Searching for a bottle of local wine in Deer Park Wine & Spirits in Aptos, I came across a raspberry wine made by Chaucer’s Cellars ($13 for 500 ml.). Chaucer’s dessert-style fruit wines are absolutely delicious because they’re all made from 100 percent pure fruit without any artificial flavorings. As the holidays are coming up, this is just the kind of wine to crack open after dinner to enjoy with dessert—or even if friends come over and you just want to offer something different. It’s a sweet wine, of course, so it can actually be served instead of dessert. Chaucer’s suggests serving it with soda, champagne or over the rocks, with ice cream or cheesecake or in a cobbler. Personally, I like to pour a little glass of it and enjoy it as you would a liqueur.
Twin brothers Peter and Paul Bargetto own and operate Soquel Vineyards with their partner Jon Morgan. Although the Bargetto brothers are related to the Bargettos of Bargetto Winery fame in Soquel, they are a separate entity when it comes to their winery. But winemaking most definitely runs in the family – with a little bit of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel coursing through the Bargetto family’s veins. Peter and Paul’s grandfather actually started Bargetto Winery in 1933, so winemaking is very much a family tradition.
Pelican Ranch Winery makes a good Chardonnay. After all, the owner and winemaker, Phil Crews, is a professor of chemistry at UC Santa Cruz, so he certainly knows a thing or two about blending and fermenting—be it wine or chemicals.
This particular Chardonnay, a 2008 Los Carneros Napa Valley, Mitsuko’s Vineyard—is really luscious. Phil professes he made it to be “bold and delicious”—and he’s succeeded. Some Chardonnays are crisp and light, but this one is more complex with heavy fruit, toasty oak, vanilla and butterscotch from the full malolactic secondary fermentation. Notes of ripe pear and apple are in there also, with a hint of vanilla. All in all, it’s a lovely Chardonnay, which would pair well with almost anything. Certainly the “toasty oak” in the wine is not overwhelming, which can really detract from the refreshing flavors of a good Chardonnay.
When Ralph DiTullio of Nonno’s Italian Cafe called to invite me to lunch at La Rusticana d’Orsa, I accepted immediately. La Rusticana is hardly ever open to the public, and this was my golden opportunity to visit the winery and try some of their gorgeous wines.
A group of about 20 people meet up at Nonno’s—an Aladdin’s cave of wine. DiTullio’s passion for this beverage shows in his collection of wines from all over the world, plus an outstanding array from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Cafe, deli and wine bar rolled into one, Nonno’s is truly a charming place. Wine tastings are held most Saturdays—and there’s a bocce ball court to add to the fun.
The owners of La Rusticana, Frank and Marilyn Dorsa, bought the estate in Los Gatos years ago and have dedicated their time to getting their 40-acre property exactly as they want it. It’s an exquisite place—full of bronze statues, beautiful fountains, lily ponds and breathtaking gardens. One could be in Italy on the most magnificent property, but here we are in Los Gatos, hidden away in the rolling hills.
DiTullio, an ebullient fellow who loves wine and food, immediately pours some La Rusticana wine for our group—a glass to carry with us as we go on a tour of the property. I had been here some years ago, but the estate is even more stunning now.
There are those times in one’s wine-drinking life when a beautiful Rosé is like an epiphany. Drinking the popular Chardonnays and Merlots as often as we do, sometimes the thought of a Rosé wine never comes into the picture. How often do you order a Rosé when you’re out to dinner? It’s easy to forget about the Rosés of this world when confronted with a plethora of reds and whites.
Stopping by Vino Tabi’s tasting room one afternoon, winemaker Katie Fox said, “Try this Rosé. I just love it.” She was referring to her Rosé of Zinfandel 2008 Central Coast ($22 and available only at the winery). One sip and I was smitten. A very pretty coral-ruby color, this excellent wine has a very definite essence of chocolate and strawberries—with just a hint of rhubarb. It’s not cloyingly sweet as are some Rosés—and in fact has quite a tart cherry finish.
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Lois and Michael Sones met at sea when they were both working on a cruise ship in the mid-1980s – hence the nautical theme of their white wine – Canción del mar. Even their bottle labels, which are beautiful and eye-catching, continue this theme and depict the bow of a boat with a masthead of Minerva holding a bunch of grapes.
Sones Cellars started out in a very small way, as most wineries do, but I have now noticed their wines all over town in one store or another. Michael Sones is getting due recognition for making some superb handcrafted wines. As well as Canción del mar, the winery produces Petite Syrah and Zinfandel.
Every time I drive past the little red schoolhouse on Summit Road in Los Gatos, I think of the story behind it. When Dave Moulton, owner and winemaker at Burrell School, started in the wine business back in the early ’70s, his wife Anne could not believe that they were actually going to live in the old – make that “historic” – schoolhouse. Even with all the history behind it (it was built in 1890), to be living and working from this spot seemed a bit inconvenient, to say the least. But fast forward to today. Burrell School is one of the best-known wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation – and Dave is hailed for producing some of the best local wines on the market.