[Best of Silicon Valley 1999]

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Hall of Fame

Mirassou Winery

The Valley's oldest winery is Disneyland for grown-ups

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

Forget all those scary high-tech rides that keep throwing off their customers; the perfect California theme park ought to be built along the lines of Mirassou Winery in San Jose.

First, work up a little thirst by a pleasant walk in the sun around the vineyard grounds--past row after row of low-cut grapevines, past cool vine-covered stone buildings and stainless-steel fermentation vats, all amid a light, headily pleasant fermenting aroma that positively primes you to break open a bottle. The little black grapes don't look like much by supermarket produce standards, but they crush up into a hell of a nice wine.

Next stop, of course, is to run some of that wine over your tongue in the wine-tasting room, where some 14 varieties in all await gustatory indulgence, from chardonnay and zinfandel to merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Lunch at outdoor picnic tables underneath carousel-colored parasols, next to the Robert Louis Stevenson quote on the plaque that reads, "And The Wine Is Bottled Poetry." Speaking of which, bring a book of poetry with you, if you'd like, and some cheese. And then ...

Winers Welcome: The peaceful grounds and tasting room at Mirassou Winery are open to the public year-round.

Well, the charm at Mirassou is in its buildings. Wine is a contradiction of processing: it requires weeks in the heat to grow the grapes and ferment the brew, but then years in cool, dark, stone-covered places to bring the whole concoction to perfection. Mirassou has a wonderful collection of these hushed, shady spots: the huge storage room with its 15-foot-high wooden vats, long basement lanes filled with row upon row of fat wooden barrels, trees as varied as tall redwoods, magnolias and tart-scented eucalyptus, even a tree-lined patio courtyard modeled in the old California/Spanish style.

And all of this can be had without ever leaving the valley. Mirassou sits at the base of the eastern foothills, pushing aside the surrounding condominium subdivisions as if they were modern intrusions that need not be paid attention to.

The Mirassou kin (who describe themselves as America's oldest winemaking family) originally came to California in the early 1850s in search of gold, but had the good sense to bring some grapevine cuttings with them from their native France. Today's owner/operators are the fifth generation of the family, and with a little luck there will be many more generations to come.

3000 Aborn Rd., SJ 408.274.4000

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From the September 30-October 6, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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