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the Vine Bev Stenehjem Bev Stenehjem is a local wine enthusiast, author and free- lance writer focused on the wineries of Santa Clara Valley. Bev wrote “The Wineries of Santa Clara Valley,” a historical photo book published by Arcadia Publishing in 2015. Aver Family Vineyards H alf way up the Wine Trail on Watsonville Road, is Aver Family Vineyards, a hilltop winery with 180-degree views of the Uvas Valley and surrounding vineyards below. Specializing in Rhone-style wines which sell out every year, John and Carolyn Aver are a husband-wife team that use vintage photos of their relatives to label their wine bottles; providing a fascinating glimpse into their family’s history. While John focuses on growing the grapes and making the wine, Carolyn supports the back offi ce and staff while cooking up a storm of great food to complement their fi ne wines. Their outdoor tasting John & Carolyn Avers, Owners room offers a relaxed experience for people of all ages and their furry companions. Aver Family Vineyards is open Noon-5pm, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. John: Truth be told, I developed a bit of a palette as a youngster when my grandmother would let me have a sip of wine at her home. In college, wine was affordable at $2 a jug. Once I had a real job out of college, I would spend a little more on wine, curious to see what a $5 or a $10 bottle tasted like. One day I bought a $20 bottle of Pichon Lalande (a Bordeaux wine) to share with friends. It was at that moment that I really fell in love with wine. Later, in the early 1990s I was introduced to Châteauneuf-du-Pape (a Rhone wine) and, oh my God, was it good. I did a 180 degree shift from Bordeaux to Rhone wines. In 2005 I read about an open house for a vineyard in Gilroy. It had 8 ¼ acres of planted Cabernet. Despite being unfamiliar with the area, I was so impressed when I got here that we made an offer that very day. Our first commercial vintage was the following year. We produced 200 cases which included mostly Cabernet and some Petit Sirah and Syrah. But my vision was to specialize in Rhones and so over a four year period of time, I made the transition to growing mostly Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Petit Sirah. Our Petit Sirah is so outstanding that it has become our flagship wine, taking up one-half of our vineyard. What did you and Carolyn do before your started the winery? You and Carolyn are partners; who does what? Carolyn: We both grew up in the East Bay and met while attending Ohlone College and have been together ever since. I finished my degree in accounting while John earned his MBA in Finance. Both of us worked at high tech corporations; I was a CFO and John worked in Finance and Operations. Carolyn: Before I left my high tech job, John did 90-95% of all the work while I helped out in the wine tasting room. Three years ago, we realized that he couldn’t continue to do all the farming, winemaking and back office work, and so instead of hiring another person to help, we decided the time was right for me to quit my job and join the winery. John does “grape to wine” – sourcing the fruit, maintaining the vines – he farms every day, rain or shine. I have taken over the back office, staffing and tasting room responsibilities. And we both pitch in for sales. When did you start making and/or selling wine? John: Carolyn and I planted our first grape vines while living on an acre plot in Novato. We were near the border of Carneros in Napa-Sonoma and I thought that our soil would be similar to that great region. I caught the wine-making bug here and told Carolyn, “This is what I want to do when I grow up!” Carolyn: (Laughing) I told John, “I just want you to grow up!” John: We spent several years looking for the right property to start a winery. 78 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN How did you learn to make wine? John: I am self-taught and learned a lot from Kian Tavakoli, a consulting winemaker that has worked with me for the past thirteen years. Additionally, I have taken just about every wine course that UC Davis Extension has to offer. february/march 2019 VINEYARDS How did you get started in a winery?