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Sarah’s Vineyard spans across 20 hilly acres in a hidden southwestern corner of the Santa Clara Valley east of the Santa Cruz Mountains chain and west of the town of Gilroy along Highway 152. Tucked at the eastern foot of Mount Madonna along a windy mountain pass known as Hecker Pass, the dynamic coastal California weather patterns create a microclimate for growing Pinot Noir. The pass fills with fog and winds from the nearby Pacific Ocean, regulating temperatures and extending the growing season.
The original vineyard was planted in 1978 with Chardonnay, supplemented in 1989 with additional plantings of “Proprietary” clones of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. After purchasing the property in 2001 from owner Marilyn "Sarah" Otterman, who founded the winery in 1979, the proprietor and winemaker, Tim Slater, has planted several additional test plots of Pinot Noir, Viognier and Roussanne. These test plots have proved so successful that in 2006, another 5 acres of Pinot Noir was planted, using a double-secret blend of 115, 667, 777 and “Proprietary” clones. 2 more acres were dedicated to Roussanne, Viognier and Grenache. Slater now farms 23 acres.
Slater is very interested in the subtle differences between the various clones of Pinot Noir, and has designed the newer vineyards with combinations of clones that allow detailed investigation of their characteristics. The Pinot Noir wines tend to have soft tannins and are primarily red fruit driven.
Slater is a scientist and inventor from the Silicon Valley who owns dozens of patents in the field of micromachining. He basically learned winemaking with online classes from UC Davis and hands-on experience.
Slater says, "We're kind of isolated out here. I'm a bit of a hermit. There are other Silicon Valley people buying land and interested in making wine so Santa Clara County is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance."
Visitors are welcome and the tasting room is open 11-5 daily at 4005 Hecker Pass Highway, Gilroy, CA. 800-44-PINOT.
2016 Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 1,380 cases, $25. Estate grown in the Dwarf Oak Vineyard. Whole berry fermented in small lots and aged 11 months in French oak barrels. The winery’s entry level Pinot Noir. Clones 667, 777, 115 and a DRC selection. 100% de-stemmed whole berries, cold soak, native and inoculated yeast fermentation, hand punch downs. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 10% new. · Light ruby red color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with fresh scents of cherry and strawberry. Light to mid weight in character, with layers of red cherry and red berry fruit. Very pleasant to drink, with refreshing juiciness, gossamer tannins and some finishing length. A subtle earthy/herbal savory component to the flavor profile allows the wine to rise above a simple, fruity drink. A great everyday Pinot. Score: 90. Reviewed August 24, 2018 ARTICLE »
2016 Sarah’s Vineyard Tondre’s Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 160 cases, $38. This vineyard is the prize of Sarah’s Vineyard and is capable of producing extraordinary Pinot Noir. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. Fantastic quality at a reasonable price. · Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. Clinging aroma of an array of red berries and a perfect compliment of oak. Somewhat light in color and lighter in weight and elegantly composed, but highly flavorful offering vibrant flavors of cherry and raspberry. Very charming and caressing in the mouth with a lacy texture and an appealing compliment of oak. This is a high fashion Pinot Noir that exemplifies what Pinot Noir should be - does not taste extracted or manipulated. Still delightful the following day. I have had many great wines from this vineyard. Score: 94. Reviewed June 29, 2018 ARTICLE »
2016 Sarah’s Vineyard Muns Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 420 cases, $45. This vineyard is one of the highest in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA at 2,600 feet above sea level. Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. · Light ruby red color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of cherry, underbrush and tea leaves. Forward drinking and quite agreeable in a mid weight style with fresh flavors of cherry, strawberry and blueberry. Young, grippy, mountain tannins need more time in bottle to ameliorate. The intensely fruited finish is delectable and is the wine’s best feature. Score: 90. Reviewed April 1, 2018 ARTICLE »
2015 Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 557 cases, $25. Produced and bottled by Sarah’s Vineyard, Gilroy, CA.. Estate grown on Dwarf Oak Vineyard. Clones 667, 777, 115 and “DRC.” 100% destemmed and whole berry native and inoculated yeast fermented in small lots, punched down by hand, and aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 10% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A lighter weight offering, with pleasing aromas of cherry, raspberry, sandalwood and forest path, and flavors of confected cherry drop, raspberry and brown spice. Clean and harmonious, with gentle tannins, gossamer oak, and some finish. Easy to like and a very good value. Score: 89. Reviewed August 6, 2017 ARTICLE »
2015 Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 160 cases, $38. Sourced from White Sage Ranch and Tondre Grapefield. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of cherry and sandalwood in a light to mid weight styled wine that is juicy and vibrant. Hints of savory herbs and tobacco oak ply the background. Elegant tannins make for early and easy drink ability. Score: 90. Reviewed August 6, 2017 ARTICLE »
2015 Sarah’s Vineyard Estate Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 385 cases, $45. Produced and bottled by Sarah’s Vineyard, Gilroy. Clones 667, 777, 115 and a “DRC” selection from Sarah’s Vineyard. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Engaging aromas of red cherry, raspberry, baking spice and sandalwood. Sleek and polished in the mouth with a very enjoyable core of fresh Bing cherry and red berry fruits in a middleweight style. Lazy tannins, deft oak management and some length on the finish add to the appeal. A lot of Bing cherry singing in this wine. Score: 93. Reviewed December 3, 2017 ARTICLE »
2014 Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 1,211 cases, $25. Sourced from the Dwarf Oak Block of Sarah’s Vineyard, clones 667, 777, 115 and a “DRC” selection. 100% de-stemmed, native and inoculated yeast whole berry fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 10% new. Formerly the winery’s “Central Coast Series” Pinot Noir. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of cherry, rose petal, hazelnut, sandalwood and earthy flora lead to a very charming mid palate display of unctuous cherry and baking spice flavors. The wine’s elegant tannins and a polished mouthfeel attract attention in this forward drinking offering with plenty of Pinot talking. Like cherry pie day at baking school: cherries, spices, and very interesting results. Still charming when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 92. Reviewed March 6, 2017 ARTICLE »
2014 Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 345 cases $38. Sourced from Veranda Vineyard. Winemaker is Tim Slater. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of red cherry, strawberry, and sandalwood lead to a mid weight style wine with very tasty flavors of red cherry and strawberry with an oak overlay in the background. Nicely composed with silky tannins and juicy fruit flavors in a forward drinking style that aims to please. Score: 90. Reviewed June 19, 2016 ARTICLE »
2014 Sarah’s Vineyard Estate Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 415 cases, $40. Winemaker Tim Slater. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A complete wine with welcoming aromas of black raspberry, black cherry, spice and toasty oak followed in the mouth with expressive flavors of black cherry, cranberry, black tea and a subtle overlay of oak. Admirable vibrancy, with great harmony and a cherry-infused, delightfully juicy finish. Score: 92. Reviewed September 7, 2016 ARTICLE »
2014 Sarah’s Vineyard Reserve Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 142 cases, $60. Estate grown. Hand-waxed bottles. Clones 667, 777, 115 and “DRC.” Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. Winemaker Tim Slater. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of very ripe cherry and berry and toasty barrel. Mid to full-bodied flavors of purple berries and black cherry entering modestly but then exploding on the mid palate with rich fruit flavor. Structured to match the sappy fruit core and enough acidity for streamlined drinking. Silky in the mouth, with accents of cola and dark chocolate, finishing with joyous fruit. Very ripe fruited in style, but highly enjoyable. Score: 92. Reviewed May 7, 2017 ARTICLE »
2005 Sarah’s Vineyard Estate Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
15.9% alc., 502 cases, $25. This is a historic property, founded in 1978 and planted to a variety of proprietary clones. · The grapes for this wine appear to have hung too long. An over ripe fruit character dominates the wine which displays burnt jam and raisin flavors. The nose offers the smell of ripe cherries, mushrooms, beets and a hint of alcohol. There is plenty of acid and a grapefruit flavor that mars an otherwise lingering finish. Reviewed August 4, 2008 ARTICLE »