Clos LaChance and David Bruce Vineyards: San Jose Day 2
Dahlia

San Jose Day 3

When I was planning our trip to San Jose and all the wineries, restaurants, and attractions that we wanted to go to, I had some pretty lofty expectations for how many places we were going to cover in 3 days. All in all, the list included 20 wineries and 5 restaurants, and in the end, I was only able to visit 2 restaurants and 7 vineyards. I probably could’ve made an attempt to go to a 3rd restaurant, except, our visit to Manresa the first night was so incredible that we decided to return again on the 3rd night.

Many of the wineries I intended to visit ended up not having a tasting room or their tasting rooms were closed when we were in town. Cinnabar, Mt. Eden, and Silver Mountain were originally on the agenda, but they don’t have a tasting room and are only open on "passport" days. I also would’ve gone to Alghren, which a local wino recommended, except they were only open on Saturdays for tasting. Sigh.

On our last day, we had some slim pickings for wineries that we could actually go to so unfortunately, we ended up spending a lot of time in the car. On the positive side, all of the vineyards that we visited, including Beauregard, Testarossa, and Savannah-Chanelle, were actually very good.

Beauregard Beauregard’s tasting room, the first we visited, was located on Santa Cruz’s wharf and we had a wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean as we tasted the wine. There were a couple drawbacks though. The salty and fishy smell of the air kind of interfered with our ability to smell and taste the wine, plus, we were horribly underdressed. We weren’t expecting the ocean to be so breezy and cool so we ended up being pretty cold the entire time.

On the other hand, the wines at Beauregard ended up being very good, so good in fact, that I ended up joining their wine club. This was the first winery that I visited that didn’t distribute outside of California, and since I liked the wines, I figured I’d sign up for their wine club. We also picked up a bottle of their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, just to take advantage of the 30% discount that came with signing up for their wine club. I’m such a sucker.

I originally intended to visit a couple other wineries in Santa Cruz, but we were cold and we received high recommendations at Clos LaChance about Testarossa Vineyard, so we decided return back up Rt 17 away from the ocean to Los Gatos. The Testarossa Vineyard was situated in a historic Jesuit Monastery on the hillside in Los Gatos and of all the vineyards that we visited, I would say that this was the most…commercial, with lots of t-shirts and memorabilia for sale, and they even charged $10 for a tasting -- the most expensive that we paid.

The $10 tasting was worth it, though, because the Testarossa Pinot Noirs are great! The one Pinot Noir that we ended up buying a bottle of was the ’04 Bien Nacido, a very big, spicy Pinot that’ll put hair on your chest, or take it off, whatever you prefer. I would have bought more, except by this point, we were struggling to figure out how we were going to get the 22 bottles that we’d already bought previously on the plane. I’ll probably order some from the winery directly or hopefully, I can get in touch with their distributor in D.C. We had a nice lunch with some brie and a baguette and drank a couple glasses of the wine that we bought.

On another note, I couldn't get over how nice the weather was in Silicone Valley. A similar experience in D.C. this time of the year would lead to excessive sweating and heat exhaustion, but in California, we didn’t want to go inside.

After Testarossa, we headed a little bit Northwest to a winery called Savannah-Chanelle in the mountains outside of Saratoga. I can’t really say anything different about this vineyard that I haven’t said already about the previous vineyards for the experience was very similar. When we were done tasting the wine there, we were a little sad, for we knew that it was our last vineyard and we’d be returning home the following morning.

In the end, I think we picked the perfect length of stay for this wine region for we were able to go to all of the good wineries that actually have tasting room hours. Plus, I don’t think that we could’ve gone on tasting wine anymore. We were beat.

That night, we returned to Manresa. To save money, we drank the '96 Chardonnay that we bought at David Bruce, althought we still ordered 4 courses. The meal was just as good as the first night we ate there and I couldn't think of a better way to end our trip to the area.

Comments

zorgon

Spectacular. Amazing. I'm going to have to go back there some time now that I'm not a penniless student, and enjoy some of this stuff. Thanks for the great articles.

