Central Coast AVA
Keeping the family tradition alive in the Santa Clara Valley
Solis Winery came into existence in 1989 when David and Valerie Vanni (vee-anni) purchased a small plot of ground just outside the City of Gilroy in the Santa Clara Valley that had been part of the original Rancho de Solis Mexican Land Grant (around 8,800 acres in total) several centuries before. The acreage was also close to a nearby winery and soon became Vanni Estate Vineyard. David Vanni immediately replanted the existing vineyards with varietals he considered more appealing to his Italian heritage and family.
Two years later the winery became available and the Vannis were officially in the wine business. They renamed the winery Solis Winery (it was originally the Bertero Winery after its Italian immigrant founder Angelo Bertero) and began producing wines that were soon garnering awards and plaudits from wine industry periodicals and events. David Vanni had started making wine in his basement like many others of Italian descent and made the transition to commercial winemaking without a proverbial hitch. Solis Winery soon became a mainstay in the agricultural paradise that was the City of Gilroy and the rich and fertile soils of the Santa Clara Valley.
In 2007, the winery passed on to the next generation of Vannis, namely Vic and Michael Vanni. Both were graduates from nearby Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo, and both held degrees in related agricultural fields. The progression into the family’s wine business was totally natural and uncomplicated.
From a rather smallish beginning (less than 1,000 cases were initially produced when the brand first appeared in the early 1970’s), Solis Winery has grown to a modest 5,000 + cases at this time.
“We are totally comfortable with our level of production,” offered Vic Vanni who runs the business side of Solis Winery. “We own 21 acres of Vanni Estate vineyards that comprises nearly 95% of our total production. We can control our quality at Solis Winery with our estate fruit and can be sure we are producing some of the finest wines that can be found in the Santa Clara Valley.”
Solis Winery rests at the foot of the vibrant green Gabilan Mountain Range and offers a stunning view of the surrounding area. “Our tasting facility is definitely user-friendly,” added Vic Vanni, “and our back porch is among the most relaxing spots in wine country to sit and enjoy our wines and surroundings. I use the word ‘idyllic’ to describe the experience and so do many of our friends and customers.”
Solis Winery is that rare exception to larger, more commercial wineries. It has chosen to remain small and produce top quality wines rather than expand its production. We salute the Vanni Family and their Solis Winery and are delighted to offer our Gold Wine Club members some of their remarkable, award-winning wines. Saluta e divertiti!
Map of the area
Michael Vanni - Winemaker
Michael Vanni is two years younger than his brother Vic and has served as Solis Winery’s winemaker since the year 2010. He holds an Agriculture Engineering Technology degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and has been a winemaker for practically his whole life. After finishing college, he apprenticed with Barry Jackson, Solis Winery’s winemaker at the time, during which the winery received numerous medals and a host of high individual scores from industry periodicals.
While Michael and Vic co-own Solis Winery, Michael prefers to stay in the background and let his wines do all the talking for him. “We concentrate on making mostly small lots of wine, generally between 300 and 400 cases. When we get a Double Gold (as was the case with the 2018 Fiano Estate) or any high-caliber award, we take time to celebrate with our family and friends. We made the decision to remain small and control our quality and that’s the real key to our success. My brother, Vic handles the winery and I am responsible for our estate vineyards and our wines. It has turned out to be a marvelous success for us both,” he asserted. “Vic’s degree focused on the business side of the business while mine was on the wine production side. From our viewpoints, it has always been a win-win situation for our family.”
Vic Vanni - In the Spotlight
Vic Vanni, 50, is the second generation of his family to be in the wine business. He is extremely happy with his job and the fact that it offers him an opportunity to mix with his friends and customers.
“Our family has always been agriculturally-oriented,” he recalled during a recent interview. “We were originally in the cut-flower business in Watsonville and when it came time to go to college, it seemed natural for me to study agriculture. Cal Poly taught me the business side of agriculture and I hope I have been able to put what I learned to good use.”
Many successes, in the form of multiple awards and high scores for Solis Winery, have followed Vic Vanni through his wine career. Some of the awards bear interesting stories.
“Take the 2018 Estate Fiano, for example,” he further explained. “It’s not a varietal you see every day and, in truth, is only raised by a few growers. My Dad and Uncle made a trip to Italy and discovered the Fiano varietal in the Campania Region and liked it because it was a high-yield grape. It took well to our soils and recently, in 2019, took Best of Show at the Central Coast Wine Competition. Now more growers are planting Fiano and the varietal has truly come into its own. Who would have thought?”
