Saturday, August 15, 2015

Lion Ranch Vineyards opens tasting room in San Martin

Kim and Todd Engelhardt are following their dream of owning a winery. On July 18-19 they opened their new Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery tasting room at 645 W. San Martin Avenue in San Martin. Club members, family and friends came by to celebrate this major step, wish them luck and enjoy their fine wines.

Lion Ranch started as a dream when they were living in San Francisco. A trip to France took them to the Rhone River valley where they fell in love with Viognier and other white Rhone varietals. They then realized that their dream would focus on the delicious wines made from Rhone varietals. 

Moving to a property along Santa Teresa Road in San Martin, they planted 3.5 acres in white Rhone varietals, including Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne. Their 4000 grape vines were treated with hands-on care and they learned that vineyards are definitely hard, hot,
dusty, dirty work for them and some family and friends they convinced to give them a hand. 

While tending to their new vineyard, Todd continued his career as an Emergency Room doctor at night as he read up on viticulture and winemaking information, getting his hands on blogs, textbooks and articles. In the meanwhile Kim went to work for a local winery to pick up hand-on skills in both grape growing and winemaking. 

By 2013 another property just down the road from their home became available and they moved the winery operation into their new home in this location, while Todd’s sister moved to the older home to watch over their white grape vineyard. This new site was once part of the large land tract known as Lion Ranch so they had a name for their new winery. The year 2013 also marked their first vintage from their white wine vineyard and they were introducing this remarkable wine throughout the valley at wine festivals and events. 

After negotiating the winding path of building regulations and permits, they were able to open their new tasting pavilion this past weekend. If El Nino and the weather permits, they will be planting 4000 red wine grapes in this location later this year.

Kim and Todd focus on producing high quality wines. Since Rhone varietals tend to be susceptible to oxidation, they have invested in a screw cap bottling capability. They believe that screw caps provide superior oxidation protection and will enable their wines to maintain their quality over the years. They are the only winery in the valley that only uses screw-cap bottles.

Their current release consists of three wines. The 2013 Grenache Blanc is a unique wine that is relatively rare in California with only about 330 acres planted in the state. This white version of the traditional red Grenache has been aged in stainless steel tanks with a mile mixing of the fine lees to give it a nice round body and refreshing acidity. On the nose you will detect bright green apple and mandarin orange. On the palate the apple and mandarin orange continue with a nice touch of minerality leading to a medium plus finish. Here in the South Bay Asian foods are enjoyed in homes and restaurants and this wine pairs particularly well with Asian foods. The price is $27 per bottle.

Kim and Todd are great admirers of Viognier and their 2013 Viognier shows their love of this grape. They try to emulate the Viognier found in the premium Condrieu region of France. This grape has only been grown in California since the 1980s. It is a very floral wine known for its aromas and flavors of violets, apricots and peaches. Lion Ranch allows the wine to undergo malolactic fermentation and aged sur lie with mild mixing of fine lees in new French oak barrels giving the wine a nice texture, long finish and great mouthfeel. The price is $25 per bottle.

The 2013 Lion’s Share is their blend of white Rhone varietals including 50% Viognier, an equal mixture of Roussanne and Marsanne and 5% Grenache Blanc. The Viognier provides that floral aromatics, Marsanne for the minerality and elegance, Roussanne for the rich complexity and texture and Grenache Blanc for acidity. This is an excellent food wine that can enhance many different dishes. The price is $23 per bottle.

Lion Ranch is a welcome addition to the Santa Clara Valley winery family. Their focus on Rhone varietals makes them a pleasant addition to the Valley of the Heart’s Delight.

For more information: Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery

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