In the southeastern foothills of Hollister lies a 600-acre ranch, favored with views of sprawling hills and a vast sky. It’s land that Al Guerra’s extended family has owned for nearly 40 years.
And it’s here, more than 10 years ago, where Al found himself admiring the terrain with his eldest child, Jason.
“It just kind of occurred to us, ‘Hey, we could sit here, listen to music, and enjoy the scenery; drink a beer or a glass of wine,’ ” Al recalled.
And with that, a vision was born.
Since that epiphanic day, Pepper Tree Ranch (originally a working cattle ranch) has since become home to Guerra Cellars and Hollister Concerts—a family-favorite hotspot to take in good tunes and enjoy warm, summer evenings.
In 2006, Guerra Cellars planted its first vineyard, and by 2008 the fruits of its labor were rejoiced with the premiere of their first wine. That same year, Hollister Concerts opened with local bands playing to local audiences, and has now become a coveted venue for touring tribute and original bands to perform.
Inspired after visiting Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, California, Jason says his father sought a similar outdoor amphitheater to bring to the San Benito landscape.
“He wanted to do the wine and tasting—and he’s always liked music, so he thought this would be a good spot,” Jason said. “Plus, the area where we put the amphitheater was kind of a natural spot for it; it was kind of a steep bowl that was already there. It just needed to be tiered and planted.”
Such bands as 38 Special, Los Lobos, Y&T, and Bonfire, an AC/DC tribute band have been hits at Hollister Concerts so far, and “have always had the best crowds,” said Danielle Burke, Guerra Cellars wine club manager and concert coordinator. “Their music always gets the crowd going, and in such an intimate setting, it couldn’t get any better.”
This summer’s line-up is proving to offer the same exciting entertainment for locals and visiting crowds.
The Long Run (Eagles Tribute) and Neon Circus (Brooks and Dunn Tribute) will kick off the 2019 summer series on Saturday, June 22.
“We try to coordinate with the saddle horse show, so we have the parade and the concert on the Saturday before the horse show weekend,” Al said. “We try to make that community connection.”
Continuing the line-up is The PettyBreakers (Tom Petty Tribute) and Mirage (Fleetwood Mac Tribute) on July 13; Queen Nation (Queen Tribute) and Idol X (Billy Idol Tribute) on Aug. 3; DSB (Journey Tribute) and Turn the Page (Bob Seger Tribute) on Aug. 24; and Bonfire (AC/DC Tribute) and Fast Times (80s Tribute) on Sept. 14.
Burke explains this year, food will be provided by Blazin’ Bayou BBQ of San Juan Bautista.
“We are very excited to have them as the official vendor this year. All of the food is southern style cooking,” she said.
While attendees are allowed to bring in outside food, anything brought into the premises must be in a see-through or sealed, store-bought container.
Two bars are available for audiences to peruse, where beer and Guerra Cellars wine is available for purchase. Water and soft drinks are also available, though no outside liquids of any kind are permitted.
Burke explains the rules on outside food or drinks are “in order to have family-friendly events.”
It’s the kind of mindset Al envisioned when he began Hollister Concerts.
Three of his four children reside in Hollister, who also have supporting roles at the concerts. All eight of his grandchildren also live in Hollister and partake in the business.
“All my grandkids help me there; they mow the lawns, sell water, help me get stuff done,” Al said.
But he also wants to be clear that while Hollister Concerts was his vision, “there are like 20 of us that own that property,” he added. “It’s not just me; I’m just the one that has enough time to put the effort into keeping it going. It’s mostly just my (immediate) family with the wine and the concert, but my whole family supports it.”
And Jason believes the family, as well as the community, is what gave his father the reason to go into the wine and concert venture.
“He wanted something fun for people to do around here, and it also brings people in from out of town; brings money [to Hollister],” Jason said. “But also, we have a big family. I think he just wanted something that everybody could work on that was fun. It’s five weekends…and it’s a fun thing to do.”
What began as a hobby for Al, who also owns a movie theater, has now become profitable enough to possibly become a business opportunity for a younger family member one day.
“My kids all have careers, so it’s not like they’re going to make it a business,” Al said. “But maybe my grandkids would take it to the next level.”
And what he envisions as the next level is to ultimately headline national artists.
“Hollister supports us very well, but there’s only so many people in Hollister to draw from,” he said. “So we really try to concentrate on Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Watsonville and Salinas to get some people here. It’s nice to not have to go to San Jose and then drive back in order to see somebody you’d like to see. I’d like to see us be able to do that.”
Hollister Concerts at Pepper Tree Ranch is located at 500 John Smith Road in Hollister.
For information, visit www.hollisterconcerts.com or email [email protected] All ages welcome to concerts; children 12 and under are free. No pets are permitted, other than service animals.
Guerra Cellars’ Tasting Barn at Pepper Tree Ranch is open Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5pm from May through September.