Posts Tagged With: red wine

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:

 

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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:

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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:

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A Footpath at Marie Antoinette’s Estate

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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.

 

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

Savannah-Chanelle Winery Has It All

Getting to Savannah-Chanelle Winery is its own adventure.  Coasting through redwoods and mountains, it is easy to overlook the small, windy off-shoot of a road that leads to this delicious hideaway.  But keep a weather eye out because the necessary tree-dodging and down-shifting are well worth the reward.

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Once you turn onto the hidden pathway to Savannah-Chanelle, you may well think you are on your way to a private estate instead of a winery.  Driving up the hill, winding around trees, and praying that you don’t meet another car may cause a little apprehension, but all of that disappears when you break into the sun.

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On a lonely hilltop sits the old, white mansion where Savannah-Chanelle’s winemakers once looked out upon their fields.  Surrounded by vines and tree-covered hilltops, this house with its beautiful fountains and manicured lawns looks like a dream.  Well worthy of any wedding, it creates an unparalleled picnicking experience.

But the real gem of the winery is of course the tasting room.  The old, dark wood of this barn sets up a high expectation, one that will absolutely be met.

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Generally, I am not a big fan of red wine.  I like sweet, I like light, and I hate tannins.  You would think a winery that almost exclusively serves red wines would turn me away unhappy.

On the contrary.  Savannah-Chanelle was the winery that convinced me that red wines can be delicious.  All of their wines are low in tannins, high in alcohol content, and exhibit robust, expressive flavors bound to impress.

They specialize in Pinots that will satisfy any palate, from light yet complex flavors all the way to the big, bold flavors red wine connoisseurs love.  But Savannah-Chanelle offers more fabulous wines than just Pinot Noirs.  Their Cabernet Franc has amazingly complex flavors, combining the subtlety of their tamer wines with a bold taste that leaves you wondering how the winemakers could ever create so sophisticated and exciting a drink.  The winery also boasts several Syrahs with varying degrees of “bam” flavor sure to appeal to those who want an extra kick.  But being a dessert fan, my personal favorite will always be their Port.  Made from Syrah grapes, this Port is smooth and velvety while still boasting that extra kick that makes it the best Port I have ever had.

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A discussion of Savannah-Chanelle would not be complete without a standing ovation for its staff.  Kind, lively, and chock full of interesting facts about the wine, vineyard, and pretty much any other topic, their chief pourer, Mike, makes the tasting experience even more special.

Savannah-Chanelle is a fabulous place to eat, drink, and just sit back, relax, and observe the beauty around you.  It is in my opinion the best winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, not least because only those in the know seem to make their way there.  I expect that will not be the case for long.

Categories: Bay Area, Local Travel, Northern California, San Jose, Santa Cruz Mountains, Wine | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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