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Historical Wineries in Gilroy - Solis Winery & Guglielmo Winery

What better way to celebrate Gilroy’s 150th anniversary than outlining some of its history-rich wineries? We’re sharing the stories of 6 of Gilroy’s oldest wineries, which will be in three parts. In this blog, you’ll learn all about Solis Winery and Guglielmo Winery, two of the most well known wineries in Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Most of Gilroy’s wineries were founded between 1916 and 1970, and some are still family-owned! Enjoy reading the history on some of Gilroy’s finest wines and be sure to visit for a tasting to see what each one is all about! While planning your Bay Area wine tasting road trip, you’ll have the advantage knowing the history of some of Gilroy’s greatest wineries.

The map shown above was found in an incredibly insightful book, Wineries of Santa Clara Valley by Bev Stenehjem. This is an early map of the Santa Clara Valley winery region around 1970.

Solis Winery

Image by Solis Winery. 

Solis Winery is one of Santa Clara Valley’s most popular and oldest wineries, with a great story behind it. After Alfonso Bertero emigrated here from Turin, Italy, he found rich, fertile land that was once part of the Rancho de Solis Mexican land grant. He named it Bertero Winery in 1917. During prohibition, Alfonso sold wine for religious purposes, and after he realized how profitable it was, started “bootlegging” his wine. Alfonso became incredibly wealthy and built a home to show off his wealth with crushed abalone shells on the outside walls, so they’d sparkle in the sunlight. This beautiful home is still standing and can be seen from the road next to the winery.

The Bertero family at Angelo’s baptism in 1914.
Photo from Wineries of Santa Clara Valley by Bev Stenehjem.

Alfonso retired at age 76 and passed the business to his son Angelo. While running the winery, Angelo had assistance from his two sons, Carl and Angelo Jr. Bertero Winery became very popular during this time. They established one of the region’s first dedicated tasting rooms and developed a reputation for strong jug wines. It was originally planned to have the winery passed down to Angelo Sr.’s sons; however, he decided to sell, and unfortunately legal issues ensued with the family over the contract.

The winery was sold again in 1989 to David and Valerie Vanni, who started fresh with new plantings including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, Sangiovese and Zinfandel. They renamed the winery Solis Winery.

David and Valerie Vanni c.1989, when Bertero Winery became Solis Winery.
Photo from Wineries of Santa Clara Valley by Bev Stenehjem.

The Vannis had a passion for creating extraordinary wine in a friendly, down-to-earth, trustworthy environment, and they passed that passion on to their sons, Michael and Vic, who took over the family business in 2007. Today, Solis Winery produces a wide range of award-winning wines and specializes in rich red blends and Italian varietals such as Barbera, Sangiovese, and Fiano.

 

Guglielmo Winery

Photo by Guglielmo Winery. 

As one of Northern California’s wine pioneers, Guglielmo Winery holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously operated family winery in Santa Clara Valley. Guglielmo Winery is a fourth-generation family-owned winery that produces a wide variety of award-winning varieties from around 50 acres of California estate vineyards, as well as other premium wine-growing regions within California.

Born in 1883 in Gravere, Italy, Emilio Guglielmo came to America in 1909 and soon after brought his village sweetheart, Emilia, to America and married her the next year. After working and saving their money for 15 years, the couple purchased a home in 1925 on 15 acres of land in Morgan Hill. That was when Emilio Guglielmo Winery was founded. In 1945, Emilio and Emilia’s son George W. and his wife Madeline joined the family business. By the 1980’s, George W. and Madeline passed the winery down to their three sons: Gary, Gene and George E., who continued carrying on the traditions of fine winemaking and hard work. Many know the three for sharing their expertise with new wineries who were just getting started, including loaning out their equipment.

The Guglielmo family in 1982.
Photo from Wineries of Santa Clara Valley by Bev Stenehjem.

The three Guglielmo brothers (George E., Gary, and Gene) in 2010.
Photo from Wineries of Santa Clara Valley by Bev Stenehjem.

The original secret cellar is still used to store up to 20,000 gallons of wine, and the house where Emilio and Emilia began has now become offices for the winery. Today, Guglielmo Winery produces around 40,000 or more cases annually under three different labels: Guglielmo Private Reserve, Tre, and their oldest label, Emile’s.

Photo by Guglielmo Winery. 

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Gilroy is a slice of winery heaven and rich with incredible stories and history to top it off. As we celebrate our city’s 150th anniversary, it’s important to remember the rich history of our beautiful wineries along the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail. Make sure to plan a visit to some of our wineries when you plan your stay in Gilroy! Our next featured wineries will be Kirigin Cellars and Fortino Winery, be sure to check back for more stories on our great Gilroy wineries.

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