We are so lucky to live in an area with more than 20 premium wineries – many are next door to each other and most within five miles of the other. The wines of Gilroy, Morgan Hill, San Martin and Hollister are not only winning awards, their tasting rooms are friendly and unpretentious.
It’s common to talk to the winemakers and easy to make new friends with other visitors. Every week there is something fun to do: from bocce ball and girls-night-out parties to wood-fired pizza and live music. It’s all in our “backyard.”
All this wine and fun is a major reason that my husband and I moved here from San Jose two years ago.
In between these fabulous wineries, and in order to stretch our wine dollars, I look for affordable, easy-to-drink wines in our local retail stores.
A buzz going around is about Patianna Organic Vineyards wines – especially their estate Sauvignon Blanc, which earned 93 points from Wine Enthusiast. The Patianna Sauv Blanc (2009) is a mouthwatering wine with good acidity, melon and mineral flavors and a long, crisp finish.
I also love their Chardonnay (2009) with its “fruit-forward floral and white peach aromas with hints of tropical fruit.” Both are twist-off caps. Patianna wines are popping up all over and can be found at Rocca’s Market (San Martin), Charlie’s Liquors (Gilroy) and Windmill Market (San Juan Bautista), and by the glass at Westside Grill (Gilroy). Price varies from $11 to $15.
For Merlot drinkers, I highly recommend two deals. Firefly Ridge Merlot (2008, on sale for $5.79 at Safeway) is a lush Merlot with vibrant, sweet fruit up front and a long, dry finish. The Motos Liberty Merlot (2009, $4.99) is smooth, easy-drinking and found at Grocery Outlet (Gilroy). Both are great party wines and pair well with just about everything.
Local Winery Buzz
This week I’m taking a bit of a departure from my normal winery review to write about Rocca’s Market in San Martin. Rocca’s is a family-owned store that features a wide selection of wine from local wineries.
The story of Rocca’s Market began with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. That is when a young man named Giulio Rocca answered a flyer while living in Cocconato, Italy: “Earthquake damage. Laborers needed in San Francisco, USA.” Over a period of time in San Francisco, Giulio held down three jobs: cook, janitor and elevator operator (apparently to get some sleep).
In 1927, Giulio opened Rocca’s Market in San Martin, just south of Morgan Hill on Monterey Highway. Three generations later, the market is owned and operated by Giulio’s grandsons: Dan and Tom Rocca (pronounced “rock-ah”).
Rocca’s is a best-kept secret in the local community. Virtually unchanged since their grandfather began, the market has retained that intimate family business feeling that provides personalized service. The two brothers not only know their customers’ names, but also their favorite foods.
Their premium quality meats include many hard-to-find items such as grass-fed beef, tripe, sweet breads and hot and mild Italian sausage (made fresh). Famous for their tri-tip, Rocca’s is where you can also find your rack of lamb and where I find the veal shanks for my osso buco. Their motto is “Anything else? Just ask. We’ll find it, cut it, wrap it.”
But where I really have fun is when I browse their wine aisle and talk to “brother” Dan, their resident wine expert. Besides a great selection of popular labels, Dan orders the best of all local wineries and provides awesome discounts on the prices. Take an additional 10 percent discount on four bottles or more. Dan is super friendly and readily offers recommendations to fit every budget. The selection of outstanding wines at the lowest prices around makes Rocca’s a veritable wine “Disneyland.”
Arrange the following on a serving platter: smoked salmon, asmall block of cream cheese, a heap of shaved red onion, a pile ofcapers and a garnish of lemon wedges. Serve with sliced baguette.Pair with the Patianna Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.