A visit to Cooper-Garrod and Savannah-Chanelle makes for a perfect day of wine tasting in the beautiful Saratoga Hills.
• By Laura Ness •
Cooper-Garrod: Where Horses Meet Vines
There’s no place else in the Bay Area where you can go horseback riding through organic vineyards, with a bird’s eye view of Silicon Valley, and then, after dismounting, go winetasting in a historic barn where once apricots and plums were dried. If horses aren’t your preferred mode of transport, that’s okay, you can easily amble through the vines, enjoying an up-close communication with nature, perhaps led by Winemaker Bill Cooper himself, who holds regular “Walk with the Winemaker” tours, on the first Saturday of each month from 11 til noon. These tours provide essential winemaking background, as you visit the Chardonnay vineyard, the crush pad, tank farm and barrel room. Finish up in the tasting room to see what comes of it all. The tour is complimentary: wine tasting is additional. Reserve your spot at http://www.cgv.com/reservations.
The Area’s Agricultural History
The organically farmed grounds of Cooper-Garrod Vineyards, just minutes from highways 280 or 85, have been putting forth agricultural treasures since the middle of the 19th century. The entire valley that lies between the Fremont hills and the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, was once a bastion of stone fruit, with apricots, cherries and plums the majority of the crop. Countless orchards blanketed the region, lending a bright white and pink glow to the rolling hills and dales in the early spring. It was a magical time that is captured on the Cooper-Garrod label, depicting the fabulous blossom-laden scene that was once visible from the winery’s vantage point.
The Garrod family began its operation here in 1893 by purchasing lands from the Mount Eden Orchard and Vineyard Company. They produced and dried apricots and plums until 1972, when the aging orchards were replaced with vines, the “retirement project” of Winemaker Emeritus, George Cooper, a NASA test pilot who refined his grapecraft by learning from vintners in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Napa Valley, Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Today, George’s son Bill, continues the winemaking tradition, accompanied by Jan Garrod, whose great grandfather first tended the orchards and vines. Bill, his wife Doris, his sister Barbara and other family members, run this delightfully non-high-tech operation with a healthy respect for the land and a desire to preserve and protect a natural treasure.
Stone Fruit Orchards Give Way to Fine Wines
It was November of 1994 when Cooper-Garrod debuted their label on Passport Day in The Fruit House, which serves as the tasting room. Beginning with Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, they gradually expanded to include Viognier, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot, which gave them the ingredients to create the intriguing, high-flying “Test Pilot” red wine blends.
Not to be missed here is the Cabernet Franc, truly a thing of finesse and aromatic enticement. Behold this garnet colored wine that offers up scents of raspberries and baking spice, delivering lip-smacking flavors of pomegranate and cranberry, accented by nutmeg, cloves and a dusting of cinnamon. You’ll revel in the smooth, everlasting finish.
Bill Cooper likes to pull out some of his special library wines from time to time to demonstrate the ageability of these well-constructed wines. As of this writing, Bill was featuring the 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon at $50/bottle, $40 for Club members.
Cooper-Garrod is located at 22645 Garrod Road in Saratoga. For more information visit www.cgv.com
Savannah-Chanelle: Music to Your Ears & To Your Lips
There are few places in the Santa Cruz Mountains that feel quite as quaint, yet manor-like at the same time. From the outside, the redwood tasting room fits in perfectly with the tree-studded surroundings, echoing the mountainside setting. Inside, though, it is spacious and welcoming, with all manner of excellent, refined wines to suit the most discriminating palate.
Meet the Winemaker Who Makes Wine Sing
Winemaker Tony Craig has been at the helm of this operation since leaving David Bruce Winery in 2003. The London-born Craig pursued a career as a Shakespearean actor before moving to California to take a job in production at David Bruce. Discovering a natural talent for coaxing a winning performance for each wine he touched, he switched gears from stage to cellar, trading a life in the spotlights for one amongst the darkness, surrounded by barrels.
Every vintage he has produced at Savannah-Chanelle has garnered awards, and his estate Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc are prized and coveted for their generous texture, amazing color, heightened aromatics and persistent finishes. The Zinfandel, planted in 1910, is head trained and is among the oldest in the region.
Craig is also famous for his silky, spicy Pinot Noirs, from handpicked vineyards in the Russian River, the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Santa Lucia Highlands. A prolific winemaker, not just for Savannah-Chanelle, but for his own brand, Sonnet, Craig also plays a significant role in the wines of Silver Mountain, Muns and Tondre.
Each one bears a distinctive footprint of the earth from whence it came. Equally apparent is the influence of this winemaker’s gentle, yet firm, hand, in every single wine he crafts. He employs as little oak as possible, preferring to use Hungarian barrels for the rapid impact they make on the wine, adding spice quickly without overt woodiness.
Craig’s Pinots from the Russian River Valley are perfumed and ripe with cola and cherry fruit. One gets that classic Russian River “Dr. Pepper” dollop, rarely found in wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains, which tend toward dark cherry and forest floor. The Estate Pinot, which comes from one very-difficult-to-farm acre of clone 677, offers dusty, spicy black cherry framed by earthy notes for a rich mouthfeel.
Pretty much every wine he touches comes out singing.
A Captivating Hilltop Perfect for Wine and Music
Which leads us to another reason to come visit this idyllic spot, beset with picnic tables and ample lawns for lazing about on a spring or summer day. The lovely Villa, atop the hill, is not only the winery office, but also provides a shaded patio for enjoying two inimitably linked pleasures: wine and music, which some feel are one in the same.
“Music at the Vineyard” takes place on the Villa Patio every Friday and Saturday 6 to 8/8:30 p.m., from May through September. Cost is $10 per person for the general public. Club members receive complimentary admission for two. Wine is available by the glass or bottle. Guest are welcome to bring their own chairs and picnics to enjoy for the evening.
The musical lineup for the upcoming Savannah-Chanelle Music at The Vineyard series includes South City Blues band, Engine Room, Stan Erhart, @Jazz, Redwood, Isis & The Cold Truth and OTR Band.
Come visit this captivating setting and drink in the heady combination of scenery, music and poetry in the glass.
Savannah-Chanelle is located at 23600 Big Basin Way in Saratoga. For more information visit www.savannahchanelle.com
Featured image above:Ilyse Pender pours the wines at Cooper Garrod. Photo by Denise Donegan.