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Wine profile: South County celebrates the one-year anniversary of its popular Wine Trail

Published in the Aug. 19 – Sept. 1, 2015 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Cindy Adams

Cindy Adams

Cindy Adams

The Wineries of Santa Clara Valley are getting ready to celebrate a very special anniversary. Saturday Aug. 29, we will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Wine Trail. Many visitors, and even local residents, have enjoyed following the Wine Trail to the 26 wineries of Santa Clara Valley and it has brought increased business to the wineries, restaurants, hotels and retail shops of Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Martin. Many of the wineries will be celebrating this milestone with a special event at their winery, and there will be Wine Trail memorabilia to purchase as well.

While we’re celebrating, it’s good to remember all the hard work and dedication that went into making the Wine Trail actually happen. Those nice signs didn’t appear overnight.

The idea of a Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail was the brainchild of Mike Sampognaro, owner of Morgan Hill Cellars, and Dr. Jon Hatakeyama, a local dentist and Certified Wine Specialist with a passion for South County wineries. In 2012, these two gentlemen first conceived the idea of a trail that would take people from winery to winery. They became active in the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance and found support for a Wine Trail from the members of that group. The two of them then approached Mike Wasserman, the supervisor for Santa Clara County’s District 1.

upervisor Wasserman was a big supporter of South Valley wineries (ask to see his wine-themed socks sometime!) and got excited at the prospect of a formal Wine Trail. He assigned one of his aides to work with the Tourism Alliance on this project. It wasn’t too long after that Bruce Knopf, director of asset and economic development for Santa Clara County, became involved and opened a lot of doors leading to the development of the Wine Trail. He enlisted the help of the Department of Airports and Roads to commit to the signage you see on the trail today, and it was Bruce and Jon who actually mapped out the Wine Trail. One of the last obstacles to overcome was, of course, budget approval for this project.

At a meeting in April, 2014 of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, the Wine Trail was presented as a budget item and Mike Sampognaro, Dr. Jon Hatakeyama, and Greg Richtarek, past president of the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley, spoke to the board members about the need for and advantages of a Wine Trail. Backed by Mike Wasserman, the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail was approved.

Reflective Wine Trail signs were produced and placed along the trail by the county and everything was ready to go. On Friday Aug. 22, 2014 at Guglielmo Winery the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail was officially launched at a ceremony attended by members of the press and many dignitaries, including Mike Wasserman and Bruce Knopf, both of whom spoke about the great advantages of the Wine Trail. After the ceremony, the attendees boarded buses for a tour of the trail and tasting at some of Santa Clara Valley’s oldest wineries, capped off with a wine-paired luncheon at The Milias Restaurant in Gilroy.

One year later, the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail has brought many new visitors to our wineries as they travel the 28-mile trail. The Wine Trail signs and the directional signs were installed, and are maintained, by the County Transportation Department. The trail runs in a loop. There is no set starting point. There is no charge to drive the Wine Trail (it’s not like the 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach); and each winery determines its own hours of operation and tasting fees.

A great way to experience our wineries (and drive the Wine Trail) is on Passport Weekend which will take place Saturday and Sunday Nov. 7 and 8. Free wine maps are available at any of the local wineries, or can be downloaded at www.SantaClaraWines.com. We’ll see you on the Wine Trail. Cheers!

Cindy Adams, CS, CSW, is the director of retail operations at Guglielmo Winery.