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Aug 20th
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Wine

Dining - Wine Reviews

Pelican Ranch Winery 2008 Chardonnay

Pelican Ranch Winery 2008 Chardonnay

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.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Trout Gulch Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay

Trout Gulch Vineyards 2007 ChardonnayGerry Turgeon has been making award-winning Chardonnay since 1988. Until very recently, his Trout Gulch Vineyards never had a tasting room open to the public. I have seen Turgeon here and there at many wine events such as Passport and the Vintners’ Festival—usually pouring at a restaurant or other location. Now all that has changed since he moved in with the Surf City Vintners. Trout Gulch (named for its location on Trout Gulch Road in Aptos) deserves its own tasting room on Swift Street—and even though it’s not open every weekend, you can easily find their wines at most wine bars, restaurants and in local supermarkets.
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Dining - Wine Reviews

2005 La Rusticana d’Orsa Red Table Wine

2005 La Rusticana d’Orsa Red Table Wine

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.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Vino Tabi 2008 Rosé of Zinfandel

Vino Tabi 2008 Rosé of Zinfandel

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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Dining - Wine Reviews

Sones Cellars ’08 Canción del mar

Sones Cellars ’08 Canción del mar

Plus Upcoming WIne Events
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.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Burrell School Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon & Wine Events

Burrell School Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon & Wine Events

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.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Martin Ranch Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Martin Ranch Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2008

A visit to Martin Ranch is nothing short of an adventure. The address alone encapsulates the location – Redwood Retreat Road. It’s actually a very easy drive going over Hecker Pass and making a left on Watsonville Road—but I followed my Mapquest and drove down a long dirt road from Summit Road before I got to my destination. But all is right with the world when you get there. Martin Ranch is beautiful and the view is breathtaking. And the occasion was Martin Ranch’s annual wine club members’ barbecue.

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Dining - Wine Reviews

Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Chardonnay 2008

Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Chardonnay 2008

Although Thomas Fogarty is known mostly for making top-of-the-line wines, the winery also turns out a low-key Chardonnay called Skyline, which sells for about $15—a modest price to pay for a lovely crisp wine. The 2008 Skyline is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Because it is not aged in the finest oak barrels doesn’t mean it’s not worthy. Au contraire—this Chardonnay has a bright clean finish that’s unpretentious and delicious. Of course, a good Chardonnay that’s been aged in the finest French oak barrels is bound to be superior, but then you’ll be paying a lot more, too. The Skyline is named after Skyline Boulevard where the winery sits—at 2,000 feet above sea level – and where they claim the Skyline strip to be “the ribbon that adorns the Santa Cruz Mountains.” This particular wine comes with a screw cap, but don’t let that put you off. Many wineries these days are going that route, even though many people are not happy about it. I still prefer the “old-fashioned” cork, though.

At a recent dinner at Aquarius restaurant in the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, I order the Skyline 2007 to go with my entrée of California White Bass—a lovely pairing with the succulent fish. I always try to drink local wines when I’m dining around town, and I was pleased to see that Aquarius has quite a few wines from our Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. They also do wine flights where you can taste a flight of three—and order a few “Bar Bites” if you get the munchies. It’s an all-round beautiful restaurant—esthetically stunning and with impressive food to match.

Two of the wonderful local wines that Aquarius carries, Heart O’ The Mountain Pinot Noir and Black Ridge Pinot Noir, were served at the restaurant’s recent celebratory opening. And what a party it was! As well as an abundance of delicious food and wine, there were synchronized swimmers in the hotel’s pool, and fire dancers on the beach. The place was packed with invitees having an absolutely wonderful time. We were even greeted at the door with a glass of champagne.

Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards, 19501 Skyline Blvd., Woodside, (650) 851-6777, fogartywinery.com. Open for wine tasting Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tasting fee is $8 and $12, but complimentary on Wednesdays. Aquarius, 175 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz,  460-5012.


Wine Events

Johnny’s Harborside is doing an ongoing “Raise a Glass” fundraiser for local teachers. Until Jan. 1, 2010, they will be donating $1 a glass or flight and $4 per bottle of all Ventana wines. With the funds raised, Johnny’s will be partnering with the Institute of HeartMath to offer free training to local teachers.
Johnny’s Harborside Restaurant & Bar, 493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz, 479-3430, johnnysharborside.com.

Dining - Wine Reviews

Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Vineyards

2007 Ridge Vineyards Three Valleys
What makes a good bottle of wine? Well, in this case, it’s 76 percent Zinfandel, 8 percent Petite Syrah, 7 percent Syrah, 6 percent Grenache, and 3 percent Carignane. I’m talking about Ridge Vineyards’ 2007 Sonoma County Three Valleys. This superb blend made by Ridge Vineyards of Cupertino, is luscious, fruity and sublime. The Carignane, a popular blending wine, adds a nice peppery finish. Bottled in August 2008, it’s ready to drink right now, but it will also keep well for another half dozen years or so.

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The Thought Form of Solution

It’s our last week of Leo before the sun enters Virgo (next Friday/Saturday). The planets this week make complex patterns and relationships (vibrational cadences and rhythms) with the outer planets, mainly Neptune—the planet that veils, obscures, protects and finally refines us. Neptune offers us entrance into a deeply spiritual sense of comfort and solace. Neptune is the personality ruler of Pisces (saviors of the world) and soul ruler of Cancer (world mother). “The fish goddesses who leapt from earth (Virgo) to water (Pisces) unitedly give birth to the Fish God (Christ, the Soul) who introduces the waters of life  (Neptune & Aquarius) into the ocean of substance (matter, mother bringing light to the world. Thus does Neptune work.” (Esoteric Astrology).

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Cultures Collide

No surprises, but lots to savor in foodie film ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’

 

Say Uncle

Five types of kids, and how to be their best friend
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Best of Santa Cruz County

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

 

Have Mercy!

Looking for a frisky summer wine at a reasonable price? Look no further than Mercy Vineyards’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($20). Richly textured “with an exotic flavor profile,” the wine reveals aromas of honeydew melon and honeysuckle, with anise appearing as a star attraction. Smidgeons of pineapple and honeycomb add a touch of sexiness to this well-balanced, easy-drinking wine, which pairs well with a variety of cuisine —especially ceviche, calamari and other not-too-heavy foods.