The United States is such a geographically diverse country that I never cease to be amazed. Coming from the pint-sized country of England, when I travel the wide-open spaces of the U.S., it always takes my breath away. My husband and I recently did a road trip to Yellowstone—our second time there—taking in Badlands National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota also. Because we were staying in cabins in the national parks, we took our own wine – as well as an abundance of snack food.
One of the most fun areas to go wine tasting is in the Swift Street complex in Santa Cruz. Ever since a group of about a dozen wineries got together and formed Surf City Vintners, the place has been a hive of activity.
Vino Tabi, which belongs to the group, is an eclectic winery run by accomplished winemaker Katie Fox, who always offers a warm welcome and is happy to share her knowledge of wine.
Syrah Rosé 2008
On a recent wine-tasting visit to Hunter Hill, I sample a very unusual Rosé. Darker than most Rosés, this one has a moody hue, almost verging on red. “You have to try this,” says Christine Slatter, owner of Hunter Hill with her winemaker husband, Vann Slatter. “It’s our first Syrah Rosé, says Christine. “And we’re very happy with it.”
I ask Christine why this wine has such a deep ruby color. “Well, in the process [of winemaking] the color is determined by how long you leave it on the skins, and since the crush was late in the evening, we just got tired and left it,” she chuckles. They then realize that they had made a darker-than-usual Rosé, but it turned out really well. “The darker color gives more flavor and intensity to it,” she says. “It’s been a great summer wine.” Although supplies of the Syrah Rosé are running low – Christine tells me that they have only three cases left – Michael’s on Main restaurant in Soquel still has a good supply and you can buy it there by the glass or by the bottle.
It’s always interesting to come across a brand new winery, and Dancing Creek Winery is one of the latest to open up. Formed very recently by Jim and Robin Boyle, the husband and wife duo were the featured winery at Vinocruz for a tasting one afternoon, and my husband and I went there to try their wines. I tell the Boyles how much I admire the amount of work it takes to get into commercial winemaking. They agree wholeheartedly, but tell me that their winemaking journey has been a labor of love.
The 2008 Gold Stripe Chardonnay is a take-anywhere, eat-with-everything kind of wine. It’s drinkable, delicious—and very reasonably priced at less than $15. Ventana Vineyards is a successful, popular winery. Their wines are always in demand, they can be found in most wine stores and supermarkets, and the label boasts that they are “The most award-winning vineyard in America.”