Santa Clara Valley Passport: 10 Must Go To Wineries

September is California Wine Month and there’s no better way to celebrate it than spending a day or weekend visiting wineries. Santa Clara Valley — in southern Silicon Valley — is one of California’s oldest and most historic wine regions. Home to 31 wineries, the appellation is a mix of long established labels and new kids on the block.

The Wineries of Santa Clara Valley hosts a month-long Fall Passport event Sept. 7-30, when wineries open their doors to visitors traveling along the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail. You’ll meet the winemakers, who will be pouring current releases and a few surprises just for Passport.

Celebrate: Gilroy’s Sarah’s Vineyard turns 40

Perhaps you’ve heard of, or have even tried, the wines from Sarah’s Vineyard, a boutique winery in California’s Santa Clara Valley. If not, you are missing out IMHO. These wines, made in Silicon Valley – once referred to as the Valley of the Heart’s Delight because of the many fruit orchards and vineyards, and the birthplace of California’s commercial wine industry – are totally worth seeking out.

Alara Cellars: Wine Meets Fashion

We pair wine with food, music and holidays, so why not fashion?

I was super excited when I first learned about this new fashionable wine project a couple years ago. Now, Alara Cellars has made its debut.

Janu Goelz in her Alara Cellars tasting room at Gilroy’s Stomping Ground.

Winemaker Janu Goelz loves wine, and she loves fashion just as much. For her, blending them is a natural. Goelz is co-owner and co-winemaker Jason-Stephens Winery with her husband Jason. Together, with Tim Slater of Sarah’s Vineyard, they created The Stomping Ground in Gilroy, home to about half a dozen local boutique wineries.

The craft winery venue was perfect launching pad for Goelz’s own label, Alara Cellars. Her eyecatching labels are original illustrations, the work of Vancouver-based fashion designer and illustrator Malene Grotrian

Livermore Stories: Mitchell Katz Winery

Photo: from left to right , future father in law , John DeFrietas , Mitch Katz , assistant winemaker Zach Thomsen , tasting room mgr . Andrew Wigginton . Sorting grapes during harvest. Courtesy Mitchell Katz Winery
Sorting grapes during harvest.  L to R: John DeFrietas, Mitch Katz , assistant winemaker Zach Thomsen, tasting room mg . Andrew Wigginton.  Courtesy Mitchell Katz Winery

Mitchell Katz is a survivor.  He launched his eponymous winery in Livermore Valley in 1998 and four years later moved into the historic Ruby Hill tasting room, a massive yet beautiful old brick building that dates back to 1887.  In 2012 Mitch was basically forced to buy out his business partner in the winery, and left to find a new home for his winery and tasting room.  He had challenges securing building loans for his first chosen location, then met some community opposition opening his current location.

Livermore Stories: Pat Paulsen Vineyards

M&G WineLuv

Monty Paulsen loves to create wine brands.  He’s an eclectic winemaker, making wine from wherever he can get his hands on grapes, be that Martinez, California or the Valle Central in Chile.  On his website alone you’ll find four brands with a total of 26 different wines.  These days you’ll find Monty behind the Pat Paulsen Vineyards tasting bar of his newly opened tasting room in Livermore Valley.

A New View for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley will be forever known as the winery that beat the French.  Many people know the role that the winery’s 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon played in bringing worldwide attention to America’s premier wine country.  This wine beat the best of the French Bordeaux in the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, where French judges tasted California and French wines blind.  Stag’s Leap was the number one red; the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, also from Napa, was the number one white. That ’73 Cab was made by Warren Winiarski.  38 years later, Winiarski, who retired and sold the winery to a joint venture of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Marchesi Antinori, of the Italian winemaking family Antinori in 2007,  was on hand to celebrate the opening of a $7 million visitor’s center overlooking the vineyard that grew the grapes for that earth shattering wine, the S.L.V. Vineyard,…

Livermore Stories: Caddis Wines

This is another installment of a series called “Livermore Stories,” which takes a look at the most exciting wineries in this wine growing region located east of San Francisco.  More than 50 wineries now call Livermore Valley home.  The wines have never been better, and the wineries have great stories to tell. It’s barrel tasting weekend at the end of March in Livermore Valley, and only the third time that Caddis Wines has been open to the public. “We’re in our pop up tasting room,” says Chris Sorensen, winemaker and co-owner.  “We’re the new guys in town,” adds his co-owner Courtney Garcia.  “We’ve been making wine since 2010, all Livermore fruit except our Zinfandel.”  That fruit comes from her parent’s vineyard in Sonoma Valley. At a mere 300 cases, “we’re tiny but we’re mighty,” says Courtney.  She and Chris met when she started working at nearby Occasio Winery, where Chris…

Livermore Stories: 3 Steves Winery

This is another installment of a series called “Livermore Stories,” which takes a look at the most exciting wineries in this wine growing region located east of San Francisco.  More than 50 wineries now call Livermore Valley home.  The wines have never been better, and the wineries have great stories to tell. The tag line says it all.  “3 friends striving to make the perfect wine.”  Arriving at the 3 Steves Winery in Livermore Valley, and this is what you’ll hear.  “Hi, I’m Steve.”  “Hello, I’m Steve.”  “I’m Steve too.”  No kidding, these three guys are all named Steve. Steve Burman, Steve Melander and Steve Ziganti Their business card gives you a clue.  Steve Burman is “vertically challenged.”  Steve Melander “really does exist.”  And Steve Ziganti is “gray beard.”  If you sense the Steves don’t take themselves too seriously, you’re right.  But they make seriously good wine. They are an…