High atop Quimby Road, past Evergreen High School and the Temple of Perpetual Light, is a vineyard perched on the hillside. The views are breathtaking, the buzzards fly very close by and it’s exciting to watch planes coming in to land at Mineta airport.
At Bella Montagna, the atmosphere is tranquil. Watching the fog curl inland from Mount Madonna far to the south is revelatory. So, too, is the view to the north, where you can make out the San Francisco skyline and the bridges when the air is sufficiently clear.
Owner Victor Klee recently sold his two Vino Vino wine bars to focus on the new winery. His winemaker is Collin Cranor of Livermore’s Nottingham Cellars and of Grape Culture in Napa. The latter is where Bella Montagna wines are made.
“This property can make some great sauvignon blanc, and we just picked what looks to be a really excellent crop for 2023,” Cranor says.
The red grapes, though, are taking their sweet time, and are going to require a boatload of patience. “We’ve made some really good cabernet sauvignon from this hillside,” Cranor says as he pours a taste of the 2021 vintage.
Klee says the 2019 cabernet is his favorite, but he doesn’t have a bottle handy, so he pops open—unscrews, actually—bottles of the 2016 and 2017 cabernet sauvignon that were bottled at Page Mill Winery in Livermore. These older labels look remarkably like those of Page Mill, while the newer ones bear a sketch of the mountain property’s outline.
Gazing down at the vineyard as it gently slopes toward the city below, it’s easy to see why this spot was such a coveted homesite. Prior to Klee, it was owned by the Bay Area Girl Scouts, who had intended to make a retreat out of it but ran into some difficulties with the city over the scope of their plans, so they put it up for sale in 2001.
Klee and his wife Stacie, who were longtime wine fans, decided to plant vines on this southwest-facing slope in 2004 after a landscaper suggested it might be a good spot. They tapped Julio Covarrubias, a renowned vineyard manager from Livermore with decades of experience working for the Wente family. He, in turn, introduced Klee to Cranor, who began making the wines in 2012.
In a sweet twist of fate, the Bella Montagna vineyard lies on the same property once owned by the Mirassou family, widely recognized as the oldest winemaking family in the US. As detailed in fifth-generation vintner and author, Steven Mirassou’s book, “Lineage: Life & Love & Six Generations,” the Mirassou family has been making wine in the Santa Clara Valley since 1854. The Klees frequented the Mirassou Winery on Aborn Road before the family sold their brand to Gallo.
Klee says he’ll begin taking reservations for tasting for the weekend of Sept. 23-24, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m., at [email protected] or www.bellamontagna.net. Tastings will be pretty informal, and he’s fine with well-behaved dogs on leashes and kids that are respectful of the fact this is someone’s home. Bring a picnic or snacks and enjoy a tasting flight and/or a bottle of wine. Located at 3786 Quimby Road, Bella Montagna is definitely a spot to linger.
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