Clos LaChance

Monterey AVA

Bill and Brenda Murphy chose the multi-faceted hummingbird as the key symbol for their attractive label

The old axiom that there’s a story for every winery and a winery for every story can be estimably appreciated; particularly regarding the emergence of Clos LaChance as one of the Santa Cruz Mountains most highly respected wineries.

It’s also quite remarkable that Clos La Chance’s owners, Bill and Brenda Murphy chose the multi-faceted hummingbird as the key symbol for their attractive label. Bill Murphy considers the aggressive and entertaining bird a savior in the vineyards by chasing other birds that seek to do damage to the vines. As far as the winery name, “clos” means place in French and LaChance was Brenda’s maiden name. Its selection heralded the couple’s exciting foray into the wine business more than thirteen years ago.

At the time, Bill was an executive with Hewlett-Packard and was living in the history-laden fertile slopes of Saratoga, just West of San Jose. The business began simply enough with the planting of vines in the couple’s backyard as more of a hobby than a business. Bill was prudently aware of the former time when Santa Clara Valley was renowned for its excellent fruit and grapes. He further summarized that many Santa Clara (now called Silicon) Valley homeowners with moderate sized estates were faced with the potential of growing grapes under conditions similar to his own.

Today, Bill Murphy is the Chairman and CEO of his own operation as well as more than twenty-five other estates (from ½ acre to 10 acres). Through a sub-company formed by Murphy, they partially supply Clos LaChance with fruit for their wines. A neat beginning, but there’s even more substance to the Clos LaChance story.

Blessed with steady success and an ongoing demand for their wines, Clos LaChance set out some four years ago to find a spot to locate a winery that would meet their needs. Through a chance meeting, the Murphys were introduced to the developers of Corde Valle Golf Club, a unique (no homes) 1,700-acre development in Lion’s Gate Valley that was seeking agricultural involvement to meet its usage requirements. Next, a deal was struck to locate the winery on the property.

In 1999, eighty-five acres was planted near the sixth green that gives the area the look of Chardonnay Golf Course in Napa or Wente’s beautiful golf environment in Livermore. More plantings are expected in the near future with additional acreage available if Clos LaChance continues its growth.

The 25,000 square foot winery is nearing completion (summer of 2001) and is completely state of the art with planned capacity for 50,000 cases. The views from the patio and tasting room, situated on a knoll benevolently provided by nature, are unparalleled and breathtaking, and conjure up the ideal relationship utilizing the golf/wine theme. The site, available for use at the end of 2001, also presents a much-needed corporate setting for numerous high tech companies looking for a place to unwind and host uninterrupted meetings and gatherings.

“It’s like a dream come true,” remarks Brenda Murphy, who works full time at the winery as its President. “When we started, our goal was to make it into a family wine business, something multi-generational that we could share with our children. Our daughter Cheryl now handles our marketing so our dream is complete.”

Clos LaChance will produce about 15,000 cases in 2001, and will expand its production as their estate vines reach fruition. The Murphys are also excited about Jeff Ritchey, their young Winemaker who actually sought them out. Ritchey is a native of nearby Cupertino who opted for the bucolic charm of Santa Clara Valley rather than the prominence of Napa or Sonoma.

“Jeff is young, highly energetic and very thorough,” added Brenda Murphy. “He had many opportunities up north but chose to cast his lot with us. He has a tremendous palate and is truly a hands on Winemaker.”

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