Showcasing Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries and Vineyards
By Julie Horner
Summertime’s simple pleasures are in abundance in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Time stretches long and luxurious, sun drenched days followed by clear starry nights which seem to last forever; shafts of light part morning mists with welcome warmth and the gentle urgency of things to do. Sumptuous tastes appeal: Small plates, fresh bounty from the garden, and hand-crafted wines from local slopes.
Small vineyards tucked into quiet hillsides coax fruit from the vines, most notably Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. More than fifty wineries work their art in the Santa Cruz Mountains and invite the curious to sample. A Sunday drive along any of our sun-dappled mountain byways will take you to the doorstep of earthly sensation and connection to the mountains themselves.
At a recent winemaker’s dinner at Casa Nostra, Ben Lomond’s piping hot spot for well coddled Italian fare, assistant winemaker at Bargetto Winery, Bobby Graviano, spent his 28th birthday introducing enthusiasts to sensational pairings featuring some of the winery’s most popular pours. The 2014 Pinot Grigio, “with hints of bright grapefruit, sweet pear, and apple,” paired with bruschetta verde and crostini rock shrimp with pesto. A 2014 Pinot Noir, “bright and fruit forward with rich cherry, currant, rosemary, and cedar” paired with penne Contadina, onion, mushroom, rosemary, chicken, and tomato in a light cream sauce. Bargetto’s 2012 Merlot reserve, grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains, complimented the filet mignon, potatoes, and green beans “with the aromas of black licorice, cherry, and black currants with a lingering hint of vanilla spice and oak.” And the dark chocolate mousse danced on the tongue with the 2012 Lodi old vine Zin while the birthday song was sung.
Bargetto Winery, located in Soquel, began producing wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1933. Known for estate grown varietals, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay, the flavors rich and intense, the third-generation Bargetto family still lives on the property to carry on the tradition. The oldest winery in Santa Cruz County, the craft itself has been handed down to upcoming young artists, Santa Cruz winemaker Olivia Teutschel, and assistant winemaker, Bobby Graviano, imparting a youthful freshness of spirit to the making.
The tasting room is easy to find on North Main Street nearer to town than expected. Bobby took me on a tour of the cellars where the wine is aged, depending on variety and point in the process, in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and 60 gallon barrels made from French, American, and Hungarian oak.
Bobby graduated from the Cal Poly wine and viticulture program and told me that wine making “sounded like a cool major.” His favorite moments in wine making are spent in the cellars and the lab attending to the finer art of the science of it, monitoring the fermentation process, pH, and sugars. He is proud of Bargetto’s four tiers of Pinot, the lightest of all the reds, which grow best in Santa Cruz Mountains cooler climate and “won’t leave you puckered.” He also noted Bargetto’s unique flagship wine, La Vita (“the life” in Italian), which blends three estate grown northern Italian red varietals, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Refosco. The bottle label features a different local artist each year with proceeds going to a new charity annually. He says Bargetto is a smaller winery, producing less than 50,000 cases a year, and they bottle on-premises, a unique distinction.
He loves “the great atmosphere and great people” at the winery with live music nights and special events in the tasting room and on the patio overlooking Soquel creek. Locals have been going there for decades. “It’s been around forever. I talk to people my parent’s age and they say, ‘I used to go to that place back in the 70s!’” Some wines are sold only in the tasting rooms, like the Petite Sirah and the blends, which are made in limited quantity. Other specialties, like Chaucer’s fruit wines and honey mead, a traditionally sweet sip that harkens to Medieval England, are available in local markets and nationwide.
Look for Bargetto Winery at The Scotts Valley Art, Wine and Beer Festival at Sky Park on Saturday August 15, 2015.
Santa Cruz Tasting Room
3535 North Main Street
Soquel, CA 95073
(831) 475-2258 ext. 14
Hours: Open Daily 12:00 – 5:00
Monterey Tasting Room
700-G Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
Hours: Sun – Thurs. 11:00 – 6:30
Fri – Sat 11:00 – 7:00
(c) 2015 Julie Horner
Originally written for and published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin.
Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.
On the Web: http://www.santacruzmountainslocal.com