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Val Du Vino
Straight off the vine

Mark Hoover, the new owner of Val du Vino Winery in Murphys, has had a love of winemaking from a very young age. A science lesson about fermentation in his fourth-grade class prompted the young man to try his own experiment.

“I went home and I got a jar out of the cabinet and I took some Welch’s grape juice out of the refrigerator and I went and took some of my mom’s Fleischmanns baker’s yeast, put it in there and I stirred it up. I took it out to the garage and I forgot about it. And then about three days later, I remembered and I went out there and there was all this foamy stuff. It smelled really good. It was a smart thing I didn’t put the lid on or it would have blown up; anyway, I did. I decided to taste it. That was my first wine making experience,” Hoover said.

He went on to get a formal education in viticulture and enology (grape cultivation and winemaking) from the University of California, Davis. But it wasn’t until over 30 years later that he would turn that knowledge into a career.

“It was always a dream to have winery, but I was an amateur for 35 years,” said Hoover.

He went the corporate route for many years, then in 2015, came back to his love of winemaking with the opening of Integrity Wines in Watsonville.

The Central Coast winemaker would often vacation in Murphys, enjoying the foothills town and the abundant wine tasting opportunities. Hoover was already looking for a place to expand and make more wine when he heard in late 2020 about Val du Vino being up for sale. He purchased the winery in June 2021 and has already made improvements, including adding a large outdoor patio area for guests.

One thing that Hoover has brought to the Murphys winery is using cooling and chilling techniques in his winemaking. 

“What that does is it extracts flavonoids and phenolics, which is the good stuff, the flavors and the color…We brought in a whole cooling system and the extensive cold soaks. We are able to do white wines up here now and have them go really cold, which slows down the fermentation and improves the aromatics,” he said.

Hoover is also looking into building out another 5,000 square feet next to Val du Vino for wine production, for both the Murphys and Watsonville tasting rooms.

Along with new wines, Hoover is also planning to add a music venue to the Murphys winery and tasting room. 

“We’re trying to bring in music that’s not typical for the area. So we’re opening it up for acts from the Bay Area, Los Angeles for sure here too, but we want to bring something people don’t expect,” he said.

As of mid-March, Hoover had not yet finalized concert plans. 

In the meantime, Hoover is enjoying being a part of the Murphys wine scene.

“When I talk to people, it’s like ‘welcome to my dream,’” he said. 

Val du Vino

634 French Gulch Rd., Murphys

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily

INFO: or (209) 728-9911