What do you do when you’ve owned and operated one of Morgan Hill’s oldest and best known restaurants—a place I’ve called “Morgan Hill’s living room”—for years? You start a winery in San Martin, of course.
But it’s not just a winery; it’s a potential destination that could satisfy so many fun recreation wants right here in our own backyard. Ever been to “Swift Street” in Santa Cruz or “Tin City” in Paso Robles? If so, think along those lines but maybe even better, because it would be no more than maybe 15 minutes away.
For this month’s column, I was prompted by a presentation by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein at the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley association’s “Vine to Wine” event earlier this month. Eighteen local wineries submitted wines for Evan and his team to sample for the event.
His chore was to pick six wines to represent what he believes is great about our local wines. After being open for only two years, Little Uvas Vineyards’ 2020 Barbera was chosen as one of those six. I think the wines convinced one of the best known sommeliers in the country (sommelier to the S.F. Giants baseball team) that we have some great local wines—and this new winery stood out.
So who and what is this Little Uvas Vineyards? Also known as LUV, as in love. LUV is owned by Rosy and Rich Bergen, who operated Rosy’s at the Beach restaurant in Morgan Hill for more than 25 years and have brought that comfortable “living room” feel to their winery. But their winery isn’t all there is to this story…
Once a commercial site with some cool old corrugated metal buildings that once housed mechanic’s shops and such, Rosy and Rich dream one day LUV might become like those venues in Santa Cruz and Paso Robles—but so much closer. They’ve named the property “The Garage” because of Rich’s love for cars, with many of those automobiles on display in the tasting room. But there are far more than cars to enjoy now, and the future could hold a place for other vineyard tasting rooms—like DeRose Winery which is there now—with food and other adult beverage shops filling the 22,000 square feet of funky classic industrial looking buildings.
OK, that’s the future dream. But right now, you can sit and sample and purchase some wonderful wines from fruit that is all grown on the property except for the outsourced chardonnay grapes. The varietals they grow on site include cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, sauvignon blanc and barbera. The last three and the chardonnay have earned some recognition that you should know about.
Those four wines are notable because they all won awards at the biggest wine competition in North America, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, where 1,000 wineries submitted over 5,500 wines for judging and bragging rights. LUV now has bragging rights.
Their 2020 “All You Need is LUV” Barbera and 2021 “Sea of LUV” Sauvignon Blanc won “Double Golds;” the 2020 “LUV Potion #9” Syrah and 2021 “LUV Me Tender” Chardonnay won “Silver” medals. Not bad for the first competition entered where a “Double Gold” is second only to a “Best in Class.”
Remember how I’d previously told you how grapes prefer a certain soil and climate to be their best? Well, sauvignon blanc is a white grape that should be grown in a cooler climate than the 2.5-acre San Martin site should provide (white grapes typically like cooler climates while reds like warmer weather with the red pinot noir in between).
That award, and sold out inventory, would indicate otherwise. The story is, one winemaker refused to make the wine because it shouldn’t be any good and the second winemaker who made the wine had serious doubts. Well, there are always exceptions to the rule and this is apparently one of them. Good for all of us—that is, until they run out again…
So, did you notice how they’ve creatively worked their name “LUV” into the labels? If you know Rosy and Rich you wouldn’t be surprised as they’ve always shown their love for each other and our community. Rosy volunteers extensively in the community on different nonprofit boards while Rich has been the man behind the scenes truly making so much happen with LUV while they provide sponsorships to many efforts together.
Their love for community runs deep as Rosy described how she believes in an ecosystem of buying local, where businesses support businesses and we support our businesses as we buy local products—which helps keep the cycle going on and on. We all win as we reduce demands on resources to ship things out and import them and provide local jobs at the same time while getting some of the freshest and best products.
In the end, how are their wines? I personally think they are all wonderful (see those awards?) and wonderfully drinkable right now. I’m not a wine expert so I can’t talk about a tasting note that talks about crisp tropical fruit but I can tell you I like something—I just might not know why, but I do like these wines.
I hope you do some research and go out and try our local wines and learn about them yourself. You never know when you’ll find a favorite one hidden in plain sight right here in our backyard.
John McKay has been working with the local wineries and restaurants for over a decade. Promoting local wines and food has driven McKay, a former city council member, to help establish the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance and serve on the Board of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association (MHDA). He now serves on the MHDA and Visit Morgan Hill Board of Directors. He can be reached at [email protected].