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Gold Medal Wine Club
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Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Jason Stephens Winery - Santa Clara Valley

As a bootstrapped, grass-roots winery, Jason-Stephens has quickly grown into an up and coming label, and one of the best kept secrets in Santa Clara Valley.

When someone mentions Gilroy, California, the subject isn’t usually related to wine. Gilroy is the garlic capital of the world and proudly proclaims the fact on huge highway signs. Anyone who has driven through the Gilroy area on US Highway 101 can also attest to the specific smell that accompanies the area. Gilroy, and most of the small towns that make up the Santa Clara Valley, also happens to be a particularly good environment for growing grapes (which have been thriving there for over 300 years). That fact was one of the main reasons that first attracted Jason Goelz (pronounced Gels) to build his new winery on Watsonville Road, between Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Goelz, 34, was born in the Midwest, but moved with his family to California for his senior year in high school. He matriculated to nearby Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and began studying marketing. Along the way, he took a wine appreciation course, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Additional wine courses provided the impetus for a long term love affair with the grape and allowed him to have a wine/viticulture minor upon graduation.

“I guess I was just a case of enjoying wine, and later winemaking. I learned to make wine and produced a couple of barrels each year, mostly for my own enjoyment and for my friends. It’s amazing how many friends you have when there is wine involved.” But Goelz’s attention was diverted to marketing, where he enjoyed success in several businesses and his extensive business background proved invaluable.

“It was always in my mind to make a career in business, then retire early and enter the wine business, the way many people do today. After several years in the outside business world, I began to realize that my true calling was in the wine business, so I decided to take the necessary steps in that direction.” A unique relationship with Santa Clara grower Stephen Dorcich proved instrumental in that process. Dorcich had grown high quality grapes for many years and sold his production to other wineries. Goelz started assisting Dorcich in the selling of grapes and bulk wine and eventually showed an ability to get higher prices for both the grapes and wine. In mid-2006, Goelz approached Dorcich about his idea of building a winery on Dorcich’s vineyard land. He would lease the vineyards and produce the wines using Dorcich’s grapes as estate-grown fruit, a plus for the grower. The two agreed and construction on Jason-Stephens Winery was begun in 2008. The arrangement has worked marvelously for both parties. Jason-Stephens Winery’s first release came in 2008, a total of nearly 8,000 cases. The wines were well received from inception and have continually garnered a high number of awards and media features. Production has risen to the 15,000 to 20,000-case level, depending on the annual yield of the vineyards. The 2010 crop looks to be a bumper year at Jason-Stephens Winery and also for many central coast growers. The winery itself is some 10,000 square feet, and completely state-of-the-art. It is uniquely designed so that the wines can be made by only two people, a rarity in the wine world. Jason-Stephens Winery also has storage room for more than 1,200 aging barrels, necessary for the production of its high quality wines. Jason-Stephens Winery is also in the midst of an incredible growth spurt that has seen it open distribution in some 15 additional states since the beginning of the year.

“The reception our wines have received is amazing,” explained Goelz. “If we continue as we have so far this year, we might have to go into some sort of allocation. That wouldn’t be too hard to take.”

  1. Jason Stephens
    2009 Chardonnay
    Jason Stephens
    Central Valley


    93 Points - Best Buy
    id: 795
  2. Jason Stephens
    2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
    Jason Stephens
    Uvas Canyon Estate Vineyard
    Central Valley


    91 Points - Best Buy
    id: 797
  3. Jason Stephens
    2009 Chardonnay
    Jason Stephens
    Estate Select
    Central Valley


    Highly Recommended
    id: 796

Jason Goelz makes all his own wine and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jason Goelz does have an assistant, Kelley Hamilton, a young lady that he hired recently. Jason knows what he wants from his winemaking and has designed his winery so that it only takes two people to make wine, a rarity in today’s California wine industry. He is after clean taste on the palate, and insures that all Jason-Stephens Winery estate fruit is picked when it is perfectly ready. His many wine classes at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo provided him the needed education and expertise to be able to accomplish this most important aspect for his fledgling winery. While not the youngest winemaker in California, Jason surely ranks among the most innovative and adventuresome in his field.

