The important thing that we value at Clos LaChance is our history, our passion, our consistent evolution to the changing industry and ultimately, all the blood sweat and tears that go into every finished bottle of wine (figuratively of course!). Making wine is our life, it is our calling, and we are proud of what we produce. But there are some key points that separate us from the rest of the wine world, here are the top seven things that you should know about the company behind the bottle.
Owner’s Bill and Brenda Murphy decided to plant a few rows of Chardonnay in their backyard in Saratoga, CA, largely to help with erosion control on the sloped hillside and for the beautiful aesthetics. Bill worked in Sales at HP, which was one of the top companies in the Silicon Valley at the time. Brenda was a retired schoolteacher focused on raising their two daughters. The thought was they could create a few bottles of wine a year as a hobby to give as gifts and to enjoy on a warm sunny day – however, once they started down the rabbit hole, their hobby quickly transformed into a passion and the idea of creating a winery began. First order of business, what to name the winery and where to build it!
The foundation of the name comes from owner, Brenda Murphy, whose maiden name is “LaChance”. Her ancestors, the Pipins, moved from France to Canada in the 1600’s. Their ship barely made it to Canada due to a terrible storm. Once they arrived, the name “Pipin” was changed to “LaChance” because it meant “good luck.” Brenda’s grandparents moved to New England in the early 1900’s. Brenda’s parents were first generation US citizens. Brenda, herself, was also born and raised in New England. Her family name is very important to her and it is honored in the creating and naming of the company. “Clos” is a French word which translates to mean “enclosure.” Historically, a “clos” was a walled vineyard which protected the grapes from theft and harm, but as time went on and the literal walls no longer existed, the term “clos” continued and is used today by a variety of wineries.
“The first time we came out here, we stood on this grassy hill surrounded by rolling hills and thought, ‘God smiled when he made this place.’” – Bill Murphy
In San Martin, a small town roughly 30 minutes south of San Jose CA, Bill and Brenda found the perfect location to start their dream. The land is owned by CordeValle, a 5-star golf and spa resort that is today adjacent to the Clos LaChance Winery. The land surrounding CordeValle is zoned for agriculture / open space and the owners were trying to find the right partners to purchase the land and create something truly magical. Once they learned of the Murphy’s dream to build a winery with 150 acres of surrounding vineyards, the decision was made.
Not only was the partnership between CordeValle and Clos LaChance ideal, the location is part of the Santa Clara Valley Appellation, which has a long history with wine. First accounts date back to 1802 when the Franciscan monks first brought viticulture to the Mission Santa Clara. The region then flourished when French, Italian and German pioneers brought a wide range of grape varietals with them during the gold rush. It became evident that California was the ideal New World home for these European grape varietals, as the soil and climate mirror the Mediterranean and thus the grapes thrive. However, in the 1920’s, all of the grapevines were destroyed during prohibition and this historic grape growing region had to start anew. Fast-forward to today; the Santa Clara Valley is home to hundreds of wineries, and more continue to develop regularly.
From the second you turn onto our private road and drive the 1.5 miles to the winery, all the way until you hold a bottle of Clos LaChance wine, you will see a consistent theme sprinkled throughout your journey, our hummingbird logo. Why a hummingbird? Brenda has always loved hummingbirds and planted many flowers in her garden to encourage them to visit. But even with their authentic beauty and grace, they also serve a functional role too, hummingbirds are extremely territorial animals by nature. As such, hummingbirds are ideal birds to have around a vineyard as they will scare off other birds that would eat or damage the developing grapes – a perfect animal to honor as our logo.
Beyond our core Clos LaChance Brand, we strive to diversify and meet the needs of different target markets and as such, we produce many others with their own history and backstories.
One of the largest distributed brands is Hayes Valley and the lore of the Valley extends back to the 1800’s. After the acquisition of independence from Spain, Mexico divided the Santa Clara Valley into ranchos in 1821. The Clos LaChance property was a part of Rancho San Francisco de las Llagas, which was owned by Carlos Antonio Castro in 1828. Castro planted over 500 acres of vineyards and orchards. In the late 1800’s, a pioneer named Marin Murphy purchased a 9,000-acre parcel from Castro and named the area, San Martin, after patron Saint Martin. When Murphy died, the property was inherited by his family and later purchased by Lazard Lion. It wasn’t until 1921 when the property was sold to Lion’s business partner, Frank Hayes, that the area adapted the name “Hayes Valley.”
Another brands of ours is 22 Pirates which we deem, “a global adventure in a bottle.” Traveling the Rhone region in France to California’s Central Coast. Famous for producing award-winning wines, the Rhone Region celebrates 22 different varieties of grapes. Several pioneers brought Rhone grapes to California, where they flourished. We developed the 22 Pirates Brand to represents one pirate for each of the Rhone varieties. 22 Pirates is an exciting Red Rhone Blend that will stay the course – vintage to vintage. “What’s the blend?”, you ask. Sorry, pirates never tell! Only our swashbuckling winemaker has the creative liberty to craft his treasure.
We couldn’t develop additional brands without bringing it back to our first love, the hummingbird! “Colibri” is French for “hummingbird” and this brand was developed when the Murphy family took a family trip to Paris. While enjoying the Parisian life during a typical French summer heatwave, the Murphy’s gained a newfound appreciation for French style Rose’s. Stylistically they are lighter in color, extremely dry wines that are refreshing and crisp on the palate. Once they returned home, they got to work with our winemaker to develop Colibri Rose in true French style wine.
Bill and Brenda’s dream was to build the winery and share their wines with the world. As their dream became a reality and they started to learn everything involved with becoming responsible winemakers, their dreams quickly evolved.
Their first alteration – to become a family-owned and operated winery. “The heart and soul of the wine industry are family-owned wineries. There are fewer and fewer in California, they are gobbled up by conglomerates, that is not what we want to do because when that happens, you might still have the name, but you will lose the soul and the passion.” – Bill Murphy
Bill and Brenda’s daughters, Kristin and Cheryl, became integral in the development of Clos LaChance. Kristin runs the entire Direct to Consumer side of the business, which includes the Tasting Room and Events held on property. Cheryl managed the Distribution side of the company and was responsible for selling Clos LaChance wines nationally and internationally. Since 2016, Cheryl has opened her own distribution company, “Liberation Distribution” but she is still highly involved with the family business.
When Bill and Brenda’s daughters came aboard, it became abundantly clear that they needed to do their part to keep this beautiful location intact and even better for future generations. “This is a beautiful place, it is a beautiful place today, it was a beautiful place yesterday, and it’s our job to make sure it is as beautiful of a place tomorrow.” – Bill Murphy
Quickly the Murphy’s learned the term “sustainability” and became one of the first wineries in California to be certified sustainable. To be deemed “sustainable” per this certification requires three parts; be economically sound, environmentally responsible and to educate/contribute to the community. We achieved this certification starting in 2009 and continue to hold that certification today. “Everything we do is with the idea that this place will be as good, if not better, 10 years, 20 years or even 100 years from now.” – Bill Murphy