In California's San Jose Two Amazing Restaurants, a Vineyard with a View and Casual Hangouts
By, David J. Latt
Luxury Travel Magazine
I headed south from San Jose, using my GPS to travel into the hills above Cupertino and the Silicon Valley. After twenty minutes of switchback roads that carried me through thick stands of dusty pine trees and across sunbaked hills, I arrived at my destination.
Tucked into a notch at the mountain top, the Ridge Vineyards tasting room was surround by neatly trellised vines tracing the shape of the hillside. Like everyone else visiting the vineyard, I parked and headed straight for the lookout point where I had a clear view of Silicon Valley.
A winery that helped change history
Located on the mountain top, the vineyard receives a bounty of sunlight. The hearty vines produce grapes full of flavor. Regarded as one of the better wineries in the valley, Ridge Vineyards produces high quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Chardonnay vintages.
The vineyard was also part of an important moment in the history of California wines.
After WWII California wineries were producing quality wines but as far as the world was concerned, French wines were superior. End of story. In 1976 a transformative competition was held, called the Judgement of Paris. To everyone’s surprise, in a first-ever blind test between California and French wines, the California wines won.
Ridge Vineyards’ 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon was one of those wining vintages. That contest put California wines and Ridge Vineyards on the world stage.
When you visit, you will want to allow time to enjoy a wine tasting in the large and welcoming wood-paneled tasting room. Make a day of it. Bring a lunch to eat on the covered patio or outside at the shaded picnic tables where you can continue to enjoy the wines you liked in the tasting room.
A five-star bakery and farm-to-market best-of-the-season produce in Los Gatos
Also south of San Jose, Los Gatos sits at the base of forested hills. The idyllic, upscale village has many attractions, the one I pursued was Manresa Bread.
What does a Michelin stared chef do with his spare time? If you are David Kinch, you partner with master baker Avery Ruzicka to create a quality bakery serving classics of French and American baking. The breads are made with flour milled on site to create breads as varied as French baguettes, fruit and nut loaves, whole wheat and pumpernickel as well as a display case full of sweet pastries crafted with great care.
Manresa Bread is open 7am-3pm every day, or, as the sign on the window says, “until we sell out.” Which is often. Wanting my choice of the dialing offerings, I woke early and drove the fifteen minutes from where I was staying in downtown San Jose so I would have my pick of pastries. I chose a Breton style Kouign Amann and an individual sized pull-apart Monkey Bread. The sunlight slanted across the hills above the town. The morning air still had a crisp coolness. I settled onto one of the outdoor benches on the covered patio and opened the white paper bag.
If you are a fan of Kouign Amann (pronounced “quinn aman”), you will enjoy Manresa’s version with a crème brulee-crackling crisp, caramel bottom and delicate layers of flavored dough cooked to moist-perfection. Alternating bites with sips of a cup of strong coffee, I was about as happy as I could be. You will definitely want to make the drive to Los Gatos to enjoy these world class treats.
Come on Sunday morning so you can also visit the nearby Los Gatos Certified Farmers Market. Allow time to walk around the market and the side streets where locals are out in force, hanging out with friends and family at the outdoor cafes, walking their dogs, pushing strollers and chasing young kids who race across the grassy park shaded by massive redwoods. Do some shopping at the farmers market to pick up local organic produce, freshly-picked fruit or a bouquet of flowers. If you are hungry or thirsty, pick up made-to-order kettle korn, crepes, Mexican tacos, huevos rancheros, freshly squeezed juice, a Vietnamese iced coffee or a spring roll.