Morgan Hill: Discovering rural America
in the Silicon Valley
By Heather Barnes
With today’s frenetic way of life, I wondered: is it possible to step into a community of strangers and feel you’ve just entered a more tranquil existence? If you look in Morgan Hill, absolutely.
Today, the original nineteenth century doors to Hiram Morgan Hill’s home continue to welcome guests. Their eye-catching stained glass floral panels still illuminate the interior of the grand country house by the setting sun as they once did over a century ago. Mr. Hill, his wife, Diana, and their daughter, occupied the lovely Victorian home on Monterey Road in the late 1800’s where they inspired a sense of "community" still felt and encouraged today. The Hill home, now with a historical museum on the grounds, offers a glimpse into the small beginnings of a city with a big heart . . . and much to see!
The journey to Morgan Hill from just about anywhere in the Bay Area is a pleasant one, with the rolling golden, mellow hills of summer and fall that change to deep, lush shades of sweeping greens by winter. Ten minutes south of San Jose, is this small and friendly city resting quietly in the cradle of southern Santa Clara Valley.
There are two ways to explore this thriving agricultural community of old charm and modern charisma. Come for a day with a casual itinerary or plan ahead and discover some of the city’s friendly annual events that beckon, not only the locals to participate, but tourists from cities afar. Either way you choose to visit, Morgan Hill has an abundance of hidden treasures that present a distinct warmth and character which allow the locals to feel privileged and the visitors envious.
Guglielmo’s Family Winery at 1480 E. Main Avenue gives one the feeling of being transported to Tuscany with its picturesque vineyards that surround the ivy-covered buildings. The Guglielmo’s "Office" was once the family home, and the basement was the original wine cellar housing 20,000 gallons. Three generations later, brothers Gene, George and Gary continue their wine-making craft which originated in Northern Italy.
Their grandfather, Emilio Guglielmo, journeyed from his homeland of Italy to eventually arrive in San Francisco in 1910. Feeling optimistic that Prohibition would come to an end, Emilio founded the Emilio Guglielmo Family Winery in 1925. Today, join the "family" and drop on in for a visit; enjoy a taste from their Villa Emile collection or take a sip of the popular 2004 Pinot Grigio.
The winery has a splendid quarterly tradition called "Cork Equity Day" – a fine family tradition where a superb, unique blend of red wine is crafted only for this event. Bring your empty, washed bottles and refill them for $5 each, or purchase bottles when you arrive. Come and join, taste the Italian food, tap your foot to the accordion music, and enjoy true Italian tradition for an afternoon. After all, "Everyone’s Italian once they get here," proclaims Gene Guglielmo. Check out their Events page at http://www.guglielmowinery.com/events.htm where you can read about ongoing annual events.
A trip to Morgan Hill is really not complete without a diversion to Andy’s Orchard located at 1615 Half Road. Established in 1957, Andy Mariani’s 30-acre orchard is one of the few remaining orchards in this vast farmland area. Their harvest of plums, apricots, bing cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears and grapes will make your mouth water. The various dried fruits are amazingly fresh, bursting with flavor and packaged creatively for gift-giving.
Andy’s Orchards is a working farm so during the busy harvest season, this is the place to pick what you eat! For a reasonable price of $10, a visitor can enjoy samples, take a harvest walk tour, and learn how to pick the ripest fruit. Once the picking is done, a discount is provided at the register! Andy’s Orchard is an especially tasty and educational find for the entire family.
Plan ahead with a phone call and tour the world headquarters of The Thomas Kinkade Co. located at 90 Lightpost Way. The famous "Painter of Light" welcomes you to view his gallery where some of his original paintings are displayed. A prearranged tour of the headquarters offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the many facets of reproduction. Discover why the process of reproduction is also an art-form in itself.
Morgan Hill is a city in constant motion. Each Christmas season all are welcome to see the Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting and return to Guglielmo’s Winery where, during the first two weekends in December, they hold a splendid Holiday Gift Faire. Patrons get to help create their very own gift baskets.
The free Mushroom Mardi Gras is held each May -- an event not to miss. Each July, Independence Day begins on the third with a Patriotic Sing and Street Dancing. The annual fourth of July Parade is the city’s biggest event of the year that attracts visitors far and wide. Last, but not least, is the annual "Taste of Morgan Hill" held each September, and exciting plans are underway for the city’s Centennial Celebration to be held in 2006.
There’s a family feeling in the air in Morgan Hill. It flows from one establishment to the next; from the roots of a family cellar to the roots of long standing orchards; from the city officials who keep the community humming with activities to the long-standing residents who keep traditions fresh and alive. Come visit Morgan Hill – the welcome mat awaits.
www.morganhill.org - Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, 408-779-9444.
www.morganhill.org/tasteofmh/taste.html - Taste of Morgan Hill.
www.mhcentennial.org - Centennial Morgan Hill 2006 Celebration.
www.uesugifarms.com - Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Patch, 408-778-7225.
www.guglielmowinery.com - Guglielmo Family Winery, 408-779-2145.
www.andysorchard.com - Andy’s Orchard Farm Stand & Country Store, 408-782-7600.
www.thomaskinkade.com - The Thomas Kinkade Company, 800-366-3733.
Heather Barnes is a freelance travel writer who lives in the hills of the San Francisco Bay Area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )
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