Now here’s a wine region that’s hiding in plain sight. The Santa Clara Valley (also known as Silicon Valley) is one of California’s oldest wine-growing regions and home to some 34 family-owned wineries and tasting rooms, many of them dog-friendly.
The city of Gilroy, known for its famous garlic festival, is your home base for exploring the region; just follow the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail signage to craft your own tour. (Insider tip: a $75 pass lets you taste at all the regional wineries all year long and provides access to special events, as well). Check out a map here.
To get your bearings, start out at new and trendy Alara Cellars, founded by fashion designer Malene Grotrian, whose sketches grace the labels. It’s open for tasting weekends right in the center of town. Aver Family Vineyards, specializing in Rhone wines, is another convenient and dog-friendly stop with an attractive picnic area.
It may sound strange, but Casa de Fruta, the 110-year-old fruit stand on steroids outside Hollister on the Pacheco Pass Highway, is a great place to people-watch, stretch legs and paws and entertain the kids with miniature train rides, playgrounds and much more. Load up on some fruit and nuts (Fido will have to wait outside) and head over to the outside. Casa de Fruta also features an inn and 300-space RV Resort.
For pure dog love in big servings, be sure to stop by Kirigin Cellars, which in normal years hosts several American Kennel Club-sanctioned events, including rally, obedience and lure coarsing on the grounds. At other times, visitors are welcome to sip a Vino de Mocca while tossing tennis balls to their pups.
Whether you’re just visiting Gilroy for the day or plan to stay awhile, make the California Welcome Center Gilroy your first stop in town. Their team can provide helpful maps and guides to help you make the most of your time in Gilroy. Be sure to ask for a free “Gilroy Goodie Bag,” which includes fun mementos and coupon offerings from local wineries.