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May 18, 2024
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L&M Vineyard: An expansive retirement project

Mandy and Larry Imas grew up in San Jose and met at Lynbrook High School, then went off to their respective colleges. Says Mandy, “When I first graduated from college, I was a physical therapist. I worked at the VA in Long Beach, then we moved back to San Jose and I worked at Santa Teresa Kaiser.” 

Being a very curious person and always learning, she decided to pursue her teaching credential.

Her teaching career began with a long-term substitute position in eighth grade science, and she also worked as a general substitute for K-8th grade. She also opened Ledesma Elementary School as a kindergarten teacher. Before retiring, she taught sixth grade at Anderson Elementary School in south San Jose-Oak Grove School District.

Larry worked 30 years for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, serving in South County, as well as in Saratoga and Cupertino, both in courts and investigations. He was also a range master. He retired in 2011, which means he has plenty of time to devote to their “retirement project,” namely the vineyard and winery property they purchased in 2018.

The hardworking couple loved wine and visiting wineries, learning everything they could about the business, but just for fun. When they decided to live a more bucolic life and move to the hills of Gilroy, they weren’t necessarily looking for a winery property, but that’s what happened.

The residential property they purchased on Sunlit Oaks Court came with a working winery and equipment, plus a vineyard with chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petit verdot, and a nice level area for parking and tasting. With views of the valley below, and rolling hills to the west, L&M Vineyard is not just tranquil and inviting, it comes with a brisk afternoon breeze.  

The 2021 Zinfandel rosé hails from Ted and Tammy Medeiros’ vineyard in Fair Play. The couples are friends and when Mandy and Larry first bought the Gilroy property, they hung out on Dryden Lane, learning the wine ropes from Ted and Ron Mosley (TASS and Cinnabar). When Ted and Tammy moved to Amador County, the Imas’ visited and bought some fruit. As much as they love that Foothill Zin, they are even more excited about getting local fruit from the Vannis for the 2022 vintage.

“We’ve already brought in chardonnay from our vineyard and Solis,” Mandy said. “The grapes were really nice. I’m excited for this vintage. We will also get Zinfandel from Solis: some for red and some for rosé. Our goal is to have local grapes so we can highlight Santa Clara Valley. After speaking with Mike Vanni, I’m excited for the zinfandel. I’m impressed with his vineyard practices and I’m confident we will be getting amazing fruit.”

She says that as much as they love Ted, he is far away and they want to stay local for their fruit sources. 

“Medeiros Family Wines will always be a stop on our way back from visiting our daughter’s family in June Lake,” Mandy said.

Moving on to the 2020 L&M Syrah, which hails from a vineyard they help manage in San Martin. The spicy clove from the re-coopered French barrel accents the blackberry and pomegranate fruit nicely. At 12.8%, it’s just a wee bit peppery and very pleasant. They have some 2021 syrah in barrel from Fernwood Cellars, and got a small amount of syrah and malbec from them in 2022: the smaller crop was due to Labor Day heat.

Do you crave big bold ripe and tannic cabernets that make a statement? Or do you prefer something more restrained, with softer tannins and less aggressive fruit? Their 2020 estate cabernet sauvignon is definitely in the latter camp with both feet. It has Bordeaux style aromas of lovely cherry, leather and tobacco, and delivers a smooth dollop of cherry fruit with a pleasing herbal note that finishes with elderberry. At 12.9%, it’s definitely old world in its restraint.

The 2020 L&M Cabernet Franc, labeled San Ysidro District (a tiny sub-AVA bounded by Highway 152 on the northeast side and Crews Road down to Frazier Lake), as is the cabernet sauvignon, is from a neighbor’s vineyard. This displays classic “francness,” from the rose petal, violet and sandalwood aromas to the silky red-fruited palate that is tinged by a hint of balsam and incense. Very approachable, with just a hint of velvet, it clocks in at 14.8%, yet is endowed with wonderfully flowing acid.

With its west facing orientation, this vineyard site can experience dramatic 40-degree temperature swings in the space of two hours, due to the inrush of fog. It definitely helps drive the verve and linearity of the estate fruit.

Mandy says they are planning to make a Bordeaux blend with their 2021 vintage, which is still in barrel. As for vintage 2022, they’ve brought in merlot and cab franc, as of the end of September, and are pretty happy with the fruit. They are still waiting on their estate cab sauv and petite verdot, barbera and petite verdot from Fernwood, and zinfandel from Solis.

Winemaking is a steep learning curve, but Larry and Mandy are determined to ace the test: if you like what’s in your glass when you visit, that will be their reward.

L&M Vineyard, 7602 Sunlit Oaks Court in Gilroy, is open the first and third weekends of the month, from noon to 5pm. Tasting is $15, waived with a two-bottle purchase. For information, visit lmvineyard.com.

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