I know I know I’m in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay country! But that’s what makes it that much more refreshing to find THE best Cabernet Sauvignon in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 2007 from Raines Vineyard spent 2 years in French oak so I presume that gave it the velvety smooth texture and finish that kept me wanting more even after I drove out of their driveway. But the fruit was also outstanding. Full of that dark cherry and even blueberry mouthwatering richness, it would be a great pairing for any saucy steak, short ribs, or blue cheese burger.
Gotta go back to Hindquarter!
Exquisitely hand crafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay come from this family winery just south of Santa Cruz. How they get such brilliant fruit flavor and body probably has to do with the climate and soil. I’m no scientist but the winemaker says the climate provides longer hang time for fruit to develop. While most harvest Pinot Noir early in September or October, they harvest Pinot Noir in Corralitos as late as November.
They also have a few other practices that I’m sure contribute to the flavor of their wines. Instead of pressing juice free, they ferment in whole clusters. They also don’t fine or filter their wine so it’s all vegan approved. It might shock some vegetarians and vegans that wine is not safe for them. Truth is animal products are used more often than not in the winemaking process. So, when no animal products are used, the winemaker will certainly let you know or advertise it on the label.
A visit to the Big Basin tasting room in Saratoga is not like any other. Because everyone on the team is passionate about what they do and wears lots of hats, you get quite an education, not just about the wines but the viticulture area, history of the land, and harvest. It’s clear they honor the land that produces their grapes and believe strongly in the Santa Cruz Mountain’s potential for Rhone varietals. Their powerful and complex yet elegant wines show this integrity.
Located just a short drive from Silicon Valley, the vineyards are on mountain hillsides that cool naturally by consistent ocean breezes. Yet, because no vineyard has the quick ramp up time of a Silicon Valley start-up, the fruits of their labor are evident now and prevalent in the years to come. History tells us that winemakers, winegrowers and viticulture gurus achieve greatness with similar practices. Big Basin seeks the advice of esteemed mentors, honors the history of its land, and respects the grapes too much to manipulate their juice. Get in on the ground floor and start collecting these creative juices now.
Finally good Chinese food! They even have a gluten free menu, which illustrates how wheat heavy our food is. Is it really necessary in Mongolian Beef? Mu Shu Pork?
Great wine list too! One might expect that in such a great viticulture area. But too many restaurants just do the bare minimum and don’t really consider the local producers or flavor in their wine choices. O’Mei has delicious local wines that pair with their cuisine. ’nuff saif!
You’ve probably heard this name although for other tragic reasons. A trip to the Loma Prieta Winery literally makes you feel like you are on the top of the world. Treetop views and rolling hills in every direction, the Santa Cruz Mountains can really take your breath away (no intended pun). Bring a picnic and feast on their beautiful deck, drink the view while you taste their bold yet elegant wines. Their wines are a great example of the flavors you can accomplish in a small production.
Out for a run in a tank top in SF, you might get a few looks but that’s it. The only comments ever heard are “Go Giants!”. In Santa Cruz there’s a different wave; you get cat calls, whistles, and even air smoochies. Also, a homeless man said “Man, you’re one good lookin’ mom.” Not even sure what that means but I’ll take it! Part of the mellow free thinking free wheelin’ vibe they’ve got going here.
Silver Mountain has the kind of Chardonnay that may make you think again about Chardonnay. Great fruit structure with body and integrity yet no overwhelming butter even though there is a hint of oak. I guess it’s just the right kind of oak. They’ve also got the best selection of the different styles of Pinot Noir:
- Jolly rancher if you like cherry
- Earthy barnyard if you like soil
- Spicy if you like layers of coffee, nutmeg, or other spices
Get a taste of all three at this place and determine which one represents your palate.
You know what some say about Merlot. It will certainly not be repeated here. But what will be repeated is what some famous wine experts said about Rexford’s Merlot: it reaffirms that Merlot is one of the great wine grapes of the world.
Rexford is right across the street from the Surf City Vintners corridor where you can taste Sones, Quinta Cruz, and Silver Mountain among others. Yet few dare to cross the street to Rexford where parking is much more plentiful, wine is delicious, and peeps have some fascinating things to say about wine. Why do wine tasters refuse to cross the street? It’s not a joke. I really don’t know. But I do know they are missing out.
Reusability is alive at well here in Santa Cruz where Sones Cellars sells an uncorked glass bottle with a rubber stopper filled with their delicious Zinfandel and Petite Sirah blend at a very nice price. You can return to get a refill at another delightful price. It’s not a full growler. But you get the idea.
Even if you are not into saving mode, you may also like some of their other wines. They source their grapes from the best regions in California so you can find full hearty varietals or grapes that thrive near the coast. It is worth a trip back to see what they have. One of their owners, Lois, can also give you the best answer to why the Central Coast covers Santa Barbara all the way up to Redwood City yet excludes Santa Cruz.
A little off the beaten path but definitely worth the trip not just to see this beautifully maintained historic schoolhouse.
Or just to taste the view.
But to taste the award winning wines. Staying true to their space and its history, they have adopted a few scholastic practices. Here’s where you can find out if you identify with a Teacher’s Pet or Valedictorian. Their Spring Break Syrah has the hallmark flavors of a coastal climate Syrah with even a hint of chocolate mint. Merlot growing near the coast gets longer hang time bringing out their big cherry profiles with amazing body and well integrated structure and balance of tannins and acids.