South Valley tempts with fine wines in stunning settings – The Mercury News

A particularly fabulous place to spend an afternoon in Gilroy is Calerrain, the home of Geoff and Chantelle Mace, who have created an outdoor oasis in a spectacular pastoral setting that will have you unwinding in no time. Cows howl in the background as you sample their barrel-fermented Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the highlands of Santa Lucia, as well as a big-boned Cabernet, Meritage and a vibrant Malbec from Paicines. Bring a picnic or go on a Saturday when they cook pizza. Reservations required for

Recently opened in Aptos is Charmant Cellars, created by Eugene and Julie Theron, who arrived in Silicon Valley from South Africa in 1989, disgusted by their country’s apartheid policies. Descendants of Huguenots who fled France when Louis XIV revoked Protestant religious freedom, they continued their agricultural way of life in their new homeland. One of Eugene’s distant relatives, Professor CJ Theron, was among those who propagated Pinotage, a cross between pinot noir and cinsault, which became the dominant grape in South Africa. Loma Prieta is the only winery to grow it in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Determined to return to their farming roots, the Therons purchased a beautiful winery planted exclusively with pinot noir by Jim Schultze of Windy Oaks. With guidance from longtime La Rochelle winemaker Tom Stutz, the Therons produce an excellent Chardonnay from the Tondré vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and two impressive Pinot Noirs from the estate.

Given the current situation in Ukraine, you might be tempted to pick up a bottle of the 2018 Lé Refugié Pinot Noir ($38), named after all the refugees who have sought solace here. The 2018 Estate Pinot Noir ($48) is complex and pleasing in texture and acidity, filled with raspberry, pomegranate, cherry, leather and Linzer torte. Tasting by appointment only. Open most Saturdays, 1-5 p.m.

Many Silicon Valley wine lovers are big fans of visiting Murphys and Amador Valley for their abundant Italian varieties and zins. I just judged the second annual Foothill Wine competition and wanted to report on the winners. The best white went to Bella Grace Winery Vermentino 2021, lovely and juicy, with the best rosé to Noceto Rosato di Sangiovese 2021, a quick and playful sip. The top red in show went to the 2018 Casino Mine Ranch Tempranillo, the second straight year a Tempranillo has won the red top. Among many awesome zins, Shadow Ranch won the Best of Class award. Miraflores 2018 Estate Barbera earned the same honor in this class. Righteous Rhones included Holly’s Hill ‘Rockbound’ GSM and 2019 Sobon Syrah. The well crafted 2018 PleinAir Cabernet Sauvignon will rival your favorite. All can be tasted at the Foothill Wine Festival on April 2 in Folsom. Tickets and accommodation packages are available at

Get tickets now for the SCMWA Grand Tasting at The Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Sunday, April 24, 1-4 p.m., featuring many of our area wineries. VIP tickets get you in at 12:30 p.m. Tickets cost between $60 and $95 ($20 for designated drivers) at

Go out and shop at the Santana Row Wine Spring Fling Wine Stroll on March 31, 5-7 p.m., where you can sample wines from local favorites like Cinnabar, Lightpost, House Family, Kings Mountain Vineyards, Lago Lomita, Roudon-Smith and Verde Vineyards. Visit new stores and old favorites. Tickets are $40 at

Laura Ness is on Instagram at @hervineness.

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