The proprietors, Kim and Todd Engelhardt, may be transplants from San Francisco, but they are no strangers to the local wine industry. Kim Engelhardt spent a few years working at Sarah’s Vineyard in Gilroy learning about every aspect of the business, from grapes to sales.
For three harvests she apprenticed in the cellar and winery learning how to make wine and the rest of the year in the tasting room. She says that this time was integral to her skills and the development of their own winery, and the support of the local industry in their endeavor has been phenomenal. “It has been a community of encouragement, cooperation and support,” she said.
The couple fell in love with the wines of the Rhône valley, and especially Viognier from the area of Condrieu, on a trip to France in 2009. They wanted to find an established wine community south of San Francisco, and relocated from San Francisco to San Martin in order to build their dream winery. They were advised in the beginning to plant and make what they love. In 2011, they began doing just that. They planted and have been working on their first vineyard—five acres of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Marssane, Roussane and Picpoul Blanc. In 2013 they purchased a parcel to build the winery, a mere one-third of a mile away from the vineyard on the corner of Santa Teresa and San Martin avenues.
The winery and tasting room location has the same soil structure and microclimate as the vineyard itself, and they are looking forward to planting five more acres in the next year or so, this time focusing on red Rhône varieties at the plot next to the tasting room.
The name Lion Ranch is a nod to the historic Lion Ranch geographical area that encompassed 6,000 acres and most of San Martin in the days of old. This throwback to the area’s history is hinted at in their tagline, “Modern expression with a nod to history.”
Visitors to the winery can look forward to delicious and complex wines, a beautiful view and a bocce ball court.
“We want people to feel welcomed and relaxed, to come here and stay for a while,” Kim Engelhardt said. And with a great and beautiful location and fabulous wines, it is not hard to do.
Beginning July 18, Lion Ranch will open from 4 to 7 p.m. on the third Friday of each month and from noon to 5 p.m. the third Saturday and Sunday. Their grand opening celebration and official opening will be on July 18, and visitors can expect a fun-filled afternoon of refreshing wines, bluegrass, barbecue and bocce ball.
Alicia Cuadra-Cutler, a certified sommelier and certified specialist
of wine, is passionate about the world of wine. Follow her on Twitter @AliciaSeesWine.