Living the wine life

Karen Seeker has jumped all-in to her career in the wine business

CHEMICAL ATTRACTION San Martin resident, winegrower and consultant, Karen Seeker with her winemaker husband Randy.
Jason and Janu Goelz look out over their 7.5-acre site in a Gilroy industrial park with visions far beyond sugarplums. They see nothing but possibility. About two years ago, this place was a roof tile factory adjacent to a paper plant. A helpful real estate agent turned Jason on to the opportunity and suddenly the dream he and Tim Slater had of creating a custom crush facility and incubator for small wine brands began to take shape. It’s taken considerable work to sanitize and upgrade the space to fit the intended winemaking purpose, and that investment will continue unabated until each phase of the vision is realized.
Several presses currently sit idle, awaiting the adrenaline rush of harvest, about five months hence. Prior to harvest, the crush pad will be built out, providing a clean, temperature-controlled environment for processing what Jason anticipates will be around 600 tons of fruit. They processed 400 tons in 2017.
At this point, there are four wineries with tasting rooms storing barrels and serving their wines here: Alara (Janu’s brand), Calerrain, J Winston and Jason-Stephens. Others are expected to follow suit. Jason explains that the kilns used to fire the roof tiles are being converted to house the individual winery “pods,” big enough to store about 75 barrels and have a tasting bar in the front.

Already, larger wineries are taking advantage of the economies of scale of this operation. Cinnabar processed their 2017 harvest here, as did Sarah’s Vineyard. Jason expects others to follow. It’s a winning combination of convenience and destination. People will come to taste again and again where multiple wineries are clustered.

Jason notes that wine tasting is not just about the wine anymore: it’s about the experience. He plans to bring in restaurants by summer — Sal Calisi (Odeum, Prova Table) is set to have a place here—along with vendors, including a cheese shop, charcuterie, flower stall: perhaps even a bakery, along with a farmer’s market. Ideas abound.

Plentiful seating in spacious courtyards and music stages of various sizes throughout the property will allow multiple musical acts at any given time.

The couple hopes the Stomping Ground will become a Friday evening destination for dinner and entertainment, as well as a lazy way to spend a Saturday, soaking up some rays while browsing for fresh veggies and flowers to accompany that bottle of liquid sunshine.

The back part of the property is big enough to house a small go-kart track, but will likely become a venue for larger concerts. Vast views of the mountains to the southeast invite reflection: Janu says she’d like to move her tasting room to this side and have a rooftop garden and deck to enjoy the sunsets. Jason replies, “Honey, it’s your place, too. You can do anything you want.”

They’re clearly as in love with each other as they are with their rapidly unfolding dream.

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Laura Ness is an accomplished freelance writer offering travel tips and commentary on the California wine industry.