Forget Napa—visit these South Bay wineries close to home.

Introduction | Concerts | Art | Stage | Movies | Sports | Festivals | Outdoors | Wineries

COOL, CALM, COLLECTED: Gather your thoughts over a glass of crisp white wine. Photo by Tony Contini

Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail
Various Locations
While Santa Clara Valley isn’t largely thought of as a wine destination—that’s Napa Valley you’re thinking of—the climate’s still right for enterprising vintners. That’s where the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail comes in. A welcome alternative to making the two-hour trek to Napa, the Wine Trail winds through South County and highlights quality wineries in our own backyard. Stop in for a swig at Solis, the always-popular J. Lohr, and and Casa de Fruta—yes, they have a winery, which you probably didn’t see on that field trip in third grade. Signs on the trail help you find your way. But we suggest keeping your consumption in check if you’re driving. Even better: bring a DD. (JA)

Run by the same family since 1883, Concannon is America’s oldest ongoing single-family owned winery. And in case you’re thinking “Yeah, yeah, smart guy, ‘ongoing.’ What about during prohibition?” The business managed to continue operating from 1920 to 1933 by selling only “sacramental” wine (ed: lol). Founded by an Irish immigrant, the Bordeaux-inspired vineyard is known for its Cabernet, and offers tours, tastings, and seasonal food pairings. Tours run $20 to $70 per person, depending on length and type. It might not be 924 Gilman St., but with a beautiful location and staggering history, this is a true Northern California experience. (MH)

Los Gatos
Though founded by two ex techies, Los Gatos’s Testarossa Winery is a bastion of old-world wine technique. The result is a number of highly rated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, made in small batches and largely consumed by members of Club Testarossa. For example, every vintage released in 2012 was scored 90 or higher (out of 100) on the wine point system. Testarossa is based out of the historic Novitiate Winery in downtown Los Gatos, a stunning stone and wood seminary built by Jesuits in the 1880s. Tastings start at a reasonable $10 (very affordable for Los Gatos) which makes the winery a great place for the uninitiated to learn more about Bay Area wine. (MH)

La Honda
Redwood City
The business-park and strip-mall heavy Redwood City might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about viticulture, but La Honda is making a serious effort to change your mind. Though the winery lies in the suburbs, the actual grapes used in the wines are culled from all over the South Bay, bringing the region’s unique set of terroirs to a centralized location in the heart of the peninsula. The location itself is a sight to behold with its huge ceilings, stone architecture and cask-and-wrought-iron chic. The décor might be contrived “authentic,” but contrived authenticity is our era’s primary aesthetic. Ever heard of Santana Row? (MH)

Thomas Fogarty
Skyline Boulevard, Woodside
Before the invention of the embolectomy catheter, the success rate for surgically removing blood clots sat around a miserable 40 to 50 percent. At best, a coin toss. Then, in 1961, cardiovascular surgeon Tomas Fogarty made treatment for this condition essentially possible by pioneering a way to avoid incisions that risked the patient bleeding out on the table. Some 53 years later, the retired surgeon was voted one of the top 100 winemakers in the world by Wine & Spirits Magazine. As if saving countless lives weren’t enough, the man has created an astounding grape empire in Woodside, high up on the northern edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains. (MH)

Bump City
We know… this one is actually pretty far north, but if you’re heading up to BottleRock, consider checking into this winery. One of the Bay Area’s true musical institutions, Oakland’s Tower of Power released their first major label album in 1972. Bump City, the group’s second album, included one of their biggest hits (“You’re Still a Young Man”), and came at a time when funk could change the world. So, what comes after music? Clearly, the answer is: vino. Wine. The grape game. Jesus juice. Bump City Winery is founded by ToP keyboard player Roger Smith, and it offers a great chance to see the intersection of the Bay’s uniquely diverse interests. Smith has said that “stirring the pot without overplaying” is his primary aim in music, and with consistently positive reviews, Bump City is bringing that same ethos to winemaking: subtly influencing the game without overplaying its hand. (MH)

Soquel, Santa Cruz
While not technically winemakers, these guys do produce alcoholic beverages using locally grown grapes. Osocalis, taken from the local American Indian name for the Soquel region, is a micro-distillery. They make brandy and other quality spirits. Unfortunately you can’t buy direct from them—that’s illegal. But you can always pay them a visit.

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