Archive for the ‘Wine Tasting’ Category

Winery Tasting Room Etiquette

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

women smelling a glass of red wine

You love a good bottle of wine and get the chance to visit your favorite winery. It is your first visit to a winery and you are not sure how things work. Before you go, it is a good idea to brush up on what is considered proper etiquette for a winery tasting room. (more…)

Gilroy Wineries–Take a Self-Guided Wine Tour through Gilroy

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Collage of gilroy wine vineyard and grapes

Wonderful Gilroy Wineries Along Hecker Pass Highway

If you are looking for wineries in Gilroy, the secret is out. Gilroy, known for its garlic, partly due to the widely popular annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, has a treasure chest of wonderful wineries. And right along the Hecker Pass Hwy are some hidden gems that you may never heard of, or just driven by.

Hidden Gems of Gilroy

If you are interested in taking a short self-guided tour, or you’ll be passing through the area and want to visit some great wineries, check out these four wineries:

  • Solis Winery
  • Sarah’s Vineyard
  • Fortino Winery
  • Hecker Pass Winery

All of these wineries are within a mile of each other and wonderful for unique and different reasons. However, anything you may hope for is available amongst these four, delicious wines, family atmosphere, picturesque views, quaint or large tasting rooms. Everything is available, and at least one of the wineries is sure to steal your heart.

Take the Tour

The tour starts at Solis Winery and ends at Hecker Pass Winery which is right off the Hecker Pass highway near the Gilroy Gardens Theme Park.

Below is a short description and contact information on each of the wineries. We also included for your convenience a google map for you to save to your smartphone (the google map in conjunction with your smartphone will guide you to each location). Make sure you save the map to your phone.

Solis Winery

Solis Winery is a gorgeous award winning winery,  recently winning gold  at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and Double Gold at the 2014 New World International Wine Competition (Check here for most recent awards). Relax and enjoy the breathtaking views of the vineyard, through the glass wall that serves as a backdrop to the servers in the tasting room. Solis is known for well-made, delicious wine, friendly service and the gorgeous view that takes your wine tasting experience to another level.

Solis Contact:
3920 Hecker Pass Hwy. Gilroy, CA 95020
Phone: 408-847-6306 or 888-838-6427

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard is literally a 5 minute walk across the street from Solis (so you won’t have to travel too far). Sarah’s vineyard has a wide and wonderful selection of wines and a knowledgeable and polite staff. The outdoors area is very elegant and a wonderful place to have a picnic. And if you make the trip on a Friday, checkout the Friday night music for a little extra fun.

Sarah’s Vineyard Contact:
4005 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy, CA 95020
Phone: 408 842-4278

Fortino Winery

Continue along the Hecker Pass Hwy and just down the road you’ll find Fortino Winery. Fortino Winery was Gilroy’s Chamber of Commerce 2014 Small Business of the Year. Fortino is a picturesque winery and after visiting, you may want get to get married there (don’t say we didn’t warn you. The tastings are great and the staff makes you feel welcomed in the large and comfortable tasting room.

Fortino Contact:
4525 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy, CA 95020

Hecker Pass Winery

Your tour will end at Hecker Pass Winery, which is about a 2 minute walk (next door) from Fortino Winery. Hecker Pass is a gorgeous winery and another perfect place for a wedding. The wines are affordable and delicious, and if you like reds, Hecker pass has a wide variety of reds just for you. The tasting room is quaint and relaxed and the staff is educated and friendly.

Hecker Pass Winery Contact:
4605 Hecker Pass Rd Gilroy, CA 95020
408- 842-8755


The Ultimate Guide to Barrel Tasting on Super Barrel Tasting Day in Santa Clara Valley

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

wine barrel

This year’s Super Barrel Tasting Day in Santa Clara Valley is February 6, 2016. Barrel tastings can be great fun, and of course this year the valley has a little extra excitement buzzing in the air due to Super Bowl 50.

The 2016 Super Bowl will be held on February 7th at Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara, California, which is home to the San Francisco 49ers. So whether you are a Santa Clara native or visiting for the “Big Game” here are a few tips to have a great barrel tasting day and we hope to see you in Gilroy at Solis Winery!

If you are not familiar with “barrel tastings,” wineries open the tasting rooms and pour wines straight from the barrel – long before they are bottled.  It’s a unique experience and we want to help you get the most out of this year’s super barrel tasting.


Palate Cleaners – 5 Ways to Cleanse Your Palate

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Lemon sorbot in a glass used as palate cleanser

It’s a mild summer day in northern California. You’re many hours removed from the scorching heat that affects the southern half of the state. You just might be in Gilroy, California for a wine tasting — one that lasts all weekend long. Rocky Balboa had to get his body into fighting shape like any other boxer. That means you, wine taster — and, perhaps, budding sommelier — must do the same for your sensitive taste buds. There are some handy instant ways to prime your palate for a round of sensible spirit imbibing.

What is Varietal Wine?

Thursday, November 13th, 2014


Becoming a wine connoisseur requires that you increase your vocabulary to better discuss and select the different wines that are available to you. A wine varietal is a wine that comes from a single grape variety. Frequently, the name of the wine varietal is listed on the wine bottle. Commonly used wine varietals are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir. If you run across a wine that uses the name of two or more varieties or a proprietary name, it’s actually a blend. One example is our Cara Mia.  Blends are useful for smoothing out the flavor of a wine and changing the characteristics of a typical single grape variety wine.

Why Identify Wine Varietals

After the Prohibition Era, Maynard Amerine pushed for growers to use wine varietals to improve categorization and labeling of wine. Varietal wines are a newer tradition that gained traction in the United States. Although, Germany was also labeling wine varietals as well. The practice of labeling wine varietals became widespread in the 1970s.

Wine Flavors

A varietal wine tells you the kind of flavor to expect from a wine. If you select a Merlot varietal, then you know to expect a softer, medium weight wine that often has hints of herbs, green olive, cherry or chocolate profiles. A Cabernet Sauvignon has a softer profile with less tannins and generally provides a cedar flavor profile with hints of vanilla. Meanwhile, a Chardonnay contains hints of fruits like apple, pear, peach, pineapple and others. As you continue to try different varietals and compare them to each other, you will learn which wines you like and be able to identify the complex flavor profiles in each varietal.

Uses in Marketing

Labeling a wine varietal makes it easier for consumers to pick wines that suit their palates. If you know you like the wine characteristics of Merlot grapes, you can narrow down your selection options and make it easier to find a new wine. With so many potential branded wine names, it can be somewhat difficult to get any real value judgments about the type of wine by simply looking at the name of the wine.

Are Varietal Wines Superior?

In short, naming a wine by its grape variety does not inherently make the wine superior. It does however, make it easier to locate wines of a particular flavor profile. You may find that you like varietal wines better than blended or vice versa. At the end of the day, your palate will lead you to the superior tasting wine.


 Gilroy Wine Tasting

If you will be in the Gilroy area, stop by our winery and taste some of our award winning wines.

Hosting A Blind Wine Tasting Party

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Three people enjoying a San Jose wine tasting in the nearby Solis Winery located in Gilroy California.Hosting a wine party can be a lot of fun, but hosting a blind wine-tasting party can be even more entertaining. Your guest will blindly taste different brands, wine varieties, and even price ranges, and then guess what they’ve tasted and rate flavor, scent, etc.  You’ll definitely be in for some fun once the guessing starts and people are inevitably wrong or right. Having the party is simple enough and you only need a few things to make it successful.

Select a Theme

Selecting a theme is usually the first step in planning your party. A theme will give your party some structure and purpose and a great theme will get your guest excited about your party before they arrive.  Try to think about your guest and what would be fun for them and select your theme, e.g. France, Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, dessert, etc.  Once you’ve selected your theme, you will need a few items in preparation of the party.

Something to drink and something to pour the drink into

You can’t have a wine party without wine, but you don’t have to supply all the wine yourself. Have your guest bring a bottle that fits within your party theme.  You’ll also want to double check and make sure you have enough wine glasses before the date of the party.

Something to write on and something to guide your guest

Your guest will write their guesses and ratings on a note card or a piece of paper. You may want to have a little tasting guide that gives your guest some parameters and direction so there is a general understanding and you are not stuck explaining all night.

Something to hide the wine

You could blindfold everyone, but an easier way is to put all the wine bottles in brown paper bags and use the tape to secure the bag to the bottle.  That way, both the label and the shape of the bottle will be hidden from your guests.  Be sure to remove the corks and capsules too, often times they can reveal what the hidden wine is.

Something to cleanse the palate

Your guest will taste multiple wines in a fairly short period of time and will need something to cleanse their palate.  You may use unflavored water, white or French bread or crackers to assist with the palate cleansing during the party.  Ultimately, you will want to finish with a meal or dessert to absorb the several tastings.

Invite your guest and have the party

Now that you have selected a theme and got all your items in preparation, the only thing left to do is to have the party and have some fun too.  Remember, to be safe and if you have a few friends that had too much fun, call them a cab or make it a sleep over.

As long as you’re prepared, your blind wine tasting party should be a hit.


How to Keep Wine Fresh

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

If you love to drink wine or simply drink on occasion you’ve probably left a few bottles unfinished. An unfinished bottle of wine presents you with a simple question, “What do I do with this unfinished bottle of wine” many novice wine drinkers don’t think about the shelf life of a bottle of wine or how to keep an open bottle fresh for as long as possible. Of course, the wine will be most enjoyable at its freshest, but sometimes you need to store an opened bottle for later consumption. If stored incorrectly you are likely to ruin the remainder of what was a delightful bottle.  Here are some tips to help you keep your open wine fresh and how to preserve its bouquet and flavor.


Wine Tasting Tips – What to look for when tasting wine?

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Tasting wine can be very subjective and while some wine drinkers only drink what they like and that’s good enough for them; how do we objectively evaluate wine?  Is it possible that a wine could be good even though you don’t like it and if so how can you tell?

The first thing to understand is that tasting wine objectively is a skill and you have to become knowledgeable enough to do so. This comes with experience and over time that skill will develop into expertise that will give your palate more distinctions.

This still begs the questions:  what are those distinctions and the criteria for assessing great wine?  Karen MacNeil author of the Wine Bible suggested there are five qualities a wine taster must assess in order to determine a wine’s quality:  distinct varietal character, expressiveness, integration, complexity and connectedness.  In this article we will discuss the first three as complexity and connectedness can be somewhat elusive to even highly skilled wine tasters.


Wine Terms Demystified: Part 1

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Wine displayed on a log with grapes at the Solis winery close to San Jose CaliforniaWine tasting can be complicated, with many very technical terms. These terms can make wine tasting seem inaccessible to the uninitiated. There is no reason to be scared though. To help it seem less intimidating I have compiled a list of terms that you may hear at a wine tasting. I am not including the terms that seem self explanatory, like some of the terms used to describe fruit flavors (orange and peach for example). This is just part one of the definitions. More will come over the coming weeks and months. If you want to practice you wine tasting and try out your new wine vocabulary come to our wine tasting room any day from Noon until 5pm. If your a first time visitor, before you come for a visit, don’t forget to print out a 50% off coupon for any purchases you may make. If you need directions, please visit the maps page. I can’t wait to meet you and help your start your journey to becoming a wine aficionado.

Acid, Acidity – Wine’s have acidy that is natural which gives the wine a tart taste which is a necessity for wines to have a balance in flavor. If there is too much acidity the wine can become sour. Too little and the other flavors can become overpowering, too sweet or fruity for example.

Anise – This can mean too things. First it is a  mild licorice flavor usually found in red wines from Spain. Second it can actually mean that a vineyard has tried to raise the acidity artificially. This can mean a great wine for drinking soon but usually the wine does not store, or “cellar”, well.

Attack – A phrase that sound funny when talking about wine. It is the term used to describe the first flavors that are tasted when the wine reaches your tongue.

Backbone – Think of this as the wine standing up on its own. This is a compliment that means that the wine has the correct amount of “acid” and “structure”

Big – This does not have anything to do with the size of the wine bottle. Instead it means a wine that has a lot of flavor.

Body – A description that has to do with the amount of sugar in dessert wines, and alcohol and glycerin in other wines. It is used to describe the texture and thickness that you feel when drinking the wine.

Bouquet – A scent that develops over time in an aging bottle of wine. This is the initial smell that is release when the bottle is opened.

