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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Valentine’s Day Cure for Silicon Valley Lovers

Is the pressure on to plan that unique, romantic Valentine’s celebration with your loved one? The pressure, the prices, and the planning for February 14 are sometimes enough to make happy couples wish they were single, or ask for a sick day on Valentines. Forget the water cooler discussion angst about Valentine’s Day angst and consternation! Go the stressless route instead, with this Valentine’s Day cure… sure to keep the doctor and the planning angst away!

Instead of whining, go wine tasting in the Santa Cruz mountains. Just a short drive from San Jose, the rolling green hillsides and the taste of red wines bursting with fresh berry flavors will make your Valentine feel as though they’ve been transported to the hills of Tuscany.

Oenophiles know that wine making here pre-dates Napa. Many of the wineries can trace their vines back to Paul Masson who brought cuttings to the area from his wife’s native France in 1878.

Santa Cruz wineries are being re-discovered thanks to award-winning Pinot Noirs, Zinfandels and Chardonnays that owe their distinct flavors to ocean breezes and sun drenched hillsides. (For more information on wineries click: <www.gosaratogaca.com> and Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, www.scmwa.com.

The area is, “not a Disneyland tour,” says Mike Ballard, owner of Savannah-Chanelle winery, named after his two daughters. “There are no special trams and no chauffeurs. Instead, you talk to the people who make the wine. It’s an authentic experience. We do it because it’s real and we’re real.” Traffic jams are usually limited to the four legged variety, passing horses, dogs and cats.

Here are a few places where Cupid has drawn his bow:

Take a lesson in love at a little red schoolhouse dating back to the 1800’s. The Burrell Winery is located on the grounds of a former elementary school on Summit Road in Los Gatos.

“The more you drink the smarter you get,” says name of owner. Each wine has a name corresponding with education, such as valedictorian, teacher’s pet etc. The chalkboard has a saying “I promise to sip my wine,” that has been translated by visitors into dozens of other languages. It’s the most fun in a classroom you’ll ever have.

Pack a gourmet picnic lunch to enjoy on the patio of the Loma Prieta winery. Located in an ochre Mediterranean stucco villa overlooking Santa Cruz and Monterey, Loma Prieta is the only tasting room in the area offering Pinotage, a red wine that originated in South Africa. You can enjoy the wines here or order it at the new Katsu restaurant in Los Gatos famous for it’s $12,000? blank menu.

Your lover is sure to fall for your charms if you visit Savannah-Chanelle winery on the 14th. A local character, “Oyster Bob,” will be serving his natural aphrodisiac to the accompaniment of a pianist who used to tour with Johnny Lee Hooker.

Nothing gets the heart beating faster than exercising in fresh air. At Cooper-Garrod Winery lovers can spend the day horseback riding or hiking along the mustard trails. The wild flowers are made for the ultimate test, “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me!”

The fifth generation of the Cooper and Garrod families work here and they are passionate about preserving their roots. The tasting room for example is located in an old fruit house, formerly used to dry apricots and prunes in the orchards which are now dedicated to growing grapes for award winning (wines list).

The view of Silicon Valley at the Paul Masson Mountain Winery is the perfect setting for a marriage proposal and if she says yes you can hold your wedding here! Best known for concerts in a small outdoor amphitheater this is also a destination for wine lovers. The tasting room has Ansell Adams photos on the walls along with a Folly girl who was reportedly one of Paul Masson’s mistresses. During prohibition many of San Francisco’s elite would make the trip here to sip Paul Masson’s sparkling wine and you can enjoy it too (do they still make it?) on February 14th along with chocolates.

Many of the Santa Cruz mountain wineries are participating in the Downtown Campbell Wine Walk wed Feb. 13 5-9 pm. For more details, visit (www.downtowncampbell.com) It’s a chance to talk to local wine makers while listening to live music.

Downtown Saratoga meanwhile is becoming “wine row.” Big Basin Way boasts tasting rooms for Cinnabar, Big Basin, M4: Martella Wines and Michaud Vineyard, and the new Ruthe Roberts wine collective. She serves varietals from mountain vineyards too small to have tasting rooms or too remote from most visitors to make the trek.

Afterwards sip champagne while feeding your Valentine chocolates and strawberries in a “Sumptuous Soak” for two at the Preston Wynne Spa on Big Basin Way. Cap off your perfect day with the tasting menu paired with regional wines at Sent Sovi. Your honey will be yours as soon as they hear the words, “amuse buch.”
Reminiscent of a Mediterranean villa smack dab in the center of the shopping district, Hotel Los Gatos and Spa (www.HotelLosGatos.com) is the secret password for unique wine country weekends. It’s an easy drive from there to the Santa Cruz Mountains and Testarosa Winery is walking distance to the hotel. Wednesday guests can even enjoy onsite wine tasting on Wine Wednesdays and book a spa treatment in advance through the front desk.

Just fifteen minutes from the San Jose airport and the Bay Area’s hub of technical horsepower, Hotel Los Gatos and Spa is truly a world away. Located in the town center of tony, stroll-friendly Los Gatos, the streets are filled with over a hundred chic unique shops and a bevy of seventy+ bistros to fulfill months of gastronomic fantasies.

Back at the hotel after a day of romance or fun, fine dining or room service meals enjoy the same level of exacting culinary attention by Chef Marty Cattaneo, seen on Iron Chef America. The only Michelin rated Greek restaurant in the US, Dio Deka offers extraordinary Hellenic cuisine, a melding of the Greek and Mediterranean influences.

Savvy Valentines planners who willingly go shopping with their loved ones, whether at the unique boutiques of Los Gatos, Santana Row’s urban destination shopping, will earn brownie points that may last until next Valentine’s Day! Whether you’ve been with your soul mate for decades or think you’ve just met the right one, do what the doctor says and protect your heart on Valentine’s Day by drinking red wine from the Santa Cruz Mountains.

by Ruth Wertzberger Carlson