Clean lines of crisp yellow pear and daffodil meet with an alkaline minerality on the nose of this bottling of an increasing popular grape, which holds acid even in warm conditions. The palate is quite grippy, showing chalk as well as fresh citrus-spray and sliced melon flavors. – Matt Kettmann
Bucking the long tradition of Bordeaux-style wines in this valley is a growing trend of Rhône-style wines. For many years, the wineries of Santa Clara Valley have produced wines made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, zinfandel and other Italian varietals such as sangiovese and charbono. Without a real focus, our collective winemakers have produced a scatter-gun variety of wines—not really specializing in any one type of grape. Not that this is a bad thing, it’s just different than what many up-and-coming wineries are doing now; specializing in a wine type—specifically, Rhône styles.
Wanting to impress my winery-spoiled sister visiting from Napa, we ventured over to Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery in San Martin, where the most heavenly expression of Rhone style wine is made.
We were greeted by Kim and Todd Engelhardt, the friendly winemakers. Like many winery owners, they split the duties. Todd farms, while Kim takes care of the business end and they both make the wine.
Specializing in all Rhone varietals, their five acres comprise two vineyards. The white vineyard includes: viognier, marsanne, roussanne, grenache blanc and picpoul blanc. The red vineyard contains grenache noir, syrah, mourvedre and cinsault…
Long before computer chips took hold, fruit orchards and grapevines flourished in Silicon Valley. The region’s fertile soils earned the moniker Valley of Heart’s Delights. Even now, despite rampant high-tech growth, more than two dozen wineries are thriving just south of San Jose in the Santa Clara Valley.
San Martin is a perfect place to start exploring this South Bay wine scene on a sunny day, with three outdoor tasting rooms — including two that opened only recently — plus a picnic stop for a leisurely day among the vines.
Lion Ranch Vineyards & Winery
Enter the 6-month-old Lion Ranch property…
Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. The days are shortening as the sunlight angles farther to the south. There is a sense of crispness in the air.
The leaves of trees and vines are changing color, although the vibrancy is muted due to the drought. And there is feeling of relief and rest ahead after a long hot summer. Why not enjoy the fruit of the vine paired with a nip in the air as we celebrate harvest time? Let’s pause before the holidays to absorb for a moment this truly wonderful place we call home.
Did I use the word “holiday?” Oh no, the hustle and bustle that makes us hurdle over Thanksgiving is soon upon us. So instead of a brisk walk, we will amble around the tasting area of Lion Ranch and enjoy the hospitality of owners Todd and Kim Engelhardt. I introduced myself to the couple recently and asked if I could write a piece on the history of the Lion (say “Lee-On’ as if your were speaking French) family after whom their winery was named…
The Wineries of the Santa Clara Valley celebrated the one-year anniversary of the local Wine Trail on Aug. 29. Mike Sampognaro of Morgan Hill Cellars, current president of the Wineries of the Santa Clara Valley, helped to re-unveil the Wine Trail signs and perform a ribbon cutting ceremony with members of the Morgan Hill and Gilroy chambers of commerce…
…Last year’s inaugural event began at one of the area’s oldest wineries, Guglielmo Winery in Morgan Hill. This year’s event began at Lion Ranch in San Martin, one of the newest wineries in the area, and followed a tour of other newcomers such as Stefania in Gilroy and Seeker in San Martin. The tour then concluded with a visit to Lightheart Cellars in San Martin, a neighbor to Lion Ranch.
Wine tasters could then follow the signs and taste at participating wineries as they celebrated the anniversary of the event.
It’s been a little more than a year since the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail was inaugurated. At Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery Aug. 29, a celebration of the one-year anniversary took place, with local wine-makers proclaiming the trail is a proven success, bringing in an increasing number of customers who want to get away from Napa Valley and other over-commercialized regions and instead discover a re-emerging California wine country.
In the Gilroy, San Martin and Morgan Hill region, there are about 25 wineries — some of them long-established such as Guglielmo Winery and Morgan Hill Cellars and other relatively new such as Paradise Valley and Castillo’s Hillside Shire Winery. With many of them still family-run (Guglielmo for 90 years!), they offer a far different experience from other regions’ wineries glutted by tourists attracted by heavy marketing.
For their first big adventure as a newlywed couple in 2009, Todd and Kim Engelhardt decided to dive head first into the South Valley wine industry. Living in San Francisco, they took the daring step to move to San Martin where they found a five-acre piece of land north of the community. It proved to be the perfect place for their newly opened Lion Ranch Vineyard & Winery.
One of the first things they did was to search out their property’s history. In Santa Clara County title records from long ago, they found out that 6,000 acres of the land were once known as the Lion Ranch, named after a French man whose last name was Lion. Monsieur Lion’s moniker seemed to be the perfect name to christen their winery, the couple decided.
Lion Ranch, a new winery in San Martin, is gearing up for its grand opening celebration next month.
The proprietors, Kim and Todd Engelhardt, may be transplants from San Francisco, but they are no strangers to the local wine industry. Kim Engelhardt spent a few years working at Sarah’s Vineyard in Gilroy learning about every aspect of the business, from grapes to sales.
For three harvests she apprenticed in the cellar and winery learning how to make wine and the rest of the year in the tasting room. She says that this time was integral to her skills and the development of their own winery, and the support of the local industry in their endeavor has been phenomenal. “It has been a community of encouragement, cooperation and support,” she said.’
The couple fell in love with the wines of the Rhône valley, and especially Viognier from the area of Condrieu, on a trip to France in 2009…