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For love of the crush: The art and science of wine Engineer!

BioCurious presents

For love of the crush: The art and science of wine from a Silicon Valley Engineer turned Winemaker

Join us for an evening of Science & Wine with Satori Cellars owner, Tom Moller, who will guide you through the process of winemaking, including crushing, pressing, yeast additions, sulfite practices, cellaring and what's involved and how it differs for different wines, barrel considerations, racking, bottling and bottle ageing. Start with a glass of chardonnay, then stroll through Satori's acres of wine grapes as Tom explains varietals, vineyard management, and how to sample grapes to determine when they're ready.

The evening will end with a sampling of a minimum of 10 types of wine.

Tom has kindly offered a discount on wines for all attendees.

Saturday, August 21

4:00 - 6:30 pm

Satori Cellars: 2100 Buena Vista Avenue, Gilroy, CA 95020


Price: $20

Buy tickets online, at http://theartandscien..., or purchase at the door.

Email [masked] with questions

The Satori Story

Celebrating The Journey!

The Magical Experience that is now Satori Cellars unfolded almost on its own. It has been a succession of amazing and wonderful events, rather than the fulfillment of a well-formulated plan, that has led us to where we are now, a beautiful oasis in California's southern Santa Clara Valley.

Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and a little bit of Cabernet Franc, grow abundantly here on fifteen acres of vineyards. We also purchase Chardonnay grapes and blend several of our estate-grown grapes into two wines we call Joyous and Harmonic Convergence. Satori currently produces 1,500 cases of wine a year and plan to increase to 3,000 cases by 2012.

How did Satori come to be? Winemaker and principal owner, Tom Moller, explained, "Satori just sort of happened. I suppose it began in 1993 when I purchased the 20-acre parcel of land that is now home to Satori. At the time, I was an engineer designing devices for cellular base stations at an unknown company called Ericsson that was determined to bring cell phones to the masses. The cell phone market was just beginning to take off, and I was very busy.

At the time, I had an unstable neighbor, who I would like to thank today, because it was his behavior that prompted me to venture out and find a new home. I told my realtor I had only two criteria: a maximum price and no close neighbors. As it turned out, he represented a seller with a 20-acre parcel of land just north of Gilroy, not far from where I worked in Morgan Hill. The property was filled with very old and dying plum trees, a small cozy house, and a tiny dilapidated barn, but I liked the land. It felt 'right'. The seller asked 50% more than I was willing to pay. Fortunately, an urgent matter came up that forced him to reconsider, and we sealed the deal shortly thereafter.

My father referred to my purchase as 'the dust bowl', and indeed it was. However, it was not always that way. In the 1930s, it was a thriving prune orchard. Arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 gave growers a national market for their fruit and other crops. By the early 20th century, 100,000 acres of Santa Clara valley land were planted with fruits and nuts, including cherries, pears, and peaches. Prunes and apricots became the area's biggest crops, and Santa Clara was known as the Prune Capital of the World. Some said there was no better place on earth to grow fruit than the Santa Clara Valley.

Over the next six years, while the cell phone business with Ericsson was booming and demand for cellular devices went through the roof, we managed to put in a driveway, built several fences to keep dogs in and deer out, built a large barn (which we eventually turned into a house), put in a swimming pool, built a huge deck, put in a lawn, and removed all the dead plum trees. None of it was planned; we just did one thing at a time.

The land was completely bare after removing the dead plum trees, so I planted Christmas trees. However, they all died because there was no irrigation. In the summer of 1999, I spent my free time installing a huge drip irrigation system for all twenty acres, but by the time the system was completely installed, I had lost my enthusiasm for Christmas trees.

My day job required constant travel, and I developed a friendship with the car service owner, Marc, who drove me to and from the airport a half dozen times a month. Marc was a home winemaker, who never missed a chance to tell me how perfect my property would be to grow wine grapes. Late 1999, Marc called and said he had 1,000 plants (grapevine starters) ready to order. All I needed to do was give him my credit card number. So I did.

