It all began in 1987 with a few humble rows of chardonnay growing in a backyard. Bill and Brenda Murphy dreamed of being small-scale vintners, and within a few years the wines produced in their bite-size vineyard were tasty enough to sell. With the success of those initial bottles, Clos LaChance Wines—a European-inspired winery—was born, releasing its inaugural vintage in 1992. Since then, the business has grown from producing 200 cases of wine to 80,000, and from less than an acre of backyard to 150 rolling acres of hilly vineyards that have caught the attention of Orbitz and been recommended by numerous other media outlets. The Murphys’ daughters have folded into the business too, and Bill and Brenda hope that someday in the future, their grandchildren will take over and find a way to control the weather.
The Murphys are not only focused on their future, but also on the future of the land and resources for which they are responsible. Clos LaChance Wines is committed to eco-friendly growing and production practices and has been certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. The Murphys built the operation from the ground up, creating an open, Old-World-style space whose rolling hills, ivy-covered walls, and stone-walled courtyard are reminiscent of a villa in Tuscany. They even installed a regulation-size court where guests can bring their own bocce balls for a friendly game.
After immigrating to America early in the 20th century, Emilio Guglielmo saved up for years before he was able buy a plot of land for his winery in 1925. In the years since, three generations of his family have run the vineyard and kept its Old World style alive. Large wooden beams, stone walls, and terracotta tiles surround guests in the tasting room, where they can sample carefully selected vintages. Each year, the winery produces nearly 40,000 cases, including the award-winning 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and Estate Petite Sirah, each of which took home gold medals in San Francisco’s International Wine Competition.
Nestled in the scenic Hecker Pass region of the Santa Clara Valley, the family-owned winery focuses on crafting exemplary grape concoctions unlike anything inside a juice box or peanut butter sandwich. Solis has produced dozens of award-winning wines, baiting a 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition gold medal for its 2008 Muscat Canelli, 2009 Fiano Estate, and 35,000 B.C. Chateau de Cro-Magnon. Grab a pal and perambulate the charming winery premises while sampling a variety of palate-stimulating wines during your tasting for two ($5 value per person). Five wines are included in the tasting. Additionally, budding winecionados will be able to take home a bottle ($12 to $30), such as the red 2006 Seducente ($20) or white 2007 Chardonnay ($24).
Nestled in among redwood trees at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Fernwood Cellars prides itself on its high-quality processes, using only grapes grown on-site and only premium oak barrels for aging. Veteran vintner Matt Oetinger oversees the winemaking process from grapes to bottle, looking after each batch of fermented nectar like a proud parent at a children’s roller-derby bout. Great for a spending a romantic afternoon with a wine-loving date or boldly confronting a grape phobia before it ruins another trip to the supermarket, a visit to the estate allows sippers to get a taste of potable delight before toting home a chosen bottle. Today’s Groupon can be redeemed for a bottle of chardonnay, zinfandel, syrah, or il cane.