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Sep 18th
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Wine

Dining - Wine Reviews

Bartolo

Bartolo

Grenache 2009
About a year ago, I wrote about Barry Jackson’s Cioppino Rosso, a blend of different wines that winemaker Jackson laughingly calls Cioppino because he “throws all the leftovers in a pot.” He’s referring, of course, to his vivacious blend of several wines—just as the cioppino fish stew is a mixture of fish and shellfish thrown into a pot.

Now, on a somewhat more serious note, it’s time to write about Jackson’s Grenache. A majority of Grenache grapes (there is only 4 percent Syrah added), this wine has the typical enticing aromas of earth and stewed fruits.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Birichino

Birichino

Malvasia Bianca 2009

“You can’t be too rich, too beautiful or too birichino”–or so says John Locke, wine director at Soif wine bar in downtown Santa Cruz. Locke is also the winemaker of this lovely crisp white wine, and, along with business partner Alex Krause, have bottled something frisky and very drinkable. I thought it the ideal libation to try with some of Soif’s imaginative cuisine.

Meeting up with some friends on a Monday evening at Soif is a delicious way to start the week. Mondays can be a bit flat, but not at Soif. With soft “Gypsy jazz” from Hot Club Pacific playing in the background and plates of scrumptious oysters begging to be devoured, we toasted good times (and Good Times!) with a bottle of Birichino.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Fernwood Cellars

Fernwood Cellars

Chardonnay 2008

Who doesn’t love a good Chardonnay? It’s one of those wines that if you don’t know what to order, then Chardonnay is a pretty good bet. It’s a wine that’s on every restaurant’s white wine list—and, from the many inferior Chardonnays out there, when you get a good one, it stands out in a crowd.

Fernwood Cellars’ 2008 estate-grown Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, Vanumanutagi (try saying that when you’ve had a few glasses!) Vineyard, sells for $30 a bottle, but it’s worth every penny. Swirl the wine around the glass and inhale the distinct floral aromas of this beautiful wine.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Pelican Ranch Winery

Pelican Ranch Winery

Gewürztraminer 2008

I first came across Pelican Ranch Winery’s delicious Gewürztraminer at a special dinner at the Sesnon House in Aptos featuring amazing food made by the students of the Cabrillo College culinary program. The event showcased many of the wines of Surf City Vintners on the Westside of Santa Cruz–one of the easiest places to go wine tasting in this neck of the woods. Surf City Vintners now offers more than a dozen wineries located pretty much in the same area. How convenient is that! The vintners of Surf City not only offer excellent wines, but also put on special culinary, art and music events.

But back to the Pelican Ranch Gewürztraminer–made by master winemaker Phil Crews.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Kathryn Kennedy Winery

Kathryn Kennedy Winery

Lateral 2007
Although Kathryn Kennedy died in August 2009, aged 82, her winemaking legacy lives on. Marty Mathis, Kennedy’s son, has been the winemaker at Kathryn Kennedy Winery since 1981, and now runs the business. We have him to thank for continuing the tradition of making superb wines at the estate winery in Saratoga.

At the Evening of Wine & Roses event last November, a fundraiser put on annually by the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust, I tasted the 2007 Lateral, and I well remembered the 2005 Lateral as being a well-made complex wine that was full of flavor.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Le P’Tit Paysan

Le P’Tit Paysan

2006 Syrah

Practically all the wines that Vinocruz sells are local, so I often go in there for a browse around. Owner J-P Correa urges me to try this, that and the other—and he’s always so enthusiastic and informative, especially when he’s discovered some little gem.

Such was the case when Correa asked me to try Le P’Tit Paysan’s 2006 Syrah ($19), Windsor Oaks Vineyard, Russian River Valley. The nose is rich with blueberry, boysenberry and raspberry, and these dense berry flavors add immense depth. Peppery overtones add an interesting spiciness to this Syrah.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

Pinot Noir 2008
A good friend of mine who I don’t see very often—he lives in Philadelphia—came to visit me for the day, along with a friend who he was staying with in San Francisco. This was my golden opportunity to take them around and show them a little of Santa Cruz in the short space of time we had.

I took them straight to a local winery for a tasting—one of the few open on a Wednesday—as I wanted them to try at least a small selection of our superb local wines before they had to head back north.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Pietra Santa Winery

Pietra Santa Winery

Sangiovese 2006

Stephen Hanecak, executive chef at Paradise Beach Grille, really knows his wine. He carefully chooses each wine listed on the menu and really enjoys talking about them. I order a bottle of Pietra Santa Sangiovese 2006 Cienega Valley ($31) for my husband and I to enjoy with our dinner at this excellent restaurant. “Good choice,” says Hanecak, as he sits with us for a while to talk about wine. “I haven’t found a better Sangiovese.” But this is not surprising. Pietra Santa has been in business since 1989 and has built up a fine reputation over its more than two decades of winemaking.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Walters

Walters

Pinot Noir 2007 – A Gorgeous Wine for the Holidays

Raking around in Vinocruz, I come across a Walters wine–a label I hadn’t seen before. It’s exciting to find something new and local and then learn about the winemaker and what has propelled them to make wine commercially. Most winemakers start off as novices–making wine in their own backyard for the simple joy of it. But the truly dedicated winemaker, who is making a good enough product to be sold commercially, also has the hard slog of getting to that point. And even when all the bottling, corking and labeling is done, the new winemaker still has to get his name out there and his wine sold.

Certainly a good start is getting your wine into Vinocruz, the Santa Cruz wine shop dedicated to selling and promoting locally made wines. This lovely wine destination is also a great place to sample our local wines and to meet winemakers in our area at special events held in the store.

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The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

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