I’ve got my Passport. How ’bout you?

Kara and I have lived in Morgan Hill for almost three years now.  It’s a neat little city of thirty thousand folks that borders San Jose to the South along Highway 101.  Having lived among the million or so people in San Jose for the better part of my adult life, at first it was a strange transition to the small town feel of Morgan Hill.

At times, I miss that big city life.

This is not one of those times.

This, my friends, is Santa Clara Valley Passport Weekend.

Two weekends (the last of March and the first of October) every year, 24 Wineries of the Santa Clara Valley open their cellar doors and some of their barrels to the public.  For thirty bucks, you get a glass and a passport that allows you to taste wine from each of the participants.  One passport is good for both the Fall and Spring weekends.

The Southern Santa Clara Valley (where most of these wineries are found) is a relatively warm climate compared to the rest of the Bay Area.  As hot as it can get during the day, nighttime gets pretty cold in a hurry.  In general, this is a place where Rhone varietals (like Syrah and Grenache) can flourish, but you will find pockets where Bordeaux and Burgundy grapes show very nicely.

As with any wine region, there are a few turds sprinkled in with some gems.

On Saturday, we hit up our fair share of each category.

Without further ado… the bad, the great, and the fantastic!

Morgan Hill Cellars:

We got started tasting a bit early on Saturday.  Though most tasting rooms opened at 10:00 am, many of the wineries weren’t going to bring out their passport specials until 11:00.  Since we had some time to kill, I figured we’d head over to Morgan Hill Cellars.

Unless you like fruit wine (their specialty), you should not go there.

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Morgan Hill Cellars 2007 Sauvignon Blanc

Sure, the Sauvignon Blanc was okay…

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La Fenice 1997 Sangiovese

And their 1997 Sangiovese is both old and nasty…

But I am never a fan of wineries that don’t use oak on anything, and tell you it’s so they can have more control over the flavor of the wine.  That is a line of B.S.  The reality is that steel is cheaper than oak.  If they cared about making a quality product, they would never say no to oak across the board.  Never.

I really wish they put more effort into making good red wines, instead of mixing in blackberries or cherries with their Bordeaux grapes.

Guglielmo Winery:

Now, this is my jam!

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The Barn at Guglielmo

By the time we arrived at Guglielmo (Gool-yell-mo) Winery, the passport festivities were in full effect.  These guys have been making wine in Morgan Hill since 1925… and it’s good.

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A little Sangiovese

Along with some good wines, they gave each passport holder a bomb ass tri tip sandwich.  Lucky for me, Kara doesn’t eat red meat… I got two.

The highlight of Guglielmo was tasting two vintages of their Syrah…

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Guglielmo 2008 Private Reserve Syrah from the bottle.

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Guglielmo 2009 Private Reserve Syrah from the barrel.

Mann Cellars:

While driving through downtown Morgan Hill, we stopped by Rosy’s at the Beach where Mike Mann was pouring his wine.

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The lineup

Although Mann Cellars does not have a tasting room, you will find their wine at most wine events in Santa Clara County.  You can also buy their stuff at their website.

The entire lineup of wine was very nice, and relatively inexpensive ($10-$20).  The highlights for me were the 2006 Merlot and the 2007 Malbec.  All wines are estate grown and worth a try.  Hit them up.

Clos La Chance:

Heading South off of Watsonville Road in San Martin is the beautiful Clos La Chance Winery.

Here’s a fun fact:  Kara and I got married at Clos La Chance in 2010.

The wine was beautiful too…

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Clockwise from the top: My glass with a little bit of Clos La Chance 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay, My passport, My pen, and the Clos La Chance tasting list.

I was really happy with their 2008 Estate Grenache, but the highlight for me was their Mountain High, Mountain Low 2009 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir.  As part of their cellar sale, this Pinot Noir is selling for $6 a bottle.  The wine is available online right now!  You know what to do.

Sycamore Creek Vineyards and Winery:

Sycamore Creek is at the beginning of Uvas Road just off of Watsonville Road in Morgan Hill.  I’ve got to say that the first time I ever visited them (about 4 years ago), I was not that impressed.  Now, however, I’ve got to say the winery is really putting out some quality Bordeaux varietals (including a great Petit Verdot).  I was hella stoked on their 2008 Mosaico (Bordeaux style red blend).

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Sycamore Creek 2008 Mosaico Red Wine

Stoked to the hella!

Aver Family Vineyards:

I bit further South off of Watsonville Road is Aver Family Vineyards.  You know how I feel about this place (click here to be reminded).

This winery is everything that is right about the Santa Clara Valley.  Big, bright, and balanced estate fruit.  Though they do make some fantastic Cabernet Sauvignons, the focus of this family run vineyard is making amazing Rhones… like this one…

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Aver Family (I forgot to check the vintage) Family Album Red Wine - Rhone Style Blend

Jason-Stephens Winery:

Just accross the street from Aver is Jason-Stephens Winery.  Kara and I are huge fans of this Gilroy spot that specializes in Bordeaux grapes.

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A big ol' block of Cabernet Sauvignon outside of Jason-Stephens Winery.

They do also make a very legit Syrah…

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Jason-Stephens 2007 Estate Syrah

And it looks like Kara and I aren’t alone in our fandom…

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Folks getting stoked to the hella.

Sarah’s Vineyard:

Near the corner of Watsonville Road and Hecker Pass in Gilroy is Sarah’s Vineyard.  This is another place that you know I’ve been stoked on for a while (check it out).

I’m way into their reserved style of winemaking.  Nothing is over the top.  They just let the grapes speak for themselves.  This Grenache is a great example of that…

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Sarah's Vineyard 2009 Grenache

Fortino Winery:

We finished up at Sarah’s Vineyard at 4:45 pm.  Since the passport events end at 5:00, we decided to swing by one last winery before dinner.

Fortunately, Fortino is right next door…

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Fortino 2010 Black Muscat Blush

Unfortunately, they make horrible wine.  If you’d have read this post from a while back, you’d have already known this.

Fortunately, they did give us some pasta to make up for their crappy wine…

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The payoff.

After a long day of tasting, spitting, and dumping… I needed a drink.

I needed something to take my mind off of how bad Fortino was, so we headed back to Huntington Station in Morgan Hill for dinner.

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Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in a San Jose Sharks glass.

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Boxcar Burger and Fries

Mmmmmmmm…

I almost forgot how much I hated Fortino.

All in all, I was very happy with this round of the passport weekend.  I’m looking forward to trying more places come the fall.

I’ve got my passport.

How about you?

Stay Rad,

Jeff

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