Santa Clara Valley

Castillo’s Hillside Shire Winery Defines Unexpectedly Intriguing

I was not expecting much from Castillo’s Hillside Shire Winery.  One look at their website was enough to dissuade me from hoping their wine would be any good.  When you say outright that you never dreamed of owning a winery and fell into the wine business as a fluke, I am not going to trip over myself for a taste of your vintage.  Also–and I know this isn’t fair as it has absolutely nothing to do with their wine-making abilities and is purely a pet peeve of mine as a reader–the fact that their website is riddled with grammatical errors and over-used, sappy phrases like “this wonderful thing called life” did not exactly fill me with confidence.  If nothing else, they didn’t care enough about presentation to proofread…or hire someone to proofread.  The experience was not encouraging.

There were two reasons I decided to stop by (well, three if you include we were nearby and felt like it).  One was the name (my husband is a big Lord of the Rings fan), and the other was this:

 

IMG_7525

IMG_7527

 

Even though the house is a private residence and thus inaccessible to gawkers like me, how can you not want to see it? We were even more impressed when we got there and saw the grounds:

IMG_7530

IMG_7531

IMG_7529

I want their pool.  I want it so bad.

This place is gorgeous.  It perfectly blends fanciful, fairy tale-like gardens with a sense of modernity.  Everything is clean, well-kept, and new but also looks like an updated version of Marie Antoinette’s estate at Versailles.  Complete with its own pond, footpaths, tiny bridges, and arches, this would be an amazing place to get married!

For comparison, take a gander at Marie Antoinette’s actual estate:

IMG_0935

A Footpath at Marie Antoinette’s Estate

IMG_0925

Hardly Twins, but Similar Feel, No?

Both beautiful, fanciful places, but the shire has the ever-attractive addition of twenty-first century plumbing.

When we did our tasting, we were both pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wine.  You can tell the vineyard is new.  Something about the flavor just screams at me to wait a couple of years (why yes, flavors do scream time periods at me.  What’s it to you?), but we still enjoyed the wines.  My favorite was probably the Red Table Wine, almost certainly because of its high percentage of Cabernet Franc, but Daniel preferred the Syrah.  Most of the reds were a bit more tannin-filled than I would have liked, but the flavors were good, and I feel the vineyard is brimming with potential.  I do so wish I had been able to try the Cab Franc, but really, they probably saved me from buying yet another bottle of wine we do not need.

In its pleasantly surprising fashion, Castillo’s Hillside Shire is totally worth a visit.  Mostly, I would go for a nice place to sit and sip wine, but at least you don’t have to bring your own.

 

Advertisements
Categories: Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Clara Valley, Wine | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Guglielmo’s Bottle Your Own Wine: Not Even Worth $5

Until recently, I worked every Saturday.  This creates a whole host of problems whilst trying to have a life.  Oh the number of parties I could not attend or was forced to be horribly late to.  It definitely takes a toll on your social life.  And your wine-snob development!  I couldn’t go to passport or really any other daytime wine events.

However, for the last couple of months, I have been working Sundays instead, and this has opened up a whole new world of wine events!  Guglielmo‘s Bottle Your Own Wine day was one that I had wanted to try for a long time but could never make with my previous work schedule.  Last weekend, I finally was able to attend.

IMG_7524

It was so not worth the wait.

And wait we did.  I knew this event was popular, but in my naivety, I did not expect to wait very long.  Fifteen minutes, maybe half-an-hour was the most I expected.  If I had known I was facing an hour-and-a-half long line, I would never have gone.

Unlike most of their patrons, I was in it for the experience, not the $5 wine.  I thought it would be cool to fill my own wine bottle and slap my own label on it, watching as it was corked.  The whole wine-making process is highly intriguing to me, and seeing a glimpse of how it all works attracted me to this event.

IMG_7516

Wine Filler

I never expected the wine to be good.  I assumed, correctly I think, that the wine we would be bottling was the leftover remnants of whatever the wine-makers didn’t want to bottle.  How else could it be so cheap?  And after trying it, I feel I can confirm my original assessment.  It’s perfectly fine for $5 wine, and while I admit that reds are not my favorites, especially from this particular winery, I do not think this bottle is worth much more.

