Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 30th
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Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery

dining_alfaroPinot 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.

Both of these guys were starving, so lunch was next. We were fortunate that day to have perfectly warm and wonderful fall weather, so I take them straight to Hoffman’s in Downtown Santa Cruz, where the food is always good, there’s a lovely outdoor patio to soak up the warm sun, and it’s a good spot for out-of-towners to experience.

Since both my friends are lovers of red wine, I order a bottle of Alfaro Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains (about $35 at Hoffman’s), as I knew this would be a safe bet. Richard Alfaro, winemaker extraordinaire, does not cut corners when he makes his famous Pinot. The grapes are grown on his estate, and the wine is produced and bottled there as well. Aged for 17 months in French oak barrels, this deep ruby Pinot is unfined, unfiltered–and exploding with fabulous flavors of raspberry, spiced plums and vanilla. Fining wine means adding dining_wine something to the wine that will draw out particles and tannins; and filtering wine is literally passing the wine through a filter to remove impurities. Many prefer unfined, unfiltered wine as it usually makes for a richer mouthfeel.

Our three plates of food arrive–two of pasta and a mushroom sandwich for my vegan friend–and we all have a fine time eating the wonderful food and polishing off the rest of the Pinot. After reviving with some splendid cappuccino at Hoffman’s, and stopping for locally- made organic ice cream at Mission Hill Creamery on Front Street, we all go down to the Municipal Wharf to check out the sea lions.

Alfaro Family Vineyards, 420 Hames Road, Corralitos. Tel. 728-5172. Open Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m.

Wine Events:
Cava Wine Bar in Capitola village is putting on a New Year’s Eve bash with a hosted bar and with hourly toasts of bubbly across the time zones. It’s expected to sell out, so get your tickets early ($60). Cava Wine Bar, 115 San Jose Ave., Capitola, 476-2282.

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