Originally known as the Santa Clara Valley, Silicon Valley wasn’t always known for being the computer capital of America. In fact, the area – known as “the valley of the heart’s delight” by the Native Americans – was California’s first premium wine production region. During the Gold Rush, many French and Italian immigrants were attracted to the valley for its Mediterranean-like climate and rich soil, making it perfect for growing European grape varieties. Since then, Silicon Valley’s wineries have produced some of the best wine in America, many of them offering daily wine tastings, tours, dinners, concerts, and other festivities.
1. Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards
Situated in the scenic hillsides near the small village of Saratoga is Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards, a family-owned and operated winery that’s been in the business since 1893. Scenic yet easy to access, the winery offers its guests a wide range of home-grown wines that can be tasted in their historic tasting room “The Fruit House,” built in 1922. The winery welcomes its guests from 12 to 5 PM on weekdays, and from 11 AM to 5 PM on weekends.
Phenomenal wine, however, isn’t the only attraction that Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards has to offer: Located directly adjacent to the Garrod Farms Ranch, the winery makes a perfect setting for family and group outings, as well as picnics. The entire vineyard itself is especially picturesque, encompassing a total of 120 acres overlooking Silicon Valley.
2. Jazz Cellars
During an annual trip to the New Orleans Jazz Festival, friends and neighbors Joe Lazzara and Bob Smith decided to open a winery based on their mutual love of good music and wine. Officially founded in 2005, Jazz Cellars has focused on producing some of California’s best handcrafted small-lot single vineyard wines ever since. Offering two tasting rooms, the winery is located in Foster City, with their fruits sourced from local growers located in Mendocino, Monterey, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, and Amador counties.
Although the winery produces a wide range of wines, their specialties are Rhone-style wine, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. These wines have helped them win over 40 medals and several awards including Double Gold medals and numerous gold and silver medals.
3. Testarossa Winery
Located 60 miles south of San Francisco in the historic village of Los Gatos is the Testarossa Winery. Founded by husband and wife Rob and Diane Jensen, the winery began when the two left their careers in the tech industry to start a winery based in their garage. Originally producing 25 cases a year, the winery today produces well over 15,000. Their wines have earned them hundreds of 90-point-plus scores from top wine publications and numerous awards.
It’s not difficult to see that the winery is a family-owned establishment: “Testarossa” – Italian for “red head” – was Rob’s nickname during his university years in Italy. Some of the wines also bear the names of their family, such as their reserve Pinot Noir the Cuvée Niclaire, named after their two children Nicholas and Claire. Another example is Diane’s Reserve Chardonnay, which as its name suggests, bears the name of Rob’s wife and co-founder.
4. Rapazzini Winery
35 minutes south of San Jose, Rapazzini Winery is situated in the town of Gilroy, one of the world’s garlic capitals. The winery was founded by brothers Alex and Charlie Lawson, the former of which graduated top of his class from The California Culinary Academy in 1982. The two brothers eventually went on to establish Sandiro’s Ristorante and Bar, which earned three-and-a-half stars and Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence within its first six months of operation. Their experience in the restaurant business helped cultivate a passion for producing delicious and affordable small-lot wines, which led to the founding of Rapazzini Winery.
Today, Rapazzini Winery offers its guests a wide range of medium and full-bodied wines. The tasting room is one of the nicest in the valley, featuring open wood beam ceilings, a bar made from solid copper, and a relaxing warming fire. Their specialty wines include Berry Berry, Apribella, Raspberry Delight, and Almond Champagne, as well as Chateau De Garlic, a white wine with a subtle hint of garlic. www.RapazziniWinery.com
5. Big Dog Vineyards
Specializing in Gold Medal Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and many other red varietals, Big Dog Vineyards is a family boutique winery located in the hills overlooking San Jose. Guests can attend their numerous scheduled wine tastings, some of which are complimentary.
Related article: Restaurants to Try in Silicon Valley