PS. It's "Silicon" not "Silicone" valley -- Silicone Valley is the San Fernando Valley down south where the pr0n industry is ... ! ;)

Jason

LOL!

S

Great writeup! Can't wait to check out Manresa one day. When I saw the pic of your lovely wife it immediately brought to mind the images of tourists in the Bay Area shuddering in the freezing San Francisco summers - as a transplanted west coaster I can tell you that the old Mark Twain adage is true: "The coldest winter I ever spent is a summer in San Francisco."

Quirkybook

Thanks for your detailed posts of your trip out to the San Jose area! My boyfriend and I moved out here for grad school a couple of years ago, and finally find ourselves with some time on the weekends to go out to do the fun wine country stuff. Your list of wineries will be a good starting point for our own explorations :)

ken

Good post about your trip to California--it looks so beautiful. Which wineries in the Northern Virginia area would you recommend visiting in lieu of being able to go to the West Coast? I want to plan a few day trips this fall with some friends and don't really know where to start!
Thanks!

Jen-Again

I am so glad that you had a chance to visit the Santa Cruz Mt wineries. Most people only think of Napa/Sonoma and give me a puzzled look when I say that SCM wineries are great! Plus, lots cheaper for tastings than Napa/Sonoma- even Testarossa's $10 is cheper than just about anything up north.

I am getting married at Testarossa in 2 weeks- I'll drink a glass of Pinot for you and Amy.

Jennifer, frequent Amalah and DC foodies reader.

Jason

Wow, I can't imagine a winery charging more than $10 for a tasting. That seems like highway robbery to me.

Jason

Ken,
I like Breaux personally, but others would disagree with me. There is a good thread on DonRockwell.com all about this where others, that are far more experts on VA wine, have chimed in on this topic.
http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?showtopic=240

Peyton

Hi, Jason,

I thought I would chime in since it seems that I was in the Bay Area at the same time that you and Amy were. Except we headed north for our wine adventure. Before leaving San Francisco (we spent two nights there, mostly hanging out with friends), we had dinner at Gary Danko (LORD did I have to call early for those reservations). While the food was excellent, as expected, the wine menu was horribly overpriced, and I left feeling a little underwhelmed. Also, if we're going to spend over $300 on dinner for the two of us, we don't want to be seated two feet from the next table.

Moving on, our first night in Napa (we stayed at the Villagio in Yountville), we had dinner at Etoile at Domaine Chandon. I had relatively low expectations because I'm not a huge fan of Domaine Chandon's sparkling wines, but the restaurant had been recommended to us by a co-worker. Honestly, we had a better meal there than at Gary Danko! Everything was fabulous, from my filet (cooked to perfection) to my husband's lobster. And their wine list had extensive local wines, not as overpriced as Gary Danko. I highly recommend Etoile to anyone visiting the Napa Valley.

While we were in Napa, we visited and tasted at Trefethen, Duckhorn, Grgich Hills , Peju Province, Cakebread Cellars, ZD, Robert Mondavi, Goosecross, Stags Leap, and Clos du Val. For us, the must-taste wines from the bunch are from Grgich Hills, Goosecross, and Trefethen. We wanted to visit Paradigm, but they were closed to due a "wine emergency". Cakebread's tasting is guided and lasts over a hour, and we had a VERY long-winded guide. Also, I think their tasting is geared more toward people who know virtually nothing about wine (i.e., "Chardonnay would pair nicely with chicken or seafood.") Skip it, but you can still buy their wines in the store. Also, it's worth paying extra for the reserve tastings at Trefethen, Duckhorn, Grgich Hills and Goosecross (a lovely but very tiny winery). And you can skip Robert Mondavi all together - both my husband and I had the same general sentiment - "blech".

I can't remember the full name of the restaurant we had dinner on the last night (something like "PJ's" and it's in Yountville). It came recommended by the staff at Trefethen, and it was yummy and well-priced. I guess that's about it, just wanted to put my two cents in about California!

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