One of the most popular wines round these parts is Storrs Chardonnay. It’s probably one of the most-requested wines at any given restaurant. And the reason is simple – it’s an excellent wine. It turns out that many judges at this year’s California State Fair think so, too. They named the Storrs 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay as the Best Wine of the Region. As the top wine of the greater Bay Area, this wine also garnered a Best Chardonnay of Region distinction, and a gold medal. When you think of all the wines submitted in this competition, this is truly an impressive achievement.
On a recent trip to Vancouver, Whistler and Victoria, we visit a friend in Vancouver. She whips up a quick lunch for us, and pops open a bottle of Canadian wine. Having just moved there from the Santa Cruz area, she is still trying out the far north wines and tells us how much she misses all the good wineries we have in our area.
We really don’t have enough time to go wine tasting in the land of all things maple, but stopping off in Seattle to stay with relatives on the way back home, we not only have time, but we also have a designated driver, my son-in-law.
Eggs Benedict and Red Wine
Do ham and eggs and red wine go together? Well, why not! On a recent Sunday, my husband and I decide to go out for brunch. It’s already 2 p.m. when we leave home, so we head to the Red Apple Café in Aptos—knowing they serve breakfast and brunch until 4 p.m. and I have a yearning for eggs Benedict. I take along a bottle of Poetic Cellars’ Mantra 2007—a wonderful blend of 45 percent Syrah, 45 percent Mourvedre and 10 percent Sangiovese—because in my book, it’s all right to drink wine any time after 11 a.m.—be it with breakfast, brunch or lunch.
It is easy to enjoy the exceptional food served at Chaminade when paired with wonderful wines. In this case, Vine Hill is the participating winery at one of the series of Farm to Table dinners I attended recently with my husband. These lovely events typically feature local organic farmers and one of our wonderful local wineries. Seating is outdoors (with heaters for the chilly evenings!), dinners are served family style at one long table, and the whole idea is to enjoy the experience of sharing food and wine together in a beautiful setting with a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay. With this in mind, hubby and I head to Chaminade early (the events starts at 5:30 p.m.)—totally prepared to catch maximum rays and a good glass of wine before dinner.
Hors d’oeuvres are already being passed, and Vine Hill is pouring whatever wine you prefer from their selection of chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah, zinfandel—and so on. Vine Hill also makes wines under other labels—Cumbre and Gatos Locos—so they cover a broad spectrum.
We immediately run into four friends and thoroughly enjoy spending the evening with them. We are all impressed with the participating farms – Surfside Chicken and A.C.E. Organics, and the excellent cuisine of executive chef Beverlie Terra, who periodically comes out to talk about the food and to check that we’re all having a good time.
Vine Hill Winery owner Nick Guerrero and vineyard manager Rachel Ormes are sitting opposite, so wine talk is flowing like champagne. I finish with a superb pinot noir—and, as the sun sets in a stunning golden glow over the ocean, I heave a sigh of total satisfaction. Food, wine and good conversation have all come together in perfect unison.
Vine Hill Winery, 2300 Jarvis Road, Santa Cruz, 427-0436. vinehillwinery.com. Chaminade Resort & Spa, One Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz, 475-5600. chaminade.com. The next Farm to Table dinner is on Friday, July 23 and features the wines of Poetic Cellars. Tickets are $65 per person. Call Chaminade for reservations. The last two are on Aug. 20 and Sept. 24.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
A delectable wine and the mystical music of Indian sitar turn out to be a perfect partnership at Don Quixote’s in Felton – a well-known international music venue. My husband and I had gone there to listen to Ashwin Batish – a master sitar player who happens to be a local resident as well. I want a wine that matches the complexity of a raga – something sensuous with lots of body and dark fruit – so I take along a bottle of 2006 DaVine Cab.
I had sampled this interesting wine at MJA Vineyards (DaVine Cellars is an offshoot of MJA Vineyards) tasting room just a couple of weeks before – and bought a bottle ($30) to drink another time. Blackcurrant, tobacco and coffee aromas leap out immediately – plus hints of ripe plums and vanilla. Swirl this wine around the glass for a while and you’ll get a fabulous olfactory fix before you even take a sip. And when you do take a sip, all those fruit-forward flavors come together in one splendid inky mouthful. Here’s a Cab with a nutty, earthy quality that is pure pleasure.
One of my friends had a group of women over for dinner. Since she always makes the most fabulous healthy dishes, I took along a bottle of wine that I hoped would match up with her cuisine – a Viognier 2008 from River Run Vintners, even though Viognier is not always the most food-friendly wine. Most white wine drinkers love Chardonnay, but it makes a nice change to try something els
Sure enough, my friend produces a splendid main course of curried chicken salad—delightful in its simplicity and packed with flavor. I open up the Viognier for the six of us, already wishing I had brought more. This golden-hued beauty has an intriguing heady bouquet of peaches and flowers. Thanks to the warm climate of the Tanimura-Antle Vineyard where the grapes are grown, the fruit ripens perfectly in October—producing this marvelous white wine with a weighty mouthfeel.
Soquel Vineyards is one of the primo wineries belonging to the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Owners Peter and Paul Bargetto, along with their partner Jon Morgan, deserve many congratulations for recent awards. The Partners’ Reserve 2008 Pinot (Santa Cruz Mountains Lester Family Vineyard) won a gold medal at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle wine competition, as did their 2007 and 2006 Pinots. Check the website for Soquel Vineyards’ full range of wines and awards. They have won a multitude of gold and silver medals at various competitions.
For all those fortunate people attending the release party of Bargetto Winery’s La Vita 2006 in May, it was a perfect day of wine, food and ambiance.
In the winery’s beautiful Creek Side Courtyard overlooking Soquel Creek, hors d’oeuvres are passed, luscious wines are tasted, music is played—and a buzz of excitement is in the air before the unveiling of La Vita 2006.
This is no ordinary wine. It’s produced from a unique blend of northern Italian varietals grown in Bargetto’s estate vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Made up of 58 percent Dolcetto, 24 percent Refosco and 18 percent Nebbiolo, this handcrafted wine is aged for two and a half years in oak barrels, and then aged for an additional 18 months in the bottle.