The next weekend we set out to plant the vines without seriously considering the layout or how much help we would need to plant them all. It only took half an hour before we realized we needed help. We drove to a local hardware store where we hired some laborers, and from there everything went downhill. The rows we planted were uneven, and the plants got mixed up. It was quite a mess, and I realized I had bitten off more than I could chew. Marc had to leave for an airport pickup, so I was left to work with the five laborers. Four were far more interested in talking and drinking beer than planting vines, and I let them go. The one remaining, Ray, whose English was as poor as my Spanish, was conscientious and a hard worker, and has since become one of my closest friends.

When we finished, I offered to drive Ray home. When we pulled into the driveway of his rented apartment, we were right in the middle of a large vineyard! Later that evening a truck pulled up to my home, and an older farmer got out. I noticed Ray was with him. After the farmer inspected our work, he said, 'Looks like you could use some help.' I could not have agreed more.

To make a long story short, Ray (who is now my vineyard manager) and the farmer helped replant the vines, aligned the rows, and put up the proper trellising. We increased the number of vines from 1,000 to 1,400, and in early 2000, the first Satori vineyard, approximately 2.5 acres, was in the making.

My wife, Sandy, and I had been close friends since the late 1980s, but did not date until many years later. By the mid-1990s, we were together, sharing the little free time we had between her house in Mill Valley and my land in Gilroy. We married in 2002, and ten months later our son, Riley, came into our lives.

That year I was extremely busy. The cell phone business had taken a major downturn, and Ericsson was trying to sell my division. The sale occurred in September, and the process of integrating with a new company became a major headache. Work had gone from exciting and fun to mundane and stifling.

In 2003, thanks to the encouragement of three close friends, I made a major purchase in winemaking equipment, more than a home winemaker would ever need, but large enough for a small winery. At the time, starting a winery was the furthest thing from my mind, yet I had grapes ripening and all the right equipment. With a lot of help, book reading, and classes, I made the first vintage of what was to become Satori wine. It was not that good, but I learned a great deal. The next year's vintage was significantly better. My wine expert friends were impressed as well as the judges at several home winemaker competitions, and Satori wines won several gold medals.

In 2004, we expanded the vineyard by six acres and added 3,700 plants. I told myself I was doing this because our barn/house was nearing completion, it had an upstairs deck that looked out over barren land, and I thought it would be really nice to look at a vineyard, so why not plant more vines.

It was late 2005 when the idea of starting a winery finally took hold. My day job was barely tolerable, there were many signs that pointed towards starting a new and different life, and a few months later I was laid off. I could have found another job in my industry, but with Sandy’s support and encouragement, I chose to start the winery full-time.

Once the decision was made, there was little time to think about anything else. Even so, the winery needed a name, and this was a major task. A name brings concreteness to an idea, makes it feel more real, brings it into being. It also helps when filling out the monumental amount of paperwork that comes with a new business.

One day while I was meditating, I started playing with the letters in our names – Sandy, Tom, and Riley. I used the first two letters of each of our names...hmm... SATORI. It was like I had heard of it before, and I liked the way it sounded. I 'googled' it and was surprised to learn that Satori meant “sudden unbidden moments of absolute stillness and peace in which time stops and the perfection and beauty of creation shine forth". Later that day I took a break to read some of Eckhart Tolles' book, The Power of Now, and, in the first few paragraphs I started to read, there was the word Satori! He defined it as a "taste of enlightenment". That was good enough for me, and Sandy agreed. And that day the winery became Satori Cellars.

Join or login to comment.

  • A former member
    A former member

    This Meetup was really more about the Art of wine making rather than the science. Tom and his wife were very open in their presentation and discussion of their efforts at Satori. It was an inside look at the craft of wine making that you don't get on the canned tours.

    August 22, 2010

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great event. Tom and Sandy were such wonderful hosts and, unlike most wineries, this one not only served great reds they also shared their hearts and knowledge. I may even volunteer for crush!

    August 22, 2010

  • A former member
    A former member

    Awesome - got to play with a tool to quantify the amount of sugar in a grape and another device that quantified how thirsty a plant is. Learned a ton about the while process of winemaking and drank a bunch of different wines made rIght at the winery.

    August 22, 2010

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