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realized that there were not many Pinot Noir vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains , or nearby areas , he decided to make whatever was on hand , largely from the vineyards in and around Morgan Hill and Gilroy . In 1969 , Dr . Bruce bottled the first dry Grenache table wine in the modern era , purchasing grapes from a single vineyard in the Santa Clara Valley .
By the early ’ 80s California wines were finally starting to come into their own and gain recognition , largely helped by the legendary Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976 , in which French and American wines were blind tasted by a panel of French wine experts . Much to everyone ’ s surprise , and to the dismay of the French , the wines from California received the highest scores . People began to take notice of California as a legitimate wine producer . However , at this point , Napa and Sonoma regions were largely getting all the praise .
During the late ’ 80s and early ’ 90s , wine experts – and wine lovers – began to take note of the regions beyond Napa and Sonoma , including the lush Santa Clara Valley . Families
such as Fortino , Guglielmo , Kirigin , and Bertero soon saw the results of their labors as visitors began visiting their cozy tasting rooms and purchasing their wines .
As interest in California wines grew , the Santa Clara
Valley not only drew visitors but also winemakers who saw this area as the perfect “ terroir ” for growing Rhone varietals . In addition to the still flourishing Syrah vines at Besson Vineyards , their neighbor , Sarah ’ s Vineyard , started growing several Rhone varietals in 2001 when the current proprietor , Tim Slater , purchased the property . In addition to “ the big three ,” Tim grows some lesser known Rhones such as Picpoul and Carignane . It
7 was during the early 2000s that the “ Rhone explosion ” finally made its way to the Santa Clara Valley . The next 10 to15 years would see award winning Rhone wines coming from newer wineries such as Aver Family Vineyards , Lion Ranch , and La Vie Dansante .
Both Santa Clara Valley residents and visitors are now happy and excited to find top quality , delicious Rhone wines available locally .
Cheers and Viva la Rhone !
IMAGES : # 1 Besson grapes on the vine ready for harvest . # 2 Charles Le Franc was first to plant Rhone varietals in the Santa Clara Valley . # 3-6 Lush vineyards , great wine , and beautiful views await you at Besson Family Vineyards . # 7 George Besson Sr . was one of the first Rhone pioneers in Valley , planting vines at the current site of Besson Family Vineyards . # 8 George Besson Jr ., wife Martha , daughter Denise , and son-in-law James Fahey operate Besson Vineyards today . # 9-11 Besson Vineyards is the perfect place to taste wine , enjoy a picnic lunch on the terrace , and marvel at the beautiful views of the west Gilroy foothills . Visit them online at : bessonfamilyvineyards . com
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