ERSKINE: Hike, drink and be merry

Ron Erskine

Getting Out: I know, you don’t have to explain. Hiking is just a
lot of walking, walking, walking. It is often up a steep hill,
usually takes place in warm weather and is always tiring. But
suppose, instead of a grueling hike, we take a leisurely stroll?
And what if we throw in wine tasting at a historic local winery?
Would that change things for you?
Dear Hiking Haters,

I know, you don’t have to explain. Hiking is just a lot of walking, walking, walking. It is often up a steep hill, usually takes place in warm weather and is always tiring. And for what — perhaps a wildflower or two, or an occasional view? Heck, I can see that out the car window without all of the effort.

But suppose, instead of a grueling hike, we take a leisurely stroll? And what if we throw in wine tasting at a historic local winery? Would that change things for you?

Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve is a delightful marriage of hiking and wine-tasting that makes for a great day out. Start with a short walk to a seasonal pond, then return to the tasting room and elegantly throw your pinky finger out there as you lift a glass of fine Chardonnay. So civilized.

In the 1870s, the Picchetti family emigrated from Italy and settled here alongside Stevens Creek at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains. For 72 years, they operated a winery here. The grounds and buildings in the winery complex have been beautifully restored and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1978, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Authority acquired the property and leased the winery portion of the property to the current owners.

As I pulled into the preserve parking lot, my first view was across the lush manicured winery property which looked like an oasis amid the dry brown dinge of our summer hills. Large oaks and redwoods shaded the historic buildings. The beautiful grounds, dotted with benches and picnic tables, invite visitors to wander and linger.

Hikers can choose to walk the complete 1.9-mile Zinfandel Trail over to Stevens Creek County Park, but today is for strolling, not hiking. I grabbed a map at the parking lot kiosk and headed toward the pond only a quarter-mile away. After a short rise, I looked back at the active lime quarry beyond the winery. All of those 18-wheelers I passed on the way to the preserve are transporting this lime to a nearby cement plant.

In a matter of minutes beyond an abandoned orchard, I arrived at the pond which is set in a slight depression and surrounded by oaks and eucalyptus trees. One live oak in particular by the trail is a massive monarch. Water lilies almost entirely cover the pond surface. They must be quite a sight when they bloom.

I turned left at the Bear Meadow Trail and took a short side trip up the oak-shrouded Vista Trail for a nice view of the valley through a narrow opening in the foothills. By the time I returned to the winery, I had been gone less than an hour (I lingered) and had hardly walked a mile. Any loop to the pond and back is just a stroll and a great prelude to a wine tasting.

The tasting room at Picchetti Winery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. I was greeted warmly in the large and lovely tasting room, and the wines I tasted were great. On weekends in July and August, live music will accompany your post-stroll picnic.

So, hiking haters, there you go. At Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve, they’ve taken out the hot, tired and thirsty part and added a wine-tasting oasis. Cheers!

To get to the preserve, exit Interstate 280 at Foothill Expressway and drive 3.5 miles toward the mountains. Turn right on Montebello Road and drive a half-mile to the preserve parking lot. Come for a picnic, but don’t bring Fido.

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