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Kirigin Cellars - A Historic Winery in Santa Clara Valley

In previous articles you learned about the history for four Santa Clara Valley wineries. All had interesting pasts and are still providing the warmth of the past and the quality wines of the present.

The original Bonesio Winery was founded in 1916.
Steve Ferree
Kirigin Cellars - A Historic Winery in Santa Clara Valley
Kirigin Cellars
  • Guglielmo Winery – Founded in 1925 and still owned and managed by the third generation of the Guglielmo family, welcoming visitors to one of the larger wineries in the valley.
  • Morgan Hill Cellars – Founded in 1913, but has gone through three owners and three winery names over the years, yet still delivers a taste of history along with some great tastes in wines.
  • Thomas Kruse Winery – Founded in 1971 and moved across the valley in 1997, still owned and managed by winemaker Thomas Kruse, delivering a touch of the past with the friendly, non-pretentious atmosphere, continually delivering truly hand-crafted wines in a very personal style.
  • Fortino Winery – Founded in 1970 and still run by the second generation of the Fortino family. This winery has adapted with the needs of a growing Santa Clara county adding and event center and hosting many weddings throughout the year, yet still providing wine lovers with a great stop on the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail.

Kirigin Cellars

The final historic winery to visit is Kirigin Cellars. Here we see a winery that has a proud past but certainly has been making plans for the future with rapid development as a destination winery over the last few years under its third owner.

Bonesio Winery was founded in 1916 by Louis Bonesio. The land was originally part of the El Rancho Solis and is in the heart of the Uvas Valley. Uvas is Spanish for grapes and this valley has truly become a home of grapes. Three generations of the Bonesio family produced wine under the Uvas label. Their home was one of the oldest wooden structures in the county with part of it dating back to 1833 and it used redwood timbers that were hauled down from Mt. Madonna.

In 1976 the winery was purchased by Nikola Kirigin-Chargin. Nikola had been a winemaker in his native Croatia until they were forced to move under Communist Yugoslavia. He had earned an enology degree from the University of Zagreb in 1941 and move to the U.S. in 1959 where he became a distinguished winemaker at Almaden Winery and others. He purchased Bonesio Winery because the area reminded him of the Croatian coast where he was raised.

He brought to his new winery, now named Kirigin Cellars, a blend of old European techniques and new modern American technology.

Dhruv Khanna purchased Kirigin Cellars in 2000. Dhruv was born in India, went to High School in England and got his law degree from Stanford. He is a telecommunications attorney and a founder of Covad, a nationwide voice, data and security services firm in Silicon Valley. He was attracted to Kirigin by its rich history and beauty in the Uvas Valley. On its 40+ acres it had the old-world charm that he admired.

His passion for excellent wine, the outdoors and sports had him set his goal to retain this old-world charm and develop it into a prime destination for wine-tasting, picnics, weddings, dog shows, car shows, soccer, cricket and archery. If you have not been to Kirigin Cellars in the last few years, you certainly must visit it again and renew your appreciation for this winery.

Pulling into the drive you will still be enveloped by the charm of the old farm house and pull around to the tasting room. The quaint vine covered tasting room you are familiar with is still there but next to it is the new tasting room that retains the same Kirigin charm but with a much more open and comfortable area to sample the Kirigin wines. The barrel room still holds the barrels of wines but now has another tasting bar made from old barrel staves.

The big changes at Kirigin are found out behind the tasting room and winery area. Dhruv has shown his love for sports by building nine acres of cricket fields as well as the new Tuscan-style Club House building that continues to exude that old-world charm (yet includes complimentary Electric Vehicle charging stations). The cricket fields were built on the flat areas of the property that are not well suited for vines so they still have over 33 acres of vineyards. In addition, the property has over 1000 rose bushes and 100 Redwood Sequoias and is surrounded by hills and rangeland.

The cricket fields have been the location for weddings, cricket matches, soccer, archery, dog shows, car shows and more. The Club House has full kitchen facilities and a hug bar along with a large ballroom that is ideal for weddings and events. There are several spots throughout the facility for weddings indoors or outdoors depending upon your desires. Kirigin Cellars has truly become a wine country destination drawing in visitors to the South Valley and simultaneously provided these visitors with a chance to sample their wine.

And wine they do have. The winemaker, Allen Kreutzer, has been with Kirigin Cellars since 1984, starting out working with Nikola Kirigin. His wines have won many awards over the years. Kirigin vineyards include 11 different wine grapes including Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malvasia Bianca, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Tempranillo and Zinfandel. As the grapes are picked within close proximity of the winery, they are crushed within hours to retain the high levels of flavors. And Kirigin focuses on direct sales with the wines only available at the winery and not through distributors. This allows them to be able to offer good quality wines at a very comfortable price level.

Stop by their tasting room at 11550 Watsonville Road in Gilroy to check out the wines and gift items.

Be sure to take the photo tour of Kirigin Cellars via the attached photos. Stay tuned for the next article covering the historic Kirigin winery, and the previous article describing Guglielmo Winery and Morgan Hill Winery and the article on Thomas Kruse and Fortino Wineries.

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