Grape Expectations

Laura Ness | August 3, 2016 | Story Wine and Spirits National

In a former industrial zone rife with body shops and offices, you might not expect a cluster of wineries, but suddenly, San Carlos is all about tasting rooms. With a handful now open there—along with two breweries (Alpha Acid and Devil’s Canyon) and a distillery (Old World Spirits) in the vicinity—Friday nights get pretty exciting just off of Industrial Road. What amounts to an impromptu block party includes food trucks and music too.

You can trace the boom to Domenico Winery. New Jersey native Dominick Chirichillo and his wife, Gloria, brought their co-op winemaking concept to the Peninsula about 20 years ago. In homage to its heritage, Domenico specializes in Italian varieties, but makes a diverse selection of wines for its thriving wedding and event business. To expand capacity from 250 to 500 guests, the Chirichillos are adding a catering kitchen and wedding balcony; an outdoor cafe is also under construction. Try their 2011 GPSM, a tasty blend of Rhones that earned silver at the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, or the 2011 Mambo Italiano, a 2016 SFCWC silver medalist that is as fun to sip as it is to say.

Russian Ridge Winery—the domain of retired nurses Scott Townsend and his wife, Joan, along with their son, Spencer—is within easy walking distance of Domenico. (In fact, you can park once and easily visit all of the places mentioned here.) The family’s welcoming tasting bar feels a lot like setting foot in Cheers—instantly warm and comfortable. And you’ll find plenty to like in their very strong lineup, including chardonnay, cabernet, merlot, pinot noir, syrah and a Bordeaux blend called Concerto, a concert in a glass worth listening to repeatedly. The 2012 Petite Sirah from Paso Robles, a wine of considerable depth that was a double gold medal winner at the 2015 SFCWC, will take your taste buds on a thrill ride of blueberry pie edged with a smoky note of apple butter on toasted rye.

Entrepreneur Paul Rogerville of Cuvée Wine Cellars has a smaller-scale approach to the custom crush business, welcoming winemakers to make and store their wines in his facility. Half a dozen wineries make wine here. Cuvée is a French term for blend, usually of different varietals and/or vintages. Rogerville specializes in Bordeaux varieties, including cabernet from Napa, Carneros and El Dorado. Standouts are his 2012 Saralee’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River, a quintessentially fruit-driven wine that finishes with a really lovely smack of root beer barrels, and the award-winning 2013 Syrah from Flocchini vineyard on the Sonoma Coast.

Old County Cellars is a bunch of grape-grooving Apple techies (and foodies) who make about a thousand cases of wine at Cuvée Wine Cellars and decided to take their private hobby public earlier this year. Dan Peterson, Je Struthers, Toni Trujillo Vian and Jim Walters produce tiny lots from single vineyards in Carneros, Napa Valley, El Dorado, Amador and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their new 2014 Semillon from Napa is a spot-on rendition of this soft and sensual white. They currently have a chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, with an albariño in the wings. Be sure to inquire about their wine club for other gems.

And there’s a newcomer to the San Carlos scene: Anders and Vikki Vinther hail from Denmark and got into winemaking at Domenico. The Danish couple just opened the Flying Suitcase tasting room. A biopharm quality engineer, Anders spends about 60 percent of his time on the road, inspiring the clever moniker, which is also a nod to a favorite Hans Christian Andersen story. He especially loves sauvignon blanc and syrah, and their 2013 Amador Syrah won a silver medal at the 2016 SFCWC.

Plan a visit to the Peninsula city’s tasting rooms.

Cuvée Wine Cellars
1001 Washington St. 650.610.9810
Hours: First and third Sat., 1-4:30PM, and by appointment

Domenico Winery
1697 Industrial Rd. 650.593.2335
Hours: Mon.-Sat., noon-5PM

Flying Suitcase
915 Washington St. 650.636.6737
Hours: Fri., 5-9PM; Sat.-Sun., 1-5PM

Old County Cellars
1001 Washington St. 650.533.3414
Hours: Check website for wine-tasting dates and times, and open by appointment

Russian Ridge Winery
919 Washington St. 650.851.9690
Hours: Fri., 5-9PM; Sat.-Sun., noon-5PM

Originally published in the July issue of Silicon Valley

Have feedback? Email us at [email protected]
Follow us on Twitter @siliconmag
Follow Laura Ness on Twitter @HerVineNess


Photography by: