Silicon Valley Wine Grower's Association

Featured Winemaker: Jim Cargill – House Family Vineyards

By / Photography By Barbara Krause | April 26, 2017
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As a preview to this year’s Silicon Valley Wine Auction, ESV sought out some of the participating vintners to learn about them and get a flavor for this year's auction.  We sat down with winemaker Jim Cargill in Saratoga to enjoy his panoramic view and enjoy a wine tasting.

Q: House Family Vineyards has an incredible 180-degree view of the Valley.  How do you describe it?

A. My father-in-law (Dave House, founder of the winery and former Silicon Valley technology executive) likes to tell his story as ‘from chips to grapes.’  I think House Family Vineyards is the ultimate juxtaposition of this Valley – of dirt and technology. Here in our steep mountainside vineyard, we overlook what is probably the epicenter of technology in the world. We use a lot of science and technology to make sure things are sound, but we are very old-world minded in our winemaking. I always say wine is really made in the vineyard. My job is to babysit it from vineyard to glass. We want to respect and express the true essence of the grapes. When you have pristine fruit you have that luxury.

Q. Tell us about your journey into becoming the family winemaker.

A. I was born and raised in San Diego around horses and agricultural jobs. While in college in San Jose in the late 1980s, I worked as a ranch hand for Garrod Farms, who is our neighbor here in Saratoga. That’s how I met my wife-to-be; I took care of her horse.

I married into the family long before we started the grapes, and it’s been a long and happy evolution.  I had trained as a chef and started in the restaurant business, so winemaking was an easy “spillover” –no pun intended.  (Cargill is also the chef/owner of Rio Adobe restaurant in Cupertino.) I’ve had some great mentors along the way, including Jeffery Patterson from Mt. Eden, who was our earliest winemaker. I’ve also done coursework at UC Davis, the University of Adelaide, and lots of technical seminars.  I’m constantly studying, learning and teaching.

Q.  Do you have a philosophy about wine?

A. I believe a glass of wine should be like a great conversation. It should excite your mouth. It should have depth, complexity and layers. You should want to spend the evening with it.

Q. If you could only take one, which wine would you take with you to a desert island?

A. Not that I don’t love all my children, but I’d have to say our Cabernet. In this region, in this particular microclimate, we grow phenomenal Cabs.

Q. In your opinion, what makes the Santa Cruz Mountains so special for winemaking?

A. First, it’s the people - their care, culture and dedication to the land. We all help each other out, because a rising tide lifts all boats.  Second, the land here is special. We have a very unique climate. With the coastal influence, for example, the Pinots take on this really beautiful conifer influence in taste, like when fog washes through the sempervirens.  They taste like the forest floor, or like a hike on an 80-degree afternoon at Big Basin.

Q. Tell us about the wines you will be serving at the 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Wine Auction.

A. We will have cross section and at least three of our wines:

2013 House Family Estate Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains.  It’s 100% Chardonnay, barrel fermented with a really nice, rich mid palate. (Great paired with Halibut and Beurre Blanc, roasted or grilled chicken.)

2011 Estate Cabernet Santa Cruz Mountains. This is a blend of our estate grapes: 81% Cab, 9% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. It’s a classic Bordeaux blend, Left Bank style. It’s a muscular Cab. (Favorite pairing: Always with a good steak, with mushrooms or an Au Poirve sauce.)

2014 Saltanstall Pinot Noir – Sonoma County. I prefer to highlight our Santa Cruz Mountain wines at this event, but we are off-cycle and don’t have a current release of Santa Cruz Pinots right now. This one has a lot of depth in fruit. (Recommended pairing: Tamari Glazed Grilled Salmon filet.)


13336 Old Oak Way
Saratoga, CA 95070
Tel: 800-975-7191
Saturday & Sunday 12pm - 5pm, Monday - Friday by appointment


ESV is delighted to partner with the 2017 Silicon Valley Wine Auction, taking place May 20-21, 2017 at Runnymede Farm in Woodside.  Produced by Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, the annual event brings together 100 of the top winemakers and growers of the Santa Cruz Mountains. All proceeds from the event benefit Silicon Valley Education Foundation and STEM Leadership Institute

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