Tag Archives: gilroy

Satori Cellars

In Gilroy, California there are many wineries off of Hecker Pass Highway.  These wineries are on the "main drag" of Santa Clara County wine tasting tours that travel from Morgan Hill to Gilroy.  If you are looking for a winery that is off the beaten path (and you are trying to avoid the tour buses of inebriated sommeliers-for-a-day) I recommend going to the East side of Gilroy to visit Satori Cellars.

Satori – is a Japanese Buddhist term for enlightenment that literally means "understanding". In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to a flash of sudden awareness, or individual enlightenment, and is considered a "first step" or embarkation toward nirvana.

Satori is not just a moment of enlightenment, it is also the first letters of the names of the family that owns and operates the winery (Sandy, Tom, and Riley).  Not every winery has the privilege of having such a unique and meaningful name.  Satori cellars is a small winery in Santa Clara Valley that has 15 acres of grapes and a beautiful outdoor tasting room.  There is a bocce ball court, picnic tables, and a lavender labyrinth garden that you can enjoy while you are experiencing their offerings.  Music is always playing and something is going on every weekend at Satori.

They have a variety of excellent wines, and three of my favorites are: Cabernet of the Blue Hand, Harmonic Convergence, and JoyoUS.

Cabernet of the Blue Hand 2006 Estate – This is a big, bold 100% estate grown wine that will knock your socks off.  It is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  I have heard that new wineries take about 10 years to start making good wines from their grapes, but this wine is an exception to that rule.  I have tasted a couple years of this wine ('06 and '07) and I have to say that the 2006 is my favorite so far.  Flavors of black cherry and dusty earth with just a hint of tobacco make this one of my favorite wines. Period.

Harmonic Convergence Estate Reserve 2007 – This is one of the wines that Tom seems to take an exceptional amount of pride in, and he should.  A blend of Petite Syrah (81%), Syrah (11%), and Zinfandel (8%) make this a meaty wine, but with solid fruit overtones.  This wine has an aroma of blackberries with tasting notes of mocha, tobacco, and blackberries.  As you can tell. the blackberry tones really hit me on this wine, in a good way of course.

JoyoUS Estate Reserve 2007– JoyoUS is the go-to red wine in my house.  When we are having people over for dinner and we want to open a bottle of red, we open a Joyus.  It has a blend of flavors that all of our friends and family have found palatable.  Comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (46%), Syrah (39%), and Merlot (15%) and aged for 20 months in French oak, it is a solid red wine that pairs easily with pasta, steak, or a crisp autumn evening.  Scents of spice and black raspberry blend seamlessly with flavors of smoke and a slight hint of vanilla.

Satori wine labels

Solis Winery

Here is yet another wonderful winery in Santa Clara Valley.  Solis Winery uses “modern technology to produce meticulously crafted award-winning wines” that also taste good!  Solis is located on Hecker Pass, on the left if you are coming from Gilroy, with a cluster of other wineries.  Because it is near so many other wineries, they get quite a few tours coming through the tasting room and can be quite crowded on the weekends.  I personally like a more intimate tasting experience, so I recommend going there during the week if possible.  The tasting room is actually down a few SolisWinerystairs once you enter the building and there is a very nice outdoor area that you can enjoy while tasting.  Their tasting room has always stuck in my mind because of the stairs that you have to go down and the almost half circle bar that they have; it is unique in my experience.  There were two wines that I found exceptional in my experience: the Seducente and the Merlot.

2005 Seducente – Pronounced “sed-u-chent-ay” (I was corrected on this so many times I was ready to throw it in thebottles02 face of the person correcting me).  It is a Super Tuscan wine made of estate Sangiovese and Merlot from Mann Vineyards.  I found strong flavors of black cherry when I tasted this wine, and the Sangio blended with the Merlot really smoothed out the tannins.  I am a huge fan of Sangiovese by itself, so when it is blended I usually wonder why a good wine was wasted.  I did not wonder that with this wine; this blend works perfectly.  I want to buy enough of it to have a bottle every week (too bad the reality of bank accounts and having no place to store it keep me from doing just that).

2005 Merlot Estate – I thought that this was an excellent example of what a Merlot should taste like.  It had body and flavor without being too heavy on the tannins; extremely smooth and easy to drink.  I tasted berries and plum in this wine, along with a slight hint of earth, ironically I couldn’t smell anything past the good red wine smell.  I was enraptured.  I am not surprised that this wine has won two gold medals, only surprised that it has not won more!

