Monday, October 5, 2009

Vineyards of Santa Clara Valley

If you walk into any decent wine shop and ask for a Santa Cruz Mountains wine, it's very likely that they'll have something for you. But if you ask for something from the Santa Clara Valley you'll probably be out of luck. Certainly the mountains have a lot more wineries, but it might surprise you to learn that the valley has at least twice as many planted vines. In fact of the six vineyards in the area over 100 acres in size, all are located in the county of Santa Clara and only Ridge is inside the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

The largest vineyard is Dunne Ranch. Located where highways 152 and 156 meet, it straddles the border into San Benito County and one corner extends into the Pacheco Pass AVA. Of the 1000 acres which make up the ranch around 40% are under vine. 300 acres are planted to Chardonnay; this alone is enough to make Chardonnay the most planted grape in the AVA. It also has 66 acres of Gewurztraminer which not only makes this the second most widely planted white variety in the AVA but is roughly equal to the acreage of all other white varieties combined. The vineyard is owned by the Blackburn family, who also own the Pietra Santa winery in nearby Cienega Valley. Pietra Santa uses some of the fruit, but most of it is sold.

To the west of Dunne Ranch along Highway 152 lies the San Ysidro District. This sub-AVA contains two vineyards. The larger of the two is Mistral Vineyard, with 260 acres planted from a total of 375. It's mainly planted with Chardonnay and Merlot, though there is a small amount of the port grapes including Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao and Tinta Madeira. Until its sale in 2007 the vineyard was owned by Millbrook Wine of New York, who also own the Williams Selyem winery in Sonoma. The Williams Selyem 'port' was made with fruit from this vineyard.

Next to Mistral is San Ysidro Vineyard. Roughly half of its 250 acres are planted with Pinot Noir with the remainder being Chardonnay and a small amount of Merlot. It is owned by the San Ysidro Corporation, who also own the San Felipe Vineyard. This 122 acre property is located within the Pacheco Pass AVA, along Highway 156, and is evenly divided into Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Corporation owns no wineries; all the fruit is sold, mostly to large producers.

Finally we come to the Clos LaChance estate in San Martin. The winery farms 150 acres surrounding the Cordevalle golf course, with a wide range of varieties planted. Most of the winery's fruit is sourced from this estate; some alos comes from around 40 acres of maanged vines in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and some Chardonnay purchased from Monterey County. Despite being located at the heart of the Santa Clara Valley, Clos LaChance wines typically carry the wider Central Coast appellation.