Passion is a key ingredient in a successful winery and Val du Vino has it in spades.
Winemaker Jonathon Phillips and chef Jeannine Hebel have used their talents and life experiences to create a truly unique winery that offers visitors a taste of the good life.
“I grew up in a family that enjoyed wine. My dad has a really good palate and still does to this day at age 94 — so maybe, drinking wine all those years was good for his health,” said Phillips about wine being a part of his life from a young age.
Phillips, who has a doctorate in biochemistry, started his career teaching at Gavilan College in Gilroy where he introduced winemaking courses.
“There was a time you could propose any class and if students showed up, you could teach it…So, I proposed a class. You needed 25 students to show up and 40 showed up,” he said.
At one point, Phillips said he decided to put aside his academic career and follow his passion — to the mountains where he became a “ski bum.”
During this time is when he met Hebel. The two then spent some time traveling the world.
“She’d write food reviews and I’d write wine reviews and shoot tourist videos,” Phillips said.
After getting “bored” with the globe trotting life, the two found their way to Murphys and the 1920s era barn located at the west end of the town’s Main Street.
They now make award-winning hand-crafted wines and a few times a year they treat wine club members to Hebel’s culinary expertise through special pairing dinners.
“We introduce our wine club members to foods they may not have ever had and yet treat them to foods that they’re familiar with,” Phillips said. “It adds a dimension to our winery that not all of the 30 plus tasting rooms here (in Murphys) has.”
When Val du Vino first opened, it was winery number six in Murphys. The town now boasts over 30 tasting rooms.
“In the 14 years, it’s gone from a town where dogs were sleeping in the street to a destination,” said Phillips.
Phillips said that the winery has turned into the perfect endeavor for him and Hebel, as they can use all the skills they’ve acquired throughout their lives, from winemaking and creating exquisite meals to greeting visitors from around the world.
“Initially it takes a lot of passion and love,” said Phillips. “We’re fortunate as we have just approached 70 that we have a good team of employees that know our style. Janine the chef is quite the perfectionist, which has forced me to up my skills.
“We have a good crew so we can now certainly enjoy the fruits of our labor.”
Val du Vino, 634 French Gulch Rd., Murphys
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday
209-728-9911 or Valduvinowinery.com