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Winery profile: Kirigin Cellars maintains tradition while expanding, growing

Winery will celebrate its centennial in 2016

Published in the Oct. 15-28, 2014 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Robert Airoldi

From left, Hilda Fargozo, viticulture and cellar manager Gabino Romero, vineyard, winery and warehouse operations, Dhruv Khanna, owner and Amanda Krueger, assistant winemaker at Kirigin Cellars. Photo by Robert Airoldi

From left, Hilda Fargozo, viticulture and cellar manager Gabino Romero, vineyard, winery and warehouse operations, Dhruv Khanna, owner and Amanda Krueger, assistant winemaker at Kirigin Cellars.
Photo by Robert Airoldi

One of California’s oldest wineries, Kirigin Cellars will celebrate its centennial celebration in 2016. And its most recent owner, Dhruv Khanna, understands the importance of maintaining that heritage with his wines and with the 49-acre property that sits at the corner of Day and Watsonville roads.

The 35 acres of vineyards, 10.5 acres of grass and about five acres of buildings and parking lots — one that can accommodate 130 vehicles — are meticulously maintained. As he walked the property, Khanna was constantly picking up trash as he pointed out the acres of green grass, the 100 sequoias that surround the fields and the compost pile he uses in the vines.

The old buildings and three wine-tasting areas, as well as the new Tuscan-style Club House building, exude old-world charm. The two-year-old building includes an industrial kitchen, bride and groom rooms with bathrooms and changing areas.

“We paid a lot of attention to what’s old and making it modern while preserving the history of the property,” Khanna said of the improvements.

Kirigin produces about 4,000 cases a year, a big number for a winery that relies on direct sales, he said. The wines are only available at the winery, though a few markets and restaurants carry the label, but they buy at retail prices just like the public. “Ours is primarily a word of mouth business,” he said.

“We’re control freaks,” he said. “We focus on making wine. We don’t grow grapes or bottle for others. We take pride in what we do. We go from harvest to fermentation within 24 hours. It gives us a freedom of operation.”

Part of the freedom includes free winetasting, a free EV station for electric and hybrid vehicles and free WiFi throughout the property.

Another part is making the wines he and Allen Kreutzer, viticulturist and winemaker, want to make. Kreutzer began working with Nikola Kirigin in 1984, and continues to lead all viticulture and winemaking processes at Kirigin Cellars. They handcraft small batches of wines, including Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malvasia Bianca, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and Zinfandel. In 2016, during the winery’s centennial celebration, they plan to release the winery’s first ever Malbec.

After purchasing the property, he added drip irrigation, reinforced the winery building, planted grass, eliminated pests that attacked the roots of the vines, and built the Event Center and parking lot.

“It was in survival mode,” he said. “But now I’m very happy. The financial risks were worth every penny because of our customers who vote with their feet and dollars.”

The winery has become a prime destination for wine-tasting, picnics, weddings, dog shows, car shows, soccer, cricket and archery, and other events.

“In addition to selling quality wine and reasonable prices, we sell the wine experience,” he said.

Kirigin Cellars

Where: 11550 Watsonville Road
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Contact: (408) 847-8827 or visit www.kirigincellars.com