Early sales are on an all-time record pace for the biannual event, according to one of the organizers.
“We’re selling more tickets early than ever before,” said Lightheart Cellars co-owner and WSCV Past President Sheldon Haynie. “We are close to a sellout. We would be very happy if that were the case.” The association plans to sell a maximum of 1,500 tickets for the event.
For $30 per person – which includes a souvenir wine glass – one passport gives each wine enthusiast access to a variety of activities planned exclusively for ticket holders including barrel tastings, barbecues, winery tours, special discounts, new releases, antipasti, music and a plethora of Santa Clara County wines. Scheduled for March 29 and 30, participating wineries in the event offer wine, tapas, live entertainment and merry company in the beautiful stretches of South County countryside.
Haynie said Passport Weekend’s focus shifted in recent years to more of an “educational, informational” event than a hunt for boozy bargains.
“We are trying to make it a more engaging and upscale event – a little classier,” Haynie said.
At Lightheart Cellars, two bands – the Dan Gohs and the Hack Jammers – are scheduled to play acoustic music throughout the weekend. Aver Family Vineyard, Morgan Hill Cellars, Satori Cellars and Sunlit Oaks Winery will feature live music while serving desserts, dinners and snacks – along with the obligatory wine tastings. Rapazzini Winery and Fortino Winery will be offering barbecued fare along with their wines.
Some wineries just want to let people know what they have to offer year-round without serenading or feeding their guests.
Thomas Kruse, winemaker and owner of Thomas Kruse Winery, participated in many Passport Weekends since the event’s inception. He’s been making wine on his south Gilroy vineyard since 1971 and will be offering discounted bottles of Chardonnay for passport-holders to take home.
For twice-a-year passport traffic, Kruse said his goal is “getting to see the new folks who’ve never been here, trying to catch their interest and expose them to wines that are reasonably good and reasonably priced; engage them in a way that they’re intrigued and want to come back another day when things are less hectic.”
South County tourism proponents have stepped up their marketing of the region as a wine destination in recent years, and that’s one reason for the faster-than-usual ticket sales.
Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Horner said the wineries are one of two key amenities that attract visitors from out of town. The other is the City’s Outdoor Sports Complex, which hosts regional youth soccer tournaments and other sports events throughout the year.
“The wineries are the most integrated – nobody cares what town they’re in” as they travel from one winery to the next during relaxing weekends, Horner said.
The Chamber’s effort to sell tickets for Passport Weekend twice a year is “part of our support for regional tourism.” He noted the Passport Weekend typically brings at least 1,000 visitors to South County from outside the region.
Gilroy Welcome Center Executive Director Jane Howard said she had only 22 passports left for sale as of Tuesday afternoon.
“The wineries are going to the next level (this spring), doing things like music or pairings with their wines or pouring wines we don’t usually get to taste,” Howard said. “Some are offering arts and crafts. It’s a fun way to showcase local wineries and hopefully introduce folks who have never been to the wineries” in South County.
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 29 and 30. Tickets or “passports” $30 a person available at the Gilroy Welcome Center, Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce or any participating winery. For more details, search for “#wscvpassport” on Facebook or Twitter, or go to santaclarawines.com.
Participating wineries
Passport gives access to vineyards, tastings, tours and entertainment at the following Santa Clara Valley wineries:
– Sunlit Oaks Winery, Gilroy
– Casa de Fruta Winery
– Rapazzini Winery, Gilroy
– Thomas Kruse Winery, Gilroy
– Satori Cellars, Gilroy
– Solis Winery, Gilroy
– Sarah’s Vineyard, Gilroy
– Hecker Pass Winery, Gilroy
– Fortino Winery, Gilroy
– Creekview Vineyards, San Martin
– Lightheart Cellars, San Martin
– Kirigin Cellars, San Martin
– Martin Ranch Winery, San Martin
– Aver Family Vineyards, San Martin
– Mann Cellars, Morgan Hill
– Morgan Hill Cellars, Morgan Hill
– J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, Morgan Hill
– Guglielmo Winery, Morgan Hill
– Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards, Saratoga

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