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February 1, 2023

Vine to Wine spotlights Santa Clara Valley wineries

Author samples the offerings at Mountain Winery event

It was a brilliant and clear day, with views of the entire Silicon Valley from the stone decks and ramparts of the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, where the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley held its inaugural Vine to Wine event on Oct. 23. Music by Matt Masih and his band echoed through the air as nearly two-dozen wineries poured their wines for about 400 attendees. 

Marketing Director Stacy Giannini was pleased with the turnout and praised the efforts of her many volunteers who helped make the event flow smoothly.

The wines proved varied and compelling, whether you were looking for the usual suspects like chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel, or if you were open-minded enough to sample a riesling, fiano, sagrantino, merlot, malbec or Rhone blend.

The 2021 Solis Fiano stood out for its great structure and acid: sometimes this grape can come across as flaccid and redolent of stale straw bales. This one, though, is exemplary, as was the 2019 Cara Mia blend of cabernet and sangiovese also made by winemaker Michael Vanni, that was poured at the VIP session.

Cinnabar was pouring a serious lineup made by vintner and owner Ron Mosley and his trusty assistant for all these years, Alejandro Aldama. The 2021 rosé was particularly enjoyable, as was the succulent and inviting Santa Cruz Mountains pinot noir from the Bailey Vineyard near Branciforte.

Bill and Doris Cooper have been members of the Santa Clara Valley wineries for years. Doris pointed out their humble abode, winery and vineyard nestled amongst the mega McMansions that dominate the landscape below the tasting deck. She was pouring a rich viognier with a label that read, “Randall Grahm Clone,” a reference to when the Coopers and many others thought they were planting roussanne, and it turned out to be viognier.

Cottage Creek in Gilroy grows estate cabernet sauvignon, but it’s not quite ready for release. They were pouring a riesling from Columbia Valley and a hearty grenache and zinfandel from the Sierra Foothills, all made by winemaker Chris Graves. Denise and Sam Russell began their wine journey with a syrah made by Spencer Schultze of Windy Oaks, and Graves has continually expanded their horizons with his access to grapes from California, Oregon and Washington. She says to download their app to keep up with when they have open hours.

Martin Ranch was pouring the 2019 JD Hurley Zinfandel made by Dan Martin and the 2018 Thérèse Vineyards Signature Select Cabernet Sauvignon. Always solid wines from this producer who is currently looking for a full time Wine Club Coordinator.

Lightpost was a highly popular stop for their sheer breadth of offerings and consistent, award-winning execution by winemaker Christian Roguenant, on everything from sparkling to pinot noir to cabernet.

Kim Englehart of Lion Ranch in San Martin is now president of the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley, and was among those in favor of “taking the show on the road” to the heart of Silicon Valley. Her offering of Rhones is without parallel in the region, and the 2019 Alpha they were pouring at the VIP session was a complex rendering of seven different red Rhone varietals: 49% grenache noir, 16% syrah, 15% terret noir, 7% cinsault, 5% muscardin, 4% mourvèdre, 3% vaccarèse, and 1% counoise. All are grown on the estate property. If you’ve never heard of some of them, go visit Lion Ranch to learn more, as they are also planting some fairly obscure white Rhones as well, to supplement their existing collection of grenache blanc, marsanne, picpoul blanc, roussanne and viognier.

Larry and Mandy Imas were pouring a rosé of zinfandel and their 2020 estate cabernet sauvignon, alongside the 2020 cabernet franc from their neighbor’s vineyard.

On the completely flipside are the wines from Moose Mountain, evocative of the toasty hillside where the grapes are grown. The Blackbird Merlot is as powerful and sturdy as a draft horse, but the real heavy metal here is their tannat.

Among the most memorable wines of the day were the 2020 Calerrain Malbec from Paicines Ranch and two offerings from Sarah’s Vineyard, a 2020 estate chardonnay and 2020 estate pinot noir.

As I headed back to my car, I rode the shuttle with a young couple. Asked what they thought of the event, they responded in unison, “We loved it. Great wine, music, food—such a fabulous spot.” I asked which wines stood out, and again they both replied in unison, “Sarah’s! So good.”

As we parted, I asked them to do themselves a favor: don’t ever drink mediocre wine. Events like this help you find the gems.

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