Mural Magnifico

Gilroy honors local wine industry with art dedicated to the wine country

WINE WORLD The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce commissioned a new mural paying tribute to the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley.

Garlic may be top dog in Gilroy, but wine’s not far behind. And there’s a mural to prove it.

At Fifth Street and Monterey Road, right across from the famed “Garlic Capital of the World” mural painted 25 years ago, you will find one depicting Santa Clara Valley wine country. Both were created by the same artist, Gianni Martino, who hails from Turin, Italy.

Martino began his career creating large advertising murals for cinemas and theaters in his hometown, but gradually, his fame spread. He has since done work for public and private venues in Italy, France, UK and the US.

Martino, who works with water-based paints, also did a mural depicting “The World of Coffee” for Fifth Street Coffee in Gilroy.

“We started working on the idea of a wine mural two years ago,” says Mark Turner, CEO of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted to pay homage to the importance of our local wine region, one of the oldest in the state, and to promote the Wine Trail.”

It seemed fitting to have a wine-themed mural in downtown Gilroy, opposite the famous garlic one.

“Sure, we’re known for garlic in Gilroy, but wine is increasingly important to our economy,” he says. “We decided, let’s do something for our wineries!”

Turner got buy-in from his board, who were enthusiastic about the vision, and he and business relationship manager Eric Howard began sharing the concept of putting the mural on the CMAP TV building, at 7500 Monterey St. Their primary target was wineries.

“Karen Seeker, president of the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley, was gracious and loved the idea,” says Turner. “We wanted the mural focused on the wine industry, but were prepared to reach out for additional local sponsors if need be.”

Although bids from several local artists were entertained, Martino’s was the lowest, and consideration for retaining a similar style among the two murals weighed heavily in the final decision. Turner had met Martino when he came out five years ago from Italy to refresh the garlic mural and was impressed with his work.

Nearly two-thirds of the local wineries—22 in all—signed up to be part of the mural, with a minimum buy-in of $250. Martino began work just after Labor Day and immediately drew a crowd.

“When Gianni started painting, more and more people wanted to be part of it,” says Turner. “To watch him take a logo or a name and duplicate whatever we asked him to paint was phenomenal.”

The mural depicts the Santa Clara Valley wine trail logo front and center and the map of the region in the upper right quadrant. The old Victorian that’s home to Integrated Financial Benefits Network, owned by Jeff Orth, dominates the left quadrant. A biplane flies overhead with a banner touting Sarah’s Vineyard, and a water tower displays the Miramar Vineyards logo.

Tim Slater says the mural cost more than $30,000 to produce, and the buy-in was beyond the reach of many small wineries’ marketing budgets.

“But we were committed to show our lasting support for Gilroy in this, our 40th anniversary, and were determined to participate at some substantial level,” Slater says. “It occurred to us that the 20- to 30-year longevity of the mural meant the high placement cost was actually a bargain on an annualized basis. Anyway, after two weeks of decision-making, we got into gear and claimed the airplane. We kind of like the metaphor for flying high and leading the way for our area.”

A series of barrel heads contain logos of wineries including Solis Winery; Gilroy Downtown Business Association; Aver Family Vineyards; Morgan Hill Cellars; Hecker Pass Winery; Michele Campbell Insurance Services; Lisa Faria, Realtor; and Fortino Winery.

At the bottom right are three nicely rendered wine bottles representing Heller Vineyard and Wines, Guglielmo Winery and TASS. At the right are scrolls listing all the winery and mural participants. Above the scrolls are barrels representing Gina Lopez, State Farm, Starritt Realtors and Vivian Investment Partners. Bunches of grapes frame the entire mural.

Turner notes, “It was truly a thrill to watch it come together. I’m thankful to the board for seeing that we could make this happen.”

He expects the mural to make its way into marketing efforts at the Gilroy Welcome Center and elsewhere, and hopes others will find a way to include it in promoting tourism to the wine region.  “Anybody can use this image: Have at it!” Turner concludes.

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