In the eyes of Vic Vanni, it’s all about his family’s Italian heritage and insuring its legacy to future generations. “As in many Italian families, my Dad started off making wine for the family in our basement. We had this wine at all family gatherings and dinners. It wasn’t always the same, but it was part of our heritage, so everyone drank it. Some batches were better than others, but everyone survived. Dad really became a winemaker when we acquired the winery next to our property. My brother Michael and I intend to carry on our family tradition and produce the best wines possible.”
Vic Vanni is also fascinated by the history of Solis Winery which can be traced back to the 18th Century. Macario Castro was a sergeant in the Spanish Army who arrived in the area in 1784. His son, Mariano Trinidad Castro, acquired the first parcel of land at the beginning of the 19th Century and moved his family in 1805 to what was then Rancho de Solis after its original owner, Joaquin Solis. Early plantings made the property one of the first in the entire Santa Clara Valley, and is considered one of the oldest commercial wine producing regions in California.
What about making wine in Gilroy, the city that bills itself as Garlic Capital of the World?
Vic Vanni feels that the area has changed drastically in the past two decades and no longer produces or grows a great amount of garlic. The name has stuck, and it gives the place a sense of identity. He feels that the soils that abound on his ranch and all-around Gilroy are near perfect for grape growing and that the numerous medals and scores his brother Michael and Solis Winery has achieved speak for themselves.
Santa Clara Valley AVA - Region
The Santa Clara Valley AVA is a large area of more than 330,000 acres of which more than 1500 are planted in vine. It is home to more than 35 wineries and is close in proximity to Silicon Valley and a natural visiting site for any visitors to the area. The AVA was established in 1989 and contains two sub appellations, Pacheco Pass AVA and San Ysidro District AVA.
In 1798, the first European cuttings were planted at historic Mission Santa Clara that are believed to be California’s first plantings. By mid-19th Century, the Santa Clara Valley had more vineyard acreage and more wineries (over 100) than any other county in California. The area is blessed with an incredible Mediterranean climate and naturally rich (and minerally) soils where vineyards thrive and excel.
Soils vary in the region, from limestone to granite based and many contain the near perfect balance of nutrients necessary to produce high-quality grapes. Excellent drainage throughout the area increases the grape quality and adds to the terroir factor that has become increasingly important to high-caliber wines. Some of California’s greatest wineries had operations in the Santa Clara valley including Charles La Franc, Paul Masson, Almaden, Martin Ray, Ridge Vineyards, David Bruce Winery, J. Lohr Vineyards and a number of others.
Test Your Wine IQ! - Wine Wizard
Where was the first-recorded producing winery located?
The oldest recorded history of a producing winery was in Armenia, a landlocked country in the area of the South Caucasus Mountains. The winery is believed to have operated around 4100 BCE, long before the Greeks and Romans began their wine experience. The Phoenicians are credited to spreading wine throughout the Mediterranean, first to the Greeks who later spread it to the Romans who are credited with making the beverage the incredibly popular international drink it is today. The Greeks and Romans even dedicated their wines to their favorite gods, Dionysus in Greece and Bacchus in Rome. Of the two, Bacchus is more celebrated and definitely more inebriated.
Are you ready for a blue wine?
Really, now, are you serious? Definitely so. The idea seems to have originated in Spain where winemakers mixed red and white grapes sourced from both France and Spain. To get the trademark blue color, the dye indigo tine was combined with anthocyanin, a pigment that naturally occurs in grape skins. Neither of these words excites the palate, but these are the facts. Next, zero calorie sweeteners are also added, a factor that supposedly enhances the blue wine‘s flavor. Surprisingly, there’s no rush to import the blue wine into the United States, a fact that must be considered a real boon to our delicate palates.
What do olive oil, chocolate and port wine have to do with longevity?
The world’s oldest recognized person was Jeanne Louise Calment of Arles, France who lived to the ripe old age of 122 years and 164 days. She outlived both her daughter and grandson. Calment attributed her longevity in great part to a diet of olive oil, port wine and 1kg of chocolate per week, a rather unusual combination to understand. Her life was well documented (born February 21, 1875 and died August 4, 1997. A documentary film on her life was released in 1995, entitled Beyond 120 Years with Jeanne Calment.