Santa Cruz Mountain Winemakers Passport Day

by the other theo


A New Yorker wine cartoon at Loma Prieta Winery.

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:IMG_1425The 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.