Another trip to San Juan Bautista, goody, goody. Once again we stayed overnight in the ‘Little House’. The day started very well. We planned to drive to San Juan, buy coffee at Vertigo and go to the house for breakfast. Our plans had a set back though. As we were approaching San Juan, we suddenly realized we did not have the key to the house so had to turn back home to pick it up. The journey which normally takes 40 minutes took us two hours.
Make sure you click on the photos for larger versions.
We were so hungry on the return trip we stopped in Gilroy at the Black Bear Diner for breakfast. We have eaten here many times before but it had always been early in the morning when few customers were around. On this occasion, it was gone 9 and the place was crowded. We had to wait fifteen minutes for a table. By the the time we were shown to our table, Tom was more than ready for his coffee and after twenty minutes he managed to snag a server and ask for coffee. Our order was not taken for another ten minutes. We were also a bit disappointed with our breakfasts when they finally arrived. Tom always asks for his hash browns to be extra crispy and this time they certainly weren’t. I, as usual, had oatmeal. The oatmeal was a bit runny. Not only that, the fruit and nuts came in little packets which were difficult to open. Must make a note to only go to the Black Bear Diner before 8 am.
After settling into the Little House, we set off to take the wine tour. I’d looked online for the names and addresses of the wineries and the times they opened. Our plan was to visit four today. To get there we drove along Highway 156 towards Hollister and then right onto Union Road. Before reaching Highway 25, we turned right on Cienega Road. Soon we were driving along a scenic road lined with nice houses, most of them with paddocks and horses. Along the way Tom spotted a derelict wooden barn in a field and just had to stop and take some photographs. As we drove along the road Tom began to get a little worried. Pleasant though the scenery was, it just did not look like wine country. I assured him we were on the right road and that we would eventually fine the wineries.
We did find the wineries but before we reached our first winery we saw a lot of wildlife. First of all we saw several hawks , sitting on the top of fence posts or high up on telegraph wires. Then we saw a flock of wild turkeys. But our most interesting find was a tarantula. It was crossing the road in front of us. We stopped the car and Tom was able to take quite a few photos of it before it slowly made its made into the thick undergrowth. It seemed completely unaware of our presence.
The first winery we reached was DeRose Vineyards. According to their website, not only has it the world’s largest covered wine cellar but is also the oldest existing winery in California. It is situated right on the road and is not your normal winery. At first it was difficult to find anywhere to park as most places were occupied by Ford Mustangs. The entrance to the tasting room took us into a large warehouse with an intriguing musty smell. There were several other people tasting wine – obviously the owners of the mustangs – but we were greeted warmly and given a couple of glasses. We spent a very pleasant half an hour sampling quite a few wines. First we sampled the whites, starting with a Chardonnay and progressing to a Viognier and an Argentinian wine called Sur de Los Andes. The first two I liked but not so keen on the third. Tom tried the reds, starting with a Cabernet and carrying on to the Sangiovese, the Zin and the Hollywood Red blend. He liked them all except the Zin. We finished up with the a late harvest Viognier, which I really liked. A sign behind the counter took my attention. It said “Squeeze me, stomp me, make we wine” which I thought very amusing. We didn’t buy any wine because it was our first stop and we wanted to try the rest before we decided.
Just as we were walking out of the tasting room we heard two small planes roar past just overhead. We learned that the two pilots were on their way to the winery for a special BBQ they were holding and that was their signal they were about to land at Hollister airport. Someone from the winery would then make their way to the airport to pick them up. Just as we got outside they flew past again and it was amazing to see them pass so close.
We carried on driving down Cienega Road looking for the Pietra Santa winery but we missed it completely, instead finding the third on our list which was the Calera Wine Company. We drove up a steep slope to the winery. From the car park we stopped to admire the view. Just off the car park were picnic tables. It looked like a marvelous place to have a picnic whilst drinking a bottle of wine. We arrived just after they opened and were the first customers. Inside their tasting room were a couple of wine servers who were very friendly. A charge was levied to sample the better wines but four of the cheaper wines were complimentary. We went for the cheaper option. We noticed that the wine bottles did not have corks but glass stoppers and so asked why. Apparently all their wines are sold with the glass stoppers as they consider them to be better than corks. Of the four complimentary wines we sampled we liked two and bought a Chardonnay Central Coast and a Pinot Noir Central Coast. As we were leaving they gave us a glass stopper which can be used on any wine bottle, which we thought was very nice of them.
We drove back the way we came, looking for the winery we missed. We thought we missed it again as we approached DeRose Vineyards. Then we saw the Pietra Santa Winery sign. It was up a side road immediately next to the DeRose Vineyards. As soon as we started driving up the long road to it, passing through lots of vines, we knew we were finally into wine growing country. The leaves on the vines were starting to turn a lovely reddish brown and there were still grapes growing on the vines. One last turn and we saw the winery in front of us and the whole setting was perfect. What a surprise to find a beautiful winery almost on our doorstep. The car park was large and in each direction we could see vines growing on the gently sloping hills. In the car park were a large number of Ford Mustangs and when we got inside we realized why as there was a big group having a meal.
The tasting room we found at the top of a flight to stairs and once again we were warmly welcomed. We didn’t know at the time but we were in for a wonderful treat. There was a $5 wine tasting fee but it would be deducted from any wine we bought. Well we tried lots of different wines. Starting with the whites we tried the Gewurztraminer 2005 to kick off with and it was good. The Signature Collection Amore Pinot Grigio was next which was OK. My favorite was the Signature Collection Chardonnay, aged in French oak barrels. It was sublime with a hint of vanilla. Tom tried the reds – the 2006 Sangiovese, the 2006 Dolcetto, the 2006 Cabernet and finished up with a couple of the Signature Collection wines, the 2004 Vache Red Blend and the Cabernet Sauvignon. He was impressed with them all. In fact we were so impressed with everything that we joined their Wine Club there and then. We bought four bottles to take home with us – the Gewurztraminer, the Signature Collection Chardonnay, the Sangiovese and the Dolcetto. For good measure they threw in a bottle of their olive oil
We were all wined out so didn’t make it to the fourth winery. Instead we drove back to San Juan Bautista feeling very happy with ourselves for finding such a wonderful gem so close to home. We will be regular visitors to the Pietra Santa Winery.
December 28 2010 04:36 pm | Special Places