That in mind, I was not expecting the mad rush of people that we faced upon entering Guglielmo.  The line would have moved pretty swiftly if the majority of patrons had not come bearing cases of empty bottles.  Perhaps I was naive, but it never occurred to me that people would show up wanting three cases of this swill, yet most of the people in line bore at least six bottles and often more.

IMG_7519

I think the label supports my theory that this is wine they just want to get rid of. Why else would they label it “table wine” and write in the lot number?

IMG_7518

The Fruits of Our Labor(ious Waiting)

Needless to say, I will not be attending again.  Maybe if the wine was better, I’d wait for it, but it’s really not that great, and once was more than enough to take in the experience.

Hopefully, passport day in a couple of weeks will be a better use of my newfound Saturday freedom.

Categories: Bay Area Day Trips, Local Travel, Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Clara Valley, Wine | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Stomp on the Grapes

There is no time quite like fall at a winery.  The grapes are ripe and being harvested.  New wines are revealed.  All around you, the leaves are changing in a display worthy of a state with actual seasons.

Fall is a great time to settle down with a nice cup of red and start preparing for winter.  It is also a great time to check out winery events!

If you have money to spare, and you are looking for a fall winery party, I would check out V. Sattui’s Crush Party.  Alas, I do not have money to spare, so I cannot go nor have I been in the past, but it looks like a lot of fun.  They take you through the wine production process with a good, old-fashioned grape crushing…with your bare feet.  There’s really nothing quite like people telling you it’s OK to squish a giant vat of grapes by stomping on them.

Watch and tell me this doesn’t look like a ton of fun:

Fall also means passport days are upon us!  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the awesomeness that is winery passport days, this is the time when you can try any winery you choose for a flat rate.  Wineries that generally do not do tastings are open and all sorts of special stuff can be found like barrel tastings and food pairings and vineyard tours and unique wines not generally available to the public.  Passports are split up by region, so take a look at where your favorite wineries are and mark your calendars!

Around these parts, we have…

Santa Clara Valley                        October 5 – 6                        $30
Santa Cruz Mountains                  November 16                        $45
Napa and Sonoma also have a continual passport deal.  For details, see sonomapassport.com and napavalleypassport.com.

Harvest Festivals abound this time of year as well in all parts of wine country.  The big wineries all have their own, but check out these to see a bunch of wineries at once:

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair encompasses three days worth of wine tastings from over 150 wineries, complete with food, demonstrations, seminars, and a FREE grape stomping competition.

If you’re looking for something a little more wine-centric, Reserve Sonoma Valley offers special peeks at wineries generally closed to the public along with food pairings and winery tours.

Of course, there are tons more harvest and fall events all across Northern California, so be sure to check with favorite vineyards for their festivals.  Which fall wine events are you favorites?

Categories: Bay Area, Bay Area Day Trips, Food, Local Travel, Napa, Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Casa de Fruta: The Most Random Place on Earth

Huddled in the hills between the 101 and the 5 in Hollister is one of those off-the-highway places you’d expect to find somewhere like Kansas.  It’s cute, it’s clearly there for tourists, and most importantly, it is super random.

But not in a bad way.  Casa de Fruta has much to offer:  fruit, nuts, fudge, candies, wine, even entertainment.  It’s just hard for me to get over how in the middle of nowhere it is.

IMG_7355

Like any good roadside attraction, Casa de Fruta has a lengthy history.  It began in the 1940s as a cherry stand for the nearby orchard.  As per tradition, fresh and dried fruit can still be found in abundance at Casa de Fruta.  The family expanded into nuts as well, and I must say, their nut collection is varied and delicious.  My husband and I are big fans of the chili lemon almonds.

But these days they have much more to offer than just fruit and nuts.  Along with Casa de Fruta, there is Casa de Restaurant, Casa de Wine, Casa de Sweets, and even Casa de Choo Choo (hehehe).  Everything you need for a roadside stop to get the kids out of your hair for an hour.

IMG_7347

IMG_7348

Waterwheel and Panning for Gold (Except Not Really)

 

IMG_7352

Peacocks Were Everywhere

Of these, I’d say Casa de Fruta is still the most impressive.  It has a wide selection of dried fruit and nuts with some offerings that are not so easy to find, like toffee-glazed chocolate-covered pistachios, fruit and nut rolls, and those chili lemon almonds.

