The Soquel Road Route
Wine tastin/vineyards/Local Food/Chemistry
Nestled in the The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, rests Soquel Vineyards, started by brothers Peter and Paul Bargetto and John Morgan in 1987. The patio and vineyard here offer views of the entire Monterey Bay on a clear day. From the handmade Italian roof tiles that date back to the mid-1700s to the winery doors from an old 12,000-gallon redwood tank salvaged from the original Bargetto winery, Soquel Vineyards is a always on our list. "Inside the stylish tasting room there is a custom made inlaid wood tasting counter with a large Italian-made tapestry. Large glass doors lead out to the patios and vineyard, with an amazing view of Monterey Bay. We love sharing our beautiful home with friends and family who appreciate fine wines."
The Bargetto Winery is the oldest winery on our tours. It was established by Philip and John Bargetto in 1918 when the brothers began making wine out of an old barn on the property. Today, Bargetto produces Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and their own blend La Vita. Bargetto produces some award winning fruit wines and honey meads. Don't miss these experiences.
Pelican Ranch Winery began in 1997 and represents the passion project of Phil and Peggy Crews. Phil teaches a course titled Introduction to Wines and Wine Chemistry at UC Santa Cruz. Bring your notebook and good cheer. The wines are unique and complex in character, made in the tradition of the Rhone and Burgundy style of wines sourced from local vineyards. The production here is artisanal...production is limited to 100 cases per vineyard.
Wargin Wines is a family owned and operated winery in Santa Cruz County CA, and they specialize in Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Barbera, Pinot Gris and Petite Sirah and newly added - Négrette and Cab/Merlot/Syrah/Primitivo Blend. They manage a few small vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains and they plan to make small lots of Pinot Noir and Sangiovese/Freisa and plan to add Greco di Tufo in 2017.
As you may know by now, the Santa Cruz Mountains are home to many small/family run labels that possess as much character as the people behind the bars. Not everyone can have a tasting room open to the public. That's where VinoCruz comes in. Matt Schofield and Jordan Iversen will introduce you to lovely pairings of tapas with over 60 locally produced wines. If you would like a great overview of local vineyards, delicious bites, and great conversations, then make sure VinoCruz are on your list.
The Pacific Highway
Bonny Doon's Tasting Room serves up the obsessive determination of Randall Grahm to develop the Great American Pinot Noir. Read his extensive and sublime blog here. "This is a wonderful intimate space that is the perfect venue to enjoy our doon-home wines, even if your home is perhaps Alpha Centauri." Known as the "Rhône Ranger" (yes!), Grahm has a philosophie de vins de terroir, which means that wines represent the land from whence they come. He believes that good wine is made with a soft hand. Come and find out what he means. You will not be disappointed.
Beauregard Vineyards is a father-son operation that deserves respect both locally and internationally. The Beauregards have been an well-known family in Santa Cruz (Amos's son Bud started Shopper's Corner Grocery Store in Santa Cruz). Bud's son Jim Beauregard established the Ben Loman AVA's distinctive terroir from the rest of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Thus their wine is unique enough to deserve it's own specific appellation. "Over the years, Jim has planted hundreds of acres of vines throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains and still maintains his 68 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon." I strongly recommend an exploration of this vineyard.
Have you ever been to an abalone farm? There are few people who have and you should be so lucky to count yourself among those interesting lords and ladies. Tom Ebert owns American Abalone Farms off of Highway 1 and he owns one of only four Abalone farms in California. In 1994, Ebert opened American Abalone Farms; he had 50 tanks. Currently he has 3,400. Not all California abalone farms do their own breeding of Red Abalone (Haliotis rufescens), but Ebert and his staff start a new batch of babies four times a year and they take about two to three years to reach harvest at 3 inches across. Wild Abalone must be at least 7 inches across. While at the farm, enjoy the deck overlooking the sea where you can sample his freshest seafood along with your own picnicked beverages. Come have a look and taste a historical traditional delicacy.
In 1987, the Swanton Berry Farm was certified by California Certified Organic Farmers, becoming the first organic strawberry farm in California. Originally founded by Jim Cochran and Mark Matze (whom had previously worked on other cooperative farms on the Central Coast. They started with a rented 4 acre field of organic strawberries among a skeptic audience of agriculturalists. Read more about their views on ethical organic farmers and farming here, here and here. Many casual visitors pick their own fruit and learn a bit about the farm. The farm also serves up some of the best homemade cakes, tarts, and jams. Have a look at their produce seasons to see what type of fruits and vegetables will be available when you visit.
A great way to wind down the Highway 1 route is at Swift Street Courtyard where there are more food options like El Salchichero, a butcher specializing in house-cured and smoked meats, sausages and jerkies, house-made pates, and meats butchered in-house, all from local farms. Their wares rotate according to what’s ready to eat from the “curing room”, and what fresh meats they’ve procured from their partner farms. Kelly’s French Bakery has an excellent outdoor seating for relaxing in the sun and people watching. Try their amazing pastries, coffee, breads, soups and sandwiches, with lunch specials that change daily. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is an organic brewery featuring a taproom with bar seating and an outdoor beer garden that’s dog-friendly. With seven flagship ales, a rotating selection of seasonal brews, several non-alcoholic beverage choices (including root beer and kombucha), and food available until 7 pm every day, it’s a great spot to kick back and relax with friends. Finally, There are no fewer than six wine tasting rooms located at the area: Silver Mountain Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Quinta Cruz (Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard showcasing Iberian-style wines), Sones Cellars, Vino Tabi, and MJA Vineyards are all located within a few steps from each other. Any of them have their own styles of wine to suit any taste.