The Gilroy Hilton Garden Inn wasn't bad. Nice rooms (not as big as the Doubletree, but with fridge, microwave and free broadband). Decent location. The furnishings in the hospitality suite weren't optimal (the chair-of-death with the wonky caster, the funky coffee table that was too small for games and the dead hot-tub) but it was plenty large enough for the 20 or so of us making use of it.
Fortino Winery was cool, and they were in mid-harvest. We got to see them running their "new" stemmer/crusher. Many of their wines were very good. I wasn't too thrilled with their sparkling wines (although the "almond champagne" was better than average). Their NV "Burgundy Reserve" was a pretty good bargain.
Solis Winery is one we already knew pretty well. Good sangiovese and muscat canelli.
Kirigin gave us a great tour, and we got to sample their latest raw sangiovese from the fermenting tank. Good Malvasia Bianca, and their "Vino di Mocca" is a unique flavored port. Their vinegar is fabu. We had a nice picnic in the rain.
Hecker Pass Winery was our last stop on Friday. Their "Cream Sherry" and "Marsala" were pretty good, but the rest of their wines just stank on ice.
Friday night we played games and had a bunch of red wine. We experimented with a big group order of Chinese take-out, but it was a limited success. Putting together the order took forever, and the popular items ran out quickly. I don't think we're doing that again.
Clos La Chance was a nice start to Saturday morning. Their chardonnays were pretty popular. Opinions on the reds were mixed.
Sycamore Creek Vineyards was also in mid-harvest. The winemaker was doing punch-down, and we got to taste the raw cabernet sauvignon from the fermenters. New folks bought the winery just a few years ago, and are doing really great stuff there. Great Sauvignon Blanc and a nice cabernet sauvignon. We finished up there right as the first of 4 busloads of tourers appeared.
We did lunch at the Gilroy Gardens group picnic area, and then spent a bit of time at the gardens. It was better than I expected, but not fabulous. The roller-coaster was pretty good, and the gardens, of course, were cool.
Sarah's Vineyard (which had also been bought by new folks a few years back) was our last stop of the day. They've moved their tasting room to the opposite side of the building. Their "Steel Blue" chardonnay wasn't the winner we all expected it to be, but the rest of their wines were pretty good. They also had cats.
Saturday night we decided that we were going to the Westside Grill, and everybody else decided that was a good idea too. kingwyatt called in the reservation for 18, and the manager got things sorted out (even to getting our party upped to 20 by the time we finished). Food was excellent.
As we were leaving, the manager introduced us to the owner of Fernwood Cellars and arranged a stop for us in the morning.
Sweets was pretty good. We had a few rocks in the sweets, but with one exception those were old bottles that hadn't held up well rather than risky mystery bottles. Dave's Santa Barbara Cellars Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc was really nice. Dessert fondue was an interesting experiment, but way too much mess and work to repeat.
We were kind of regretting taking the appointment at Fernwood (what with having to move out of the hotel), but they're a tiny boutique that doesn't even have regular tasting room hours, so we figured that we kind of had to meet our obligation.
Then we got there.
Fernwood is at the end of a very long road up the hillside. It's in the middle of an old ranch surrounded (mostly) by expensive hillside homes and compounds (we saw a steeplechase course... steeplechase! on the way in). Behind the winery is a bit of property that they sold to Robert Louis Stevenson sometime last century.
In the middle of all this is a bunch of old buildings (don't ask about the privy) and a small state-of-the-art barn that houses the winery. Matt (who we met the night before at Westside Grill) was there with a few bottles. Everything he poured was good. We even got to taste a few things that weren't on his regular tasting list. A bunch of us joined his wine club (as it's really the only way to get tastings).
Finally it was back to the hotel to move out, check out, and get home. We came away with about a half-dozen cases.