It was an hour before sunrise and absolutely still outside. Not a breath of wind, not a sound. So quiet even the dog was spooked. Then a lone killdeer started its plaintive cry. Last year most of the lakes in Montana still had ice on them in April and the snow hung around well into the month. According to the local groundhog, Montana Murray, spring is coming early this year.
Vann Slatter and Christine Carter Slatter, winemakers at Hunter Hill Vineyard and Winery, are selling the family estate and moving to Montana soon. Or at least that’s the plan. “We are selling everything, hopefully: Home, winery, vineyard and all the equipment for farming and winemaking. We are hoping for the best and a new adventure!”
In the meantime, they have their cabin in Gustine, CA where they spend winters duck hunting, and they plan to go back and forth to Soquel until they sell.
“When we first started the winery we didn’t have a business plan.” They thought, “We’re just growing grapes, making a little wine,” Christine said.
Located in the Santa Cruz mountains northeast of Soquel, Christine and Vann first started growing grapes on the family’s fruit ranch in 1990. Soon the self-taught winemakers were winning awards. “Little by little we’ve put in grapes where the apple farm was…it was supposed to be a hobby. My husband – I call him a visionary – said we were going to grow a few grapes and sell a little wine here and there…”
Now known best for their Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, Hunter Hill Winery makes rich red wines grown on lands formerly thick with redwood forest. “Clay, loam, redwood…wine is a product of the soil,” Christine told me.
Christine’s grandparents bought the acreage in 1906 for a $50 gold piece. The property was logged of its redwood trees, the stumps dynamited away, and the original house, still family occupied, was one of the first built on Glen Haven Road. Her grandfather would haul the harvest by horse and wagon to sