Santa Clara Valley
Gilroy, CA 95020
"Silicon Valley" - it's easy to forget this area's role as California's first premium wine production region - the Santa Clara Valley. Native Americans named it "the Valley of the Heart's Delight." French and Italian immigrants who settled here during the Gold Rush era recognized the rich soils and Mediteranean climate as the perfect New World home for their European grape varietals. And so it begins...
Rediscover The Valley of the Heart’s Delight
Welcome to The Valley of the Heart’s Delight – the Santa Clara Valley – an area now known as the Silicon Valley. This region was originally prized for it’s agriculturally rich soils, access to abundant sources of fresh water, and astonishing educational opportunities.
Situated at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, the valley had the distinction of being the world’s leading producer of packaged and shipped agricultural products – mostly tree fruit, apples, plumbs, apricots, pears, and much more, including grapes.
A growing wine-centric culture flourished with pioneering winegrowers and winemakers. By the late 1880’s, the area around what is now Saratoga, had become recognized as one of the finest winegrowing regions in the world. The Santa Clara Valley hosted the first high-quality French Varietal vines imported from France becoming one of the first commercial wine-producing regions in California.
On a neighboring hilltop, Paul Masson built his famous chateau and winery, and sparkling wine-making facility (it was called Champagne back then – but, that’s another part of local lore and history). Just down the road a bit, in 1852 three years after the beginning of the gold rush, Etienne Theé founded Almaden Winery, also in Saratoga. Etienne Theé planted some of the first domesticated French wine varietals in California wine history.
The region’s bounty led to a boom in technology
As so often has happened to many thriving agricultural regions in the world, the Santa Clara Valley – the Valley of the Heart’s Delight – changed. The stunningly moderate Mediterranean-style climate, abundance of fresh water, and intoxication beauty, influenced many to come to the area seeking a retreat form colder climates.
Also, given the proximity to institutions of higher learning, like Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley, some of the best and brightest engineers and business people in the world, chose to stay close to the area, the beautiful climate, and a mix of rural and urban life.
The invention of silicon chips had manufacturing plants springing up all around the valley. Technology had landed in the valley and needed room to grow. Suddenly technology took over all of the things that had made Santa Clara Valley the ultimate source for fresh fruits and vegetables. Abundant fresh water -- now needed for cooling in the process of silicon wafer production. Abundant sunlight allowing for very pleasant year-round living attracts a growing center of educated and wealthy individuals looking for investment opportunity.
A perfect storm of technology set upon the valley – nature's plants ripped out for manufacturing plants
To make way for companies such a Fairchild, IBM, Intel and many more, vineyards and fruit trees were ripped out to make way for manufacturing plants – forming a technology wave that now needed the infrastructure to support that wave. Residential areas needed to be built to house the executives, engineers, and support staff. Markets, hospitals, banks and schools were built and added to the impact on agriculture. Within a decade, there was very little evidence of the rich vegetation that defined a culture and the delightfully gentile rural life.
A blind tasting of 55 Pinot Noirs on October 22, 2008, clearly identified that wines produced from Pinot Noir grapes grown in these areas bear the unique signature born of the special soils, weather and vegetation present in each of these distinctive domains.
Fast forward to current day
Technology still has a hold on the landscape over all, but following a tradition of passion, family heritage, and entrepreneurial spirit, there’s a new renaissance in Silicon Valley. Vineyards are once again thriving, and a new generation of winemakers, some new to the area, some a part of the old guard that never left, are beginning to carve out a new legacy and a new era of viticulture – once again igniting the spirit of the “Valley of the Heart’s Desire.”
Visit the Santa Clara Valley today, and there are miles of vineyards replacing open fields, and aging orchards along U.S. Highway 101. Urban wineries are taking root in old warehouses. Vineyards and wineries that refused to leave and give in to the forces of technology – and some even fueled by technology – have come to the forefront once again – like a small child who refuses to give up on a dream, and that dream becomes the stuff of legends.
From Guglielmo in the south, to the Cooper-Garrod Family in the hills above Saratoga, a resurgence of wineries now dominates a bit of the landscape. Enjoy and discover the past, present and future of the valley of heart’s delight. Join SignatureWines.com today as we usher you into the new and thriving world of wines while highlight the rebirth of the wine-centric lifestyle in the Santa Clara Valley AVA.