Enjoying Wine Tasting and Country Music at Savannah-Chanelle Winery

“The best wines are the ones we drink with friends.”

Last evening we were invited to join our fun-loving friends Bernie and Sophie Weinzimmer for an evening of wine tasting and music by “One Country,” acoustic country band at the award winning Savannah Chanelle Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

The irony that the name Weinzimmer, in German means, “wine cellar,” wasn’t lost on me. Equally ironic is my name, Dennis originates from the Greco-Roman name Dionysius, the god of ecstatic states, particularly produced by wine. 

Speaking of names, the winery is named after owner’s, Mike and Kellie Ballard’s daughters—Savannah and Chanelle. Besides the Shangra La setting, the staff is helpful and friendly, the wine is delightful— prices of which are moderately priced. There are chairs and tables to enjoy wine and snacks. Collectively, we brought smoked trout, vegetarian rice rolls, fresh avocado dip, chips, and fresh cut melon.

The wine tasting room is located inside a very charming 100-year old barn. My favorite was the Cabernet Franc. The other two parts of the winery are the upper area with large white chairs with bright red umbrellas that overlook the valley, green mountains and grape vineyards, and the lower forest and trail area. The entrance to the vineyards is through a cylindrical wooden structure reminicent of original medieval castle gates in Europe.

As Sophie pointed out, “I love living in an area where you can find yourself in the Redwoods within a ten minute drive from home.”

The back story of the winery, involves a French imigrant who was looking to create a new life for himself in America: Pierre Pourroy booked passage to the new world aboard the Steamship La Gascogne in January 1887 in pursuit of a dream to own his own land. Arriving at the port of New York, he then continued his arduous journey by train to California. Practically penniless, he made ends meet as a sheepherder, miner, and laborer. He was encouraged to approach fellow Frenchman Narcisse Aubry who had purchased vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains after being forced to flee France following the 1852 coup d’etat. 

After joining Aubry’s winery, Pierre fell in love with one of Aubry's daughters, Marie Louise, and they married in 1891. Pierre’s brother joined the couple and, he too married. Together, the couples saved enough money to buy 80 acres to clear and plant their first vineyard in. After Jean Aubry died in 1899, Pierre and Marie were able to purchase the 200 acre estate. The Prohibition era all but killed their dream. Pierre reapplied and was granted a wine license in 1936, a few years after the repeal of prohibition. The war broke out in Europe and it would be decades before the wine industry would flourish again. In the 1970s, new owners with new dreams emerged but they would eventually leave to establish a winery in Santa Barbara while high technology in Silicon Valley was at its infancy.

In 1996 Kellie and Mike Ballard visited the property and felt an “immediate emotional connection” to the historic estate. They decided to buy the property and through hard work and perseverance, dedicated themselves to preserving the legacy of the historic estate first begun by Frenchmen, Aubry and Pourroy.