IMG_7353

With my unrelenting sweet tooth, I of course had to check out Casa de Sweets.  Much of it was pretty standard candy, but they make their own fudge, chocolates, and chocolate-covered fruit and nuts, and it was all good.  My mind was not blown, but hey, when is homemade fudge not delicious?

IMG_7349

I cannot say I was impressed with the wine, but they did have some unique flavors.  Along with some standard whites and reds, Casa de Wine sports a line of fruity wines which were certainly intriguing.  It’s not every tasting room that will serve you an apricot, blackberry, or pomegranate wine.  I wasn’t a fan of all of them, but the plum was good, and the sparkling pomegranate I actually considered buying.  Alas, it, like all of their wines, was grossly overpriced.  You could basically get the same flavor from sparkling pomegranate juice for a quarter of the price.  BUT the tasting was FREE!!!  You know I love me some free, especially free wine.

IMG_7350

While I did feel like their products on the whole were well-made, they are all on the pricy side, and I just don’t think the quality justifies it.  It’s so easy to find good handmade candies, luxury nuts, and farmstand fruits in this area that are cheaper, higher quality, or both.  And if you’ve read anything else on this blog, you know good wine (read:  better wine) is about as easy to find near Silicon Valley as computer programmers.  But if you’re looking to find all of these things in one place, want a place with variety, or just need somewhere to stop on your drive south, Casa de Fruta is certainly worth a look.

Categories: Bay Area Day Trips, Food, Local Travel, Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chillaxing at Clos La Chance Winery

So apparently there’s this thing called the Santa Clara Valley, and they have wine there.  Though I’ve been visiting the wineries in this area for well over two years, I just today learned it is called the Santa Clara Valley.  I call it Morgan Hill.  Or San Martin.  Or that thing off the 101 between San Jose and Gilroy.  Whatever, the point is, there’s wine there.

I like wine.

I like it a lot.

But I have not been particularly impressed by the wine in this region.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s perfectly drinkable.  It just hasn’t impressed me the way other regions in the Bay Area have.  Like the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Or Monterey.  Or Sonoma.  Or Napa.

What can I say?  I like the best.

The wineries in this area must know that they lack a certain flavor because in lieu of subtle hints of dark cherry fruit, they have style.

Clos La Chance is an excellent example of this phenomenon.

IMG_7016

If you are looking to get married at a winery but don’t want to drive to Napa, this one is well worth checking out.  Their grounds are huge for a winery and very nice as well.  Manicured lawns overlook row upon row of grapevines, and there are several decks with cute little tables and chairs that provide sun, shade, and a pleasant view whilst sipping your wine and nibbling on cheese.

IMG_7018

The main building is also something worth seeing.  It is quite literally covered in vines and sports rather unique decor–from tapestries to ancient books to a giant fireplace to metal-worked chairs sporting palm tree designs.  Eclectic much?  And yet it seems to work out.

IMG_7013

IMG_7012

IMG_7023

The tasting experience if not the actual wine is rather pleasant as well.  The tasting bar is long and pretty, the pours are ample, and the cost is a mere $5.  Plus, they let you wander the grounds while drinking which makes the experience that much more enjoyable.

IMG_7003

Like I said, the wines themselves are less than amazing.  I thought the Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir and the Reserve Petite Sirah were worth paying for but not worth their asking price.  The only wines I truly enjoyed were the dessert wines.  They have great pride in their Late Harvest Zin, and I greatly enjoyed the Port as well.  Port is the one thing this region actually does well.  Although you should probably take that statement with a heap of salt because my husband and I love Port in all of its marvelous forms.

IMG_7020

One of the things I really like about this winery is its desire to entertain.  During the summer, they have live music on Thursdays and Sundays, and their website actually tells you when and who’s playing!  Amazing!  (The website for my favorite winery in the South Bay has been “under construction” for at least two years.  Seeing one that actually gets updated is a welcome breath of fresh air).

IMG_7006

Clos La Chance is a nice place to hang out for an afternoon and sip some wine.  It’s ambience alone is certainly worth a visit.  Especially when paired with Port.

IMG_7015

Categories: Bay Area, Local Travel, San Jose, Santa Clara Valley, Wine | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.