Santa Cruz Mountain Winemakers Passport Day
by the other theo
The Missus, the Peanut (my son,) and I hopped in the car and went on a road trip last weekend. We hit the Santa Cruz Mountain Winemakers Passport Day with some friends. We ended up visiting five wineries: Wright’s Station, Burrell School, Loma Prieta, Silver Mountain, and Alfaro Family. It was a beautiful day for wine tasting, and we all had good time through much of the day.
My own experience with wine of late is rather mixed. I seem content to explore, to understand, to sample, but not to satisfy. Some wines are big, some are small, and some, sour. Mostly, they just are. That’s what happened a few weeks ago on a visit to another, more-celebrated wine making region of California. It also happened here. This was an exploration of a wine region I knew very little about, and a time to enjoy and connect with friends.
This is also my roundabout way of saying I didn’t keep extensive tasting notes. *grin*
Here are my impressions of the five wineries we visited:
- Wright’s Station – It’s brand new and only open about five weeks. The facility is very modern and tastefully decorated with a friendly staff. They have a nice patio area for picnicking with a view of the valley facing East (toward Silicon Valley.) The wines tasted a little young, and a bit green with peppery notes.
- Burrell School – This was a more rustic affair. The winery is named for an old single room school house that served the residents on top of the Santa Cruz Mountains until the 1950’s. I recall having some good red wines here, though our party disagreed somewhat about which was the best. I recall particularly enjoying the “Spring Break” Syrah. Maybe it was its location in the tasting sequence, but I just remember that it woke up my taste buds in a way that few other wines did that day. We were poured two Zinfandels, the “Detention” and another Zinfandel that does not appear on their web site. I thought both would go well with barbecue. I do like their motto: “I promise to sip my wine.”
- Loma Prieta – Perched atop one of the highest peaks in the immediate area, the view of Santa Cruz, the Monterrey Peninsula, and the Pacific Ocean from their patio is almost unparalleled:The wine I remember most here was the Viognier. They were shucking fresh oysters on the patio (which I got,) and their only white wine was an excellent accompaniment. The Missus did most of the driving on this trip, and our friends agreed to provide lunch — an excellent picnic of salads, snacks, and cold cuts. They were quite taken with the Viognier and also purchased a bottle to enjoy with lunch. I was talked into playing a very rusty game of chess. I yielded in 15-20 moves.
- Silver Mountain – My palate was beginning to tire at this point, and the wines began to run together. My son was also starting to fade a little bit. I do recall that it was starting to warm up, and they had a berry forward Pinot Noir Rosé. The Tondré Pinot Noir was also quite pleasant.
- Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery – My tongue was dead tired at this point. I had high hopes for Alfaro. I am reading John Barré’s book The New California Wine and this is one of the few wineries honoring the Passport Day that got a mention in his book. All I could taste was sour. I don’t know if it’s the regional style, or it’s what the maker intended, or it was just my tongue.
We had some intention of making a quick stop at another winery, but the Peanut had had enough. Frankly, so had I. We ended the day and parted. I had some dinner, and suddenly felt tired and full to overflowing. It was just food, wine, sun, and heat. It took several hours and some re-hydration for that feeling to pass.
It was a great day, maybe not always for the wine, but for seeing something new and enjoying time with friends.