Tag Archive for visitor guide

Wine Tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains Part 2

View from the edge of Byington's WInery.

View from the edge of Byington’s WInery.

At Christmas, my husband bought us passports from the Santa Cruz Mountain Wine Growers Association (SCMWGA). These passports, filled with over 50 participating wineries, entitle the bearers to one free tasting at each spot during normal operating hours or the SCMWGA special Passport Days, which happen four times a year and are the best opportunity to catch a tasting of the wineries not open to the public. Our first time out, in March, we made our way north up Soquel-San Jose Road. This time, we were able to get out on Passport Day and thus chose a route of wineries only offering tastings that day that followed Bear Creek Road on the other side of Highway 17.

First stop, however, was actually an urban one on the way, Travieso Winery (165 Cristich Lane, Campbell), largely chosen because we needed to gas up and it was nearby the exit. Hey, opportunity knocks, y’all.


Notable for that amazing alien placard, Travieso also had a party going on with mostly a crowd of regular visitors about. Our wine taster was lovely, as was being surrounded by their many barrels of wine.


It’s a welcoming spot and easily accessed, though you forgo the gorgeous views that the mountains offer, of course. I didn’t find any wines to my palate there, so we trudged on. Who am I kidding? We’d trudge on regardless.

Stop #2 was Silvertip Vineyards (16644 Zayante Road, Los Gatos), whose tasting was held in a meadow clearing under a tent. The nearby estate house and vines were gorgeous.


Click on me twice for the full view!


And the wine tasters, brothers in the Nelson family that owns the estate, were at the helm. All of their wines are produced with grapes grown on the property, and they can point out to you which are which from a distance. Their wines surprised me, mainly because I enjoyed their 2010 Petit Pinot Noir the most of the bunch (unintended pun, I swear). Normally, I don’t like petit offerings, but this one pleased me—I’ll review it at a later date.

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Wine Tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains

View from Loma Prieta Winery. Click twice to magnify.

View from Loma Prieta Winery. Click twice to magnify.

For Christmas, the darling husband bought us Santa Cruz Mountains wine passports, an excellent gift. I wasn’t a wine drinker when I lived in Santa Cruz, so now that I’m in the Bay, I’ve wanted to try what that designation has to offer. Plus, any excuse for a weekend in Santa Cruz is a good one for me.

The passports are $45 each and entitle you to one tasting at each of the participating wineries over a 2-year period. The passports themselves have detailed information on the wineries, their locations, and their hours, and they are intended for use on the quarterly Passport Days, during which some wineries normally closed to the public open their doors. But they are also valid any day of the year during regular operating hours—or at least they are supposed to be. We encountered resistance to that at one winery, which only honors it on Passport Days. Everywhere else let us in no problem.

And the wine passport is a great deal. We plotted a course essentially following Soquel-San Jose Road through the mountains, planning to hit up however many wineries we could handle in an afternoon. There are roughly eight participating wineries in reasonable distances from the main road.

We started at Bargetto, right outside of Santa Cruz on North Main Street in Soquel.


This winery has a gorgeous creekside location, with a large deck under the trees.


Santa_Cruz_Wine_Tasting_02The tasting room is really nice as well, though under construction against the back wall when we were there.


Our wine pourer, a retired police officer, was pleasant and laid back. I fell a bit in love with their 2011 Chardonnay, which I’ll review on its own once I get to drinking it.

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A Foodie Day Trip to Sonoma

A view from Homewood Winery.

A view from Homewood Winery.

My first visit to Sonoma took place a few days before Thanksgiving 2013. It was a quick jaunt into the winery-laden countryside not so far from San Francisco. The downtown area is very cute, full of alleyways and courtyards that hide a range of stores and tasting rooms.

Entering one such alleyway

Entering one such alleyway

And exiting another.

Of course, I managed to eat and wine-taste the afternoon away quite easily. The Highway 12 Winery Tasting Room is a great place to start due to its central location at the corner of 1st Street and Highway 12.

On the corner!

On the corner!

The tasting was free, possibly because it was a lazy Monday. Highway 12 features wines from a variety of Sonoma-area vineyards, and the wine pourer was happy to guide my friend, who was on her first wine-tasting experience, toward the sweeter wines that she preferred.

Walking up First Street afterward, we found ourselves passing by the beautiful old Sebastiani Theatre–


–and stumbling across the San Francisco Solano mission up the next block.


We didn’t linger on sightseeing, however. Wine and food was our game plan. So I focused in on the Chocolate Cow (452 1st St. E #F) down this row of storefronts.


Their Thanksgiving pumpkin and turkey chocolates were beautiful.

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