Bright – This can mean either a flavor or a color. The color description should be obvious, but as a flavor it means it has an abundant level of acid without become to abundant.

Brilliant – Only used to describe a visual element that means that the wine is very easy to see through.

Brooding – No this has nothing to do with your emotions when you drink it. This term is usually used to describe promising red wines that have a lot of complex flavors .

Carbonic Maceration – A very technical sounding term for the very simple idea of fermenting grapes without crushing them. Wines made with this process usual are very fruity with a pleasant hint of vinegar.

Cat Spray – Your first thought may be EEEWWW, but this can actually be a compliment paid to Sauvignon Blancs. This simply means that the wine has a very desirable  strong muskiness.

Chewy –  Sometimes also called “chunky”, that is a term that has to do with the “body” of the wine. In a nutshell this means that you could almost chew the wine because it has so much body.

Clean – A wine that is very pleasant with almost no flaws in the taste and smell.

Learn To Taste Wine In 5 Easy Steps

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Three people enjoying a San Jose wine tasting in the nearby Solis Winery located in Gilroy California.Us in the wine industry tend to make things complicated. We make tasting wine out to seem like an art form that you must spend years perfecting. The good news is that anyone can start tasting wine and develop a great wine pallet. While learning the wide variety of terms is one part of tasting wines, it isn’t the first step on your journey to enjoying wine. First you need to understand the five steps of the wine tasting process. In a follow-up post (or posts) we will start defining the terms that are used.

Step One: Look At The Wine

This step tells you a lot about the wine even before you taste it. You want to see how this wine compares to other wines of the same type, or “varietal.” For example if you are tasting a merlot you want to see if the wine is darker or lighter than the other merlots that you have tried. You also want try to look through the wine and see if it is harder or easier to see through. Try to remember what this wine looks like, so you can use it as a comparison when you taste wine of the same varietal again.

Step 2: Smell The Wine

As most people know, much of what we experience as taste is actually a smell. If you smell the wine before you taste it you will have a much easier time distinguishing the flavors that are present in the wine. The best way to expose the aroma of the wine is to gently swirl it in the glass. Once you have spun the wine around the glass get close to the wine and breathe deeply through your nose. Try to identify what you smelled and compare it things that you have smelled in the past. You may smell different fruits, fresh cut grass, a faint trace of leather or almost any variety of other things.

Step 3: Take A Sip Of Wine

A lot of buildup to get here, but the first two steps are important. Take a small sip of wine that is big enough to cover your tongue but small enough to move around your mouth. Again you will want to compare what you are tasting to other wines you have tasted in the past as well as with other foods you have eaten. You also want to compare the taste of the wine to what you smelled a moment ago to see if the taste and the smell match. You also want to evaluate if the wine makes your mouth dry and if it taste strongly of alcohol.

Step 4: Either Spit Out Or Swallow The Wine

This is really a personal preference, but before you swallow that sip of wine try to keep some things in mind. You may be tasting a lot of wine and the more you drink the less sober you will be and the less you will be able to taste the other wines. Also keep in mind that if you are planning to drive later you want to stay as sober as possible. While spitting in most circumstances is frowned upon, when tasting wine spitting is perfectly acceptable.

Step 5: Consider What You Just Tasted

Take a moment to identify the flavors that you tasted. You may think that you should only be tasting fruit flavors, but a wine’s taste can be very complex. You may taste things that aren’t usually even food and that isn’t actually a bad thing. While thinking about the wine, keep in mind that there is not a right or wrong answer when it comes to wine tasting. Just because the person next to you speaks with authority when they tell you what they tasted, it doesn’t mean that you tasted the same thing.

Go Taste Some Wine!

So now that you know how to taste wine like a pro, you need to get out and taste some wine. I would like to invite you to come out and taste the wide variety of wine’s at we produce at our vineyard. Myself, or one of our wine experts, can help walk you through how to taste wine. Make sure to pick up one of our 50% off wine coupons for first time visitors before you come out. Our tasting room is open every day of the week from Noon until 5pm, except on major holidays. We are located at  3920 Hecker Pass Hwy in Gilroy, CA. You can visit our map page to get direction from nearby areas like San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Monterey. I look forward to meeting you.