Jason Goelz ‘I have learned a great deal from what I have already experienced,”

Jason Goelz is not your ordinary 34-year-old businessman, particularly in the highly competitive California wine industry business. While many others his age might be running similar businesses, many are descendants of families in the wine establishment who have taken over the reins of proven entities. Not so with Jason Goelz, who has accomplished everything in the wine business on his own. Goelz, if anything, is completely self-assured. ‘I have learned a great deal from what I have already experienced,” he stated. ‘After school, I did a lot of work as an analyst and as a consultant, not necessarily in the wine arena. I feel that marketing is marketing, and is applicable to just about every type of endeavor. That said, I have tried to make use of what I know.” Jason went on to describe some of the little things that have made a difference.

‘Take our labels, for instance,” he added. ‘A lot of wineries choose accepted forms of labeling to fit in with other wineries. I felt that our labels should stand on their own merits. I contracted with a wonderful agency in Santa Monica to produce a unique design, one that would not be soon forgotten. It should stand the test of time and was something that wouldn’t need changing every few years if the direction of the winery happened to vary. I wanted our labels to be ingrained in our customer’s brain, and recognized as something they had seen before.” Jason-Stephens Winery’s striking labels certainly fit that bill to the proverbial ‘t’, one of the elements that Goelz feels has helped his initial success in stores and restaurants.

‘I want people to forget just how young I am,” he insisted. ‘I want everyone to judge my wines on their merits and how they taste in their mouths. I am quite appreciative of the initial reception my wines have received, but the winery has been through some really tough times so far.” Goelz points to the recent recessionary period during which the American economy slowed to a crawl.

‘This was the time my wines first came on the market,” he explained. ‘A lot of people stopped drinking wine altogether and others cut back drastically. A number of wineries were forced out of the business and others were compelled to cut back on their operations. Luckily, I had designed the winery so that it required almost no manpower to operate, so I was able to ride out the really tough periods.” Jason serves as winemaker, marketer and CEO of the operation. The only aspect he is not involved with is the grape growing, a task he leaves to his friend and partner Stephen Dorcich.

‘I couldn’t have done all this without Stephen’s help,” Goelz finalized. ‘He is a great grower and a really good guy. We have helped each other in various aspects of our businesses and we are really good friends to boot.” Jason Goelz is a prime example of a young man with exceptional talent that has found his niche in life at a relatively young age. He had utilized his training and become successful in a short period of time. He also says he is really enjoying his life right now, something more of us wish we could say.

About The Region

The Santa Clara Valley can trace its origins in grape growing all the way back to 1798 when the first Mission vines were planted at the Santa Clara Mission. Grapes have been grown in the area ever since, but for some reason, have never been accorded the status of other Central Coast wine regions. Wineries have dotted the area for hundreds of years and some have grown to extremely large size. The existing soils are excellent for most varietals and the near perfect heat (day) and cold (night) ratio is among the best in mid-California. Also, the area’s close proximity to the nautical influences of the Pacific Ocean is considered a boon to farmers who produce grapes for a living.

The Santa Clara Valley appellation (AVA) was so designated in 1989. It encompassed some 300,000 acres that had formerly been part of the Santa Clara County or Central Coast growing areas. The region is also home to top wineries such as J. Lohr, Sartori, Sara’s Vineyards, Solis Winery and Sycamore Creek Vineyards. The area has undergone a recent transition that has elevated the status of its vineyards and wineries.

Salmon Cubes with Oyster Sauce


1 ½ pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1 ½-inch cubes
2 Tbs. oyster sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 fresh long red chile, thinly sliced on the bias
4 scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 Tbs. dry white wine
3 Tbs. chopped basil
2 Tbs. water
Steamed rice and lime or lemon wedges, for serving


In a large bowl, toss the salmon cubes with the oyster sauce and season with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the salmon and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned but barely cooked through, about 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate; add the chile and scallions. Cook until the scallions soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and water and simmer until the salmon is just cooked through, 1 minute. Stir in the basil. Transfer the salmon to plates and serve with rice and lime wedges.

Pork Chops with Red Wine Reduction Sauce


Four 8-ounce, bone-in pork rib chops
Salt and freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
4 large shallots, sliced (1 ½ cups)
¼ tsp. anise seeds
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. tomato paste


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and dust with flour. In a skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the pork and cook over high heat for 1 minute. Add the butter, reduce the heat to moderately high and cook, turning once, until the chops are browned on both sides, 8 minutes. Transfer the chops to a baking sheet and bake in the over until an instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest point registers 145 degrees, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, add the shallots and anise to the skillet and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and reduce over moderately high heat to ¼ cup, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute longer. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the chops to plates and top with the sauce.