San Francisco Chronicle June 2, 2019
By chance, I was flipping through the Sunday Chronicle Food Section and a headline caught my attention - "Santa Cruz's Unheralded Wine". Whenever I notice an article that might pertain to our corner of the California wine world, typically I will briefly check out what it's all about. I'm glad I took the time with this review written by Sydney Love because it has a Gilroy sub-plot. The story goes that the author purchased a !992 Cabernet Sauvignon as a birthday present from a wine shop. That wine bottle was 1992 Ahlgren Bates Ranch Cabernet, and after 27 years of aging the freshness and finesse of the wine was amazing.
The Bates Ranch is a property located along Redwood Retreat Road and it neighbors the vineyard of the Dan and Therese Martin. In 1972, the husband and wife team of Dexter and Valerie Ahlgren started their winemaking adventure by purchasing two tons of Zinfandel from John Roffinella. The intrigue of this story just kept on building for me. John Roffinella (1909-1993) was the son of Cesere Rofinella (1860-1940) who built the original winery complex at the intersection of Watsonville Road and Hecker Pass Highway and later operated by Tom Kruse. During the Great Depression, John not only managed the family winery and vineyards, he also engaged in retail and wholesale business of selling wine grapes. I was told the tale of how John would load up his truck with grapes with a portable crusher in tow and head out on route selling his grapes to Italian families for home consumption during Prohibition. John Roffinella acted as a broker for several Gilroy vineyardists including Mary Carter, George Besson, and probably the Cassa Brothers (where the Fortino and Hecker Pass Wineries are today).