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Santa Clara-Santa Cruz - Notable Wineries By District And Region

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(Note: Information Originally Published In 1955 - Presented For Historical Perspective!)


Richert & Sons, Madrone

A small winery and one of the latest to be launched. It was founded in November 1953 by Walter S. Richert and occupies a portion of the premises, formerly the home of Madrone Vineyards, a concern once famous for the quality of its wines, but which was dissolved in 1951.

Walter Richert first entered the wine industry in 1937 and has been connected with different wineries in various capacities, including as chemist, production manager, sales representative, and general manager. He served as technical editor for the publication Wines and Vines and is prominent in the American Society of Enologists.

The Richert winery is located in the front section of the former Madrone plant, as is a retail outlet. The policy is to produce fine wines at very reasonable prices. The first crushing of the winery's own grapes took place in the 1954 harvest season and, as the business expands, more and more of Richert's own wines will be produced, as distinct from those which are selected, purchased, and bottled. Walter Richert has great plans for the future, including that of his sons, Bob, Eric, and Scotty, who already form part of the company's name in spite of their extreme youth.

The featured brand is the well-established one of Simi Vineyard,* acquired by Walter Richert, along with other assets and interests, from C. Schilling Company of Cloverdale, Sonoma County, when Richert & Sons was formed.

The main accent at the Richert winery is on the production of table wines, while sparkling wines and aperitif and dessert types are also marketed. Available under the Simi Vineyard label are the following:

Table wines:

RED: Cabernet, Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret; WHITE: Dry Semillon, Haut Sauterne, Sauterne, Riesling, and Chablis; ROSE: Vin Rose.

Sparkling wines (bulk process) : Champagne, Pink Champagne, and Sparkling Burgundy.

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Pale Dry Sherry and Cream Sherry, Ruby Port; Dry and Sweet Vermouth.

Walter Richert publishes, from time to time, witty and chatty made by his winery and its products and of the family doings in general.

San Martin Vineyards Company, San Martin

This well-known enterprise is owned by the close-knit Filice family, which originally came from the province of Cosenza in Calabria, Italy, and members of which are spread all over Central and Southern Europe. The Italian firm of Bozzo and Filice of Donnici claims to have been in the wine business since 1700.

A branch of the Filice family settled in California in the Santa Clara Valley in the early eighteen nineties and planted considerable land there in the early part of this century. Bruno Filice, who had wine interests in Italy, acquired in 1932, with the passing of Prohibition, the old San Martin Winery and Vineyards, which had been founded some forty years before.

The family concern is now owned and operated by Bruno Filice's four sons and by his son-in-law. Michael j. Filice is the vineyard manager and also acts in a general managerial capacity along with his brothers John M. and Peter C. Filice and his brother-in-law, Pasquale Lico. The last is also the wine maker, while another Filice brother, Frank C., is the bottling superintendent. Michael Bo is the chemist.

The Filices have a considerable vineyard acreage under cultivation, most of which was planted by members of the family. The vineyards are located on the sunny western hillsides of the Santa Clara Valley, many of them on the slopes of Mt. Madonna, dominating the Hecker Pass, and include Glen Loma and Castlewood, planted to the choicer varietal vines.

Table wines, sparkling wines, and aperitif and dessert wines of fine quality are produced, with San Martin Private Reserve the leading brand. Available are the following wines:

Table wines: RED: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret; WHITE: Riesling, Malvasia, Chablis, Rhine Wine, and Sauterne; ROSE: Rose.

Sparkling wines (both bottle-fermented and bulk-process) : Champagne, Pink Champagne, Grenache Pink Champagne, and Sparkling Burgundy.

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Flor Sherries, including Golden Palomino and Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry (medium), and Cream Sherry; Port and Tawny Port, Muscatel, Tokay, White Port, and Angelica.