While I did not personally taste the 2004 Sangiovese Estate, I have been told by many friends that it is an excellent wine.  Currently the winery is sold out of it, which is why I did not taste it, but it can be found stores.  I was referred to the local Nob Hill Foods as the best bet to get some.  They also make a Fiano, which is a rarely found Italian white wine varietal.  I cannot wait to go back and try this one in particular.  Along with these superb wines, Solis produces Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Meritage called Cara Mia among others.  One final thing to mention is the Solis Wine Club; I am not a member but I have friends and family that are.  If you are interested in joining a wine club that has great events focused on food and wine pairings, you might want to consider Solis.bottleneck

Thomas Kruse Winery

Out past the Outlets in Gilroy there is a handful of wineries that enjoy the peace and quiet of being on that side of town.  Most of the other wineries are on the Hecker Pass side of town, but if you make the drive to Gilroy, I suggest exploring the other side of town for a more personal tasting experience.  Thomas Kruse Winery is one of the best onesIMG_2266 to try; with the good wine, laid back atmosphere, and beautiful view it is easy to spend hours just hanging out there.

After traveling down a gravel drive past Cabernet vines you arrive at the tasting room, which is also the main winery building.  Don’t expect fancy lighting and decor to distract you from the wine; the bar is a rough table and most of the light is natural sunlight.  I have 3 favorite wines from this winery, but I have been told that I will add a fourth once I try the Apricot Desert Wine (which is not released yet).

2006 Chardonnay – If you like an oaky, buttery Chardonnay this is not the place for you.  In fact, don’t even ask for one, unless you are joking.  This wonderful example of a Chardonnay had the aroma of kiwi and fresh apples.  I could smell this wine all day long, assuming I did not drink it all.  Sipping the wine the first thing you notice is a fresh crisp green apple flavor with pineapple following as a gentle finisher.  Sitting outside in the beautiful California weather is the perfect setting for this excellent wine.

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Isn't the Port a beautiful color?

Gilroy Red – This is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that goes down very smooth.  I think that this is a quintessential table wine for any sort of meal, and a good wine to bring to a dinner party.  Smelling this wine gives hints of leather and blackberries while the taste brings up memories of black cherry with a slight hint of pepper.  This is currently the most popular wine, so get some while it lasts.

2006 Estate Merlot – This Merlot manages to be very smooth without sacrificing anything in the way of flavor.  It has the aroma of plum and tobacco with the flavor of blueberry and light tannins.  It has a beautiful color when held up to the sun, if you can leave enough in your glass to actually look at it.

Along with these wines, TK Winery also makes a wonderful Port wine.  I am generally not a fan of Port; the ruby ports are too sweet and the tawny ports are too strong.  This port is made from Cabernet grapes, rather than the Zinfandel grapes that are normally used.  I do not know enough about Port to say more than “I like it!”  If you get a chance, try the Port before it is gone!Thomas Kruse Winery

Jason-Stephens Winery

Take a drive on Watsonville Road and you will see a winery with palm trees lining the driveway and wildflowers growing between the vines.  You have reached Jason Stephens Winery!  We heard about this winery from family friends and were very happy with our experience there.  It is so nice to see a younger winemaker out on his own and being successful.  Jason Stephens Winery has a modern feel to it compared to other wineries.  The tasting room is the the barrel warehouse which is very clean and open.  Lighter colored walls, open space, and high ceilings make it a nice place to be after all the small and cramped tasting rooms.

2007 Estate Chardonnay – This was a nice complex Chardonnay that managed to be very fruit forward while still being oaked.  It smelled of pears and tasted smooth and fruity without being buttery.

2006 Merlot – This was my favorite wine of the ones that we tasted.  It was much more flavorful and complex than other Merlots I have tasted.  It had a good amount of tannins but still was able to be extremely smooth drinking.  I smelled tobacco and berries and tasted earth and more berries.  Now let me say that this is definitely not a fruity wine.  It is still a good strong Merlot for all the berries I tasted and smelled.

2006 Dorcich Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – There were 2 Cabs to taste and this one was our favorite of the two.  This wine had a very dark color, a beautiful purple-red that you would expect from a Syrah.  When I first saw the color of the wine I thought, Ohhhhhhh pretty!  In this wine I smelled cherries and black pepper and tasted smooth tannins and cherries again.  I am not a huge Cab fan, so they have to be extremely smooth for me to be able to enjoy a whole glass.  With this Cab, I could enjoy a whole bottle!  If Jack didn’t drink it first, that is. 

The vines and flowers