With sunny and warm weather in the forecast the 4th of July weekend is a popular time to go to the beach, take a boat out on a lake or head out to the wine country. But places like Napa and Sonoma were sure to be very crowded, with heavy traffic and long waiting lines to get into a restaurant. So, on Saturday July 3rd I decided to go to a little known rarely if ever talked about wine country about 40 south minutes of San Jose California and the Silicon Valley.
The Santa Clara Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA) includes Gilroy, Hecker Pass, Morgan Hill and San Martin. There are 25 wineries in the area with Chardonnay being the dominant grape, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. But there are also a lot of great Rhone varietals such as Vigonier, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.
My first winery of the day was Sarah’s Vine which I had been to before in September 2008, but since then they hired a new wine maker and began producing Rhone varietals. You can read about my review of Sarah’s Vine and other wineries I visited on that trip at:
Clos LaChance Winery
My next stop was at Clos LaChance Winery. The name “Clos” refers to a French term meaning enclosed, but more specifically a walled vineyard and “LaChance” is from co-owner Brenda Murphy’s maiden name.
What began in 1987, as a few rows of Chardonnay in their Saratoga backyard for landscaping purposes grew into a full fledged winery with their first commercially released wines being released with 1992 vintage.
Clos LaChance Winery has 150 acres of Estate Vineyards planted to numerous varieties. When I visited the tasting room they pouring one sparkling wine, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Syrah/Grenache Rose, a Vigonier and three Chardonnays. They also were poring ten red wines including three Pinot Noirs, a Grenache, a Rhone Blend, a Zinfandel, two Cabernet Sauvignons, a Bordeaux blend Mertiage and a Petite Syrah.
My first was the 2009 Estate Viognier. This wine has a huge floral nose which is evident without even putting your nose into the glass followed by dried apricots, oranges, peaches and pears. I loved this wine and I thought $22 was just about right so I brought a bottle home.
My first red was the 2007 Biagini Vineyard Pinot Noir. This Pinot is definitely more intense and a deeper red than your typical Pinot Noir and unfortunately they were using Pinot Noir stemware and I forgot to bring mine along. Consequently the nose seemed to be a bit muted although I was able to pick up some raspberry jam, a little cherry. On the palate, the dominate fruit is big cherry with a little mushroomy earthiness on the back end. Whole I enjoyed this wine, for $50 I know of many other Pinots I prefer at around the $35 such as those at Roessller Cellars in Sonoma which you can read about at:
For my next red wine I chose the 2006 Estate Grenache. I wasn’t thrilled with this wine as it seemed like a one chord song – “G”. It was dark and earthy with some plum notes but there wasn’t any mid palate transition and the finish seemed rather short so I wasn’t going to lay down $30 for this one.
For my third red wine I chose the 2007 Lila’s Cuvee Rhone Blend. A blend of 40% Greanche, 20% Syrah, 15% Alicante Bouchet, 5% Cinsault and 5% Petit Syrah this is a HUGE improvement over the previous wine, with layers of dried plums, raspberries, cocoa, a hint of coffee and a little forest floor. But for $50 I thought it was a bit steep and I know of similar wines for a lot less. For a comparable wine, check out Zaca Mesa’s Cuvee (59% Grenache, 23% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah, and 3% Cinsaut) which sells for about $18 at BevMo and other wine retailers.
My fourth red wine was the 2005 Whitestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. After I swirled and smelled this wine I immediately said to Amy, who was pouring my wines, “WOW! This wine is definitely a nose full of Black Currant Preserves!” This is a bold Cabernet Sauvignon with very intense and dense fruit on the nose and palate. A fairly complex wine with additional layers of dark plum, blackberries with a little vanilla on the return with a prolonged long, silky smooth finish. I thought the $40 was a fair price so I brought a bottle home.
My fifth red wine was the 2006 Special Selection Series Meritage. A Bordeaux blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Petit Verdot, 18% Merlot and 4% Malbec this wine was not as impressive on the nose as the previous wine as it seemed a lot more “laid back” and subtle. But perhaps the order of the tasting needed to be change since the Whitestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was so overwhelming. This wine had aromas of cherries, subtle notes of black currants and a hint of mint/ and just a whiff of herbaceous notes. The wine sells for $50 and for $10 less I would rather buy another bottle of the Whitestone Cab.
The final wine of the day was the 2006 Estate Petite Syrah. True to is varietal character, this wine is inky, dark opaque purple with powered cocoa, plums and blackberries on the nose, with a hint of vanilla and pepper. A fair price at $28 a bottle.
If you want more information about this winery check out their web site (http://www.closlachance.com/) and if visit tell them you heard about them on California Wine Tasting Adventures and tell them Erik Wait sent you!
To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at: