Like a virtual trying on of sunglasses, the pandemic certainly provided some new viewpoints of our respective circumstance. In some cases, it offered a catalyst for executing on long-held visions.
In the case of Geoff Mace, winemaker and co-owner of Calerrain, and his wife Chantelle, it gave them the clarity to realize how vital a role Chantelle played.
“She’s now on board full time,” Geoff said. “She’s brought much-needed organization to the operation over the last few years. We’ve been moving as fast as we can as we try to become fully functional at our estate vineyard.”
Asked what Chantelle’s official title is, he jokes, “Taskmaster! And CEO!”
Calerrain had been using what is now called Atelier des Savants Fous, formerly Stomping Ground, for its production and tasting room when it first launched the brand, but later moved the tasting room to their homestead, where they have a small vineyard. The setting is ideal for a wine country brand, with views of vines and surrounding countryside. You could call it bucolic. But on most weekends, you can also call it jovial, as the spot, and the wine, draw visitors who appreciate the serene setting.
“Since we reopened in 2021, we’ve been constantly adding more outdoor seating options. People have been happy to gather with friends and enjoy a picnic and a bottle of wine,” said Mace, who also serves as president of the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley.
Santa Clara Valley has a high vaccination rate (85 percent as of Oct. 26), which has encouraged club members and visitors, most of whom are happy to enjoy seated tastings by appointment. They had been doing bottle sales only for much of the year.
“It’s nice to see everyone’s face again,” Mace said.
The winery has a policy of $20 per person for a five-wine tasting flight, and club members enjoy two complimentary tastings per month.
The couple notes that their Wine Club growth has directly correlated with their ability to do tastings.
“We feel really lucky that people come, enjoy the tasting, join the Club and then bring their friends who also end up joining the Club,” Mace said.
Key to the experience at Calerrain is that feeling of relaxation from being outside, enjoying the views and breezes.
“We expanded our patio to include an outdoor kitchen, with more tables,” Mace said. “We also added a grassy area with cornhole, Jenga and other games for kids.”
They also installed a woodfired pizza oven, which they fire up once a month, offering different pies by pre-order. Prepaid reservations via Tock are required to secure a 90-minute time slot to enjoy pizza and wine for up to eight people. The pies are $14 each and they usually sell out.
“It makes the pizza a really special experience, because we only do it once a month,” Mace said.
They also offer wine club socials monthly, where members can enjoy a glass of wine along with some food, for $20 per person.
“I love cooking,” he said. “But we sometimes like to hire caterers to help us.”
They’ve developed a big following for their Albarino and their Malbec, in particular, which was sold out.
In fact, Mace said they are selling out of a lot of their wines. And 2020 didn’t help. They were planning to bottle about 600 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from their two different sources, but ended up with 150 instead, all from San Benito.
“We couldn’t harvest fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands, and Muns Vineyard (Santa Cruz Mountains) was exposed,” Mace said. “We got two days into the fermentation and realized it wasn’t going to be usable. We have to have a good year in 2021.”
Calerrain bottles two Cabernet Sauvignons, one from Santa Clara Valley and the other from Paicines. It also produces a Meritage-style blend that is all sourced from its colleagues at Church Creek Vineyard.
Mace is a big fan of the San Benito Pinot Noir, in which he employs a little whole cluster fermentation to add some grip and tannin.
“I like to put a little chill on it and serve it to people who won’t drink white wine,” he said.
This year, they plan to harvest their estate Cabernet grapes for the first time. The Sangiovese vines aren’t quite there yet. But give them another year.
Calerrain is located at 10220 Jean Ellen Court. For information, visit calerrainwine.com.