Psst! That’s right — you, the wine lovers of Santa Clara County! Over here!
Wine lovers from the north end of the valley can be forgiven if they’re a little startled to suddenly hear from the dozens of wineries in South County, the area from Morgan Hill to Gilroy. Compared with the growers and producers of the powerhouse regions of Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey, the South County wine industry has labored in the vineyards in relative obscurity.
But the dozens of wineries in Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy are now in the midst of a play for a lot more attention, especially from residents of the northern parts of the county.
Crushing bureaucratic hurdles
That’s where Mike Wasserman, the South County supervisor, was able to help.
“I found out there were a lot of logistical issues to deal with: collaboration between the various entities (Morgan Hill, Gilroy, the county, Caltrans); who would pay for the signs, who would install the signs, what color will he signs be, who would maintain them, the logo, etc.,” Wasserman said. “I thought it was an absolutely great idea to help promote our agriculture, our viticulture, jobs, small businesses, all those things, so I got all those parties together in a room. I’m happy to say that we ironed all those things out and got an agreement between all the entities on who would take on which responsibilities.”
“That was huge,” says Karen Seeker, owner of Seeker Vineyard, a small, boutique winery in San Martin and president of Wineries of Santa Clara Valley. “The wine trail has been so important to us. It not only gets people down to this area, but it helps them navigate once they’re here.”
A winery in the backyard
Dozens of wineries are located along the 28-mile long trail. With the help of the County, easy-to-spot Wine Trail signs now guide motorists, making these South County wineries more accessible than ever.
Even many longtime County residents may not be aware that they’re only a 15- to 30-minute drive from the oldest wine-producing region in the state.
Not only are these wineries closer than those in Napa or Sonoma, many also offer free or low-cost tastings of their award-winning selections. Plus the trail includes an amazing variety of approaches and lovely settings, says Seeker. “I think once you get down here and you taste the wines and you have the opportunity to meet the winery owners, who in most cases are the winemakers, it’s just a unique experience.”