A number of high-quality varietal table wines are also produced under the Castlewood brand, some of which carry the vintage year on the label. These include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Grignolino, and Barbera in the reds, as well as Semillon and Pinot Chardonnay in the whites, and Grenache Rose. A specialty will be Montonico, a mild, tawny-pink sweet table wine (12 per cent alcohol by volume), produced from grapes of that name imported from Calabria. Both Emerald Riesling and Ruby Cabernet will also be available.

The mellow type of red Italian table wine is represented by the San Martin Vino Rosso, by a Mellow Claret, as well as by a wine named Hostess Burgundy.

Both Dry and Sweet Vermouth are produced, the latter being aged in small chestnut barrels.

A special building for the development of flor Sherries has been constructed and is now in production.

Santa Clara Valley is the home of some of the finest strawberries of the West Coast and San Martin markets a well-known Strawberry Wine which has captured the full flavor and delicacy of that fruit. Other berry wines marketed include Loganberry and Blackberry.

Bertero Winery, Gilroy (Hecker Pass)

A small winery in the western foothills of the Santa Clara Valley in the Hecker Pass area, and included here on account of the excellent quality of its Grenache Rose.

Alfonso Bertero, the owner, was born in the neighborhood of Turin in Italy and came to this country in 1911. He first worked for the Standard Oil Company and in i9rg went into the wine business, selling grapes to home wine makers and to other wineries for the production of sacramental wines. He moved to his present location in 1924, where he built the winery and his home. The property is part of the old Los Alamos grant and some of the original Spanish wooden stakes survive.

Bertero, who is getting on in years, is assisted in the family enterprise by his son Angelo, who in turn is aided by his son, Angelo, Jr., whose brother, Carl, will rejoin the family and the business when he has completed his term in the Navy.

Table wines only are produced, all from local grapes, including Zinfandel, Carignane, Grenache, and French Colombard (for the Sauterne). Wines are marketed under the Bertero brand and are sold at the winery in large glass containers although they can be bottled on special order.

Burgundy and Claret are produced as well as Sauterne, but the outstanding product is the winery's Grenache Rose, made exclusively from that grape. It is a full-flavored, brilliant-colored wine which can easily compete with the finest Grenache in the state.

Bonesio Brothers, Gilroy (Uvas district)

A winery well known in the surrounding counties, producing sound "country" Santa Clara table wines. It is located in the hilly Uvas district west of Gilroy near the Hecker Pass, uvas being Spanish for grape and the region so named because the Spaniards, presumably, already raised or found grapes there. The property forms part of the former Solis Rancho, and the Bonesio residence, over a hundred years old, was once the headquarters of the Solis Rancho grant.

Pietro (Peter) Bonesio, the founder of the winery, came from an Italian wine-raising family and was born in Cardona near Asti in Piedmont. Now in his seventies, he came to the United States at the turn of the century and worked in subway construction in New York City. He later farmed in Louisiana, and then moved to Oakland, California, where he was engaged in the concrete business. In 1915 he reverted to the traditional family occupation, first starting a winery in the Rucker district, north of Gilroy, and then moved to his present location on Solis Rancho in Uvas Canyon.

Peter Bonesio is still active, but turned the business over in 1932 to his sons Louis and Victor, the present owners and general managers, who were brought up in the enterprise since their earliest days, being taught the trade by their father. Victor Bonesio is also the sales manager, while Louis is the wine maker and chemist, and Peter Bonesio the vineyard manager.

The Bonesio wines are made from home-grown grapes which include Zinfandel, Grignolino, Grenache, French Colombard, Golden Chasselas, and Sauvignon vert.

The featured brand is Uvas, under which the following table wines are marketed:

RED: Burgundy (full of flavor, full-bodied, practically straight Zinfandel) and Claret (from mixed grapes);

WHITE: Sauterne (from the Golden Chasselas and others);

ROSE: Grignolino Rose (with plans to produce also a Grenache Rose).

A number of aperitif and dessert wines are purchased and marketed.