Gino Fortino of Fortino Winery in Gilroy talks about Charbono wine, which is made out of an Italian grape varietal. There are only 80 acres of the Italian grape varietal Charbono grown in California and Fortino’s grows some of them. “Cult wine,” is often a phrase used when talking about Charbono.

Fortino Winery was founded in 1970 in Gilroy by Gino’s parents – Marie and Ernest Fortino. The winery is part of Santa Clara wineries, one of the oldes wine growing regions in California.

Address: Fortino Winery, 4525 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy, CA 95020

Tasting Room is open from  10:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday through Saturday and on Sundays it is open from 11.00 am to 5.00 pm.



Kirigin Cellars


We are celebrating California’s wine month with a series of audio, video and blog posts. In the San Francisco Bay area we are surrounded by wineries and vineyards from Sonoma, Napa, Livermore to the wineries of Santa Clara county.

Santa Clara Valley is home to the oldest wine growing region in California. Tucked away in Silicon Valley’s backyard are a cluster of wineries that make a variety of red and white wines. And some like Fortino Winery also make fruit-based wines in addition to red and white wines. Once known as vinegar alley and known for its jug wines, the wineries now produce award-winning wines.

Earlier this week I went on a tour of 3 wineries in Gilroy: Satori Cellars Winery, Kirigin Cellars and Fortino Winery. While I have visited wineries in this region I have never visited any of them during their harvest season. The purpose of this trip was to fulfill my curiosity of what it takes to harvest and make wine. Tha making wine is a lot of hard work is a mild understatement.

September is the busiest month for wineries for this marks the starts of the harvest season. What I discovered is that some wineries were busy picking their grapes and crushing them, while others were getting ready to pick them.

Tom Moller, Satori Cellars, Santa Clara Wineries


“When you pick the grapes is a very important decision,” points out Tom Moller of Satori Cellars Winery in Gilroy. Essentially when you pick the grapes determines how your wine will turn out at the end. The sugar level in the grapes will determine when they get picked and crushed.


Santa Clara Wineries


At Kirigin Cellars I watched as the grapes were dumped into a huge steel crusher to extract the grape juice for making the wine. “They have been picking grapes since 6 am,” points out Dhruv Khanna, owner of Kirigin Cellars that is celebrating its centennial year. They picked about 7 tonnes of grapes in the morning and by 1 pm they had them all crushed says Khanna as we stood by the wine crusher with bees buzzing around us. Surprisingly nobody seemed to pay any attention to the buzzing bees.


Fortino Winery


Fortinos of Fortino Winery


My final destination was Fortino Winery where I met Gino Fortino and his father Ernesto Fortino. The winery was established in 1970 by Fortino senior, who focussed on making wines from varietals. Fortino Winery is one of the few wineries that grows Charbono, a rare Italian varietal. ” We have 3 acres of Carbon out of the 80 acres in California,’ points out Fortino. Besides their estate grown red and white wines Fortino Winery also make a variety of fruit-based wines.









Santa Clara Wine Trail

Santa Clara Wine Trail

Santa Clara county is not only home to many Silicon Valley companies, but is also home to some of the oldest vineyards in California. Some of the vineyards in Santa Clara Valley are over 100 years old. Surprised? So was I when I discovered the Santa Clara Wine trail, which is literally a few miles south of San Jose. Thanks to the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley Wine 2015 Fall Passport program I discovered a clutch of vineyards right in my backyard. And in the process also discovered a California champagne made from almonds.


Santa Clara Wine Trail

Santa Clara Wine Trail


Nestled in the towns of Gilroy and Morgan Hill are a string of vineyards, where you can taste a range of red and white wines and champagne. Armed with maps and our passport booklets we drove down south to Gilroy in a fancy Tesla car for some wine tasting. No, the Tesla was not mine. This was a fun expedition and we hit the first vineyard within 20 minutes into our trip from San Jose. How cool is that?


Santa Clara Wine Trail

Santa Clara Wine Trail


The first one we visited was Solis Winery that took us by pleasant surprise with its selfie spot. Whoever came up with that “selfie spot,” knows the power of social media and our penchant for taking those selfies and posting them on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Did we take a selfie? You betcha, we did!


Selfie Spot

Selfie Spot


We then visited Sarah’s Vineyards, Kirgin Cellars, Fortino Wineries and Guglielmo Wineries that was founded in 1905. We planned to visit more wineries, but ran out of time. What this means is that there is another trip that we need to make south of San Jose and explore the other wineries in Santa Clara wine trail. Stay tuned for that trip.

If you plan to visit the wineries of Santa Clara Valley do check out Gilroy Welcome Center and Santa Clara Wines for timings and other information. Plan on spending at 4 to 5 hours for your trip.

Disclosure: We were invited as guests by the Gilroy Welcome Center to the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley 2015 Fall Passport event.