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June 19, 2021

Book tells history of South Valley wineries

In Santa Clara Valley, there’s a long history of growing wine grapes, some of the oldest in the country. Wine historian Charles Sullivan stated that “the Santa Clara Valley is the birthplace of premium wine grapes in California.” In fact, our local wine history predates some of the notable and prestigious areas in California. In her new book “Wineries of Santa Clara Valley,” local author Bev Stenehjem tells the wine history of the Santa Clara Valley through a series of photographs that document 14 families through a span of 150 years.
I recently caught up with Bev at her book release party at the Westside Grill in Gilroy, where she brought together the families featured in the book and had a chance to talk with me a bit about her process.
“When writing this book, I put my focus on eight wineries between Morgan Hill and Gilroy that are currently operating, have at least 50 years of history and had someone willing to share their photos and family history for the book,” Bev said.
“It is a fascinating account of not only the winery histories, but also about our local history and the people that lived and thrived in this very area.”
The book tells the histories of Morgan Hill wineries Gugliemlo Winery, Ross Vineyard & Winery, and Morgan Hill Cellars. The wineries from Gilroy featured are Hecker Pass Winery, Fernwood Cellars, Solis Winery, Fortino Winery and Kirigin Cellars.
The book is part of the “Images of America” history series. Bev said the publisher actually sought her out after reading the columns she wrote for the Gilroy Dispatch.
“For three years I wrote about our wineries and their owners, telling the ‘fascinating people’ side of the story along with a description of their world-class wines.”
This book was a wonderful way for Bev to continue her mission of exploring the history of people in the wine industry and getting a chance to share their stories with the world. She spent countless hours doing research, tracking people down, listening to stories and collecting historical photographs.
She notes the highlights of her experience as holding the actual pan that Charles Sanders—the original property owner of Fernwood Cellars in Gilroy—used to pan for gold in 1849, and viewing the secret basement used for winemaking during Prohibition at Guglielmo Winery in Morgan Hill.
Alicia Cuadra-Cutler, a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine, is passionate about the world of wine. Follow her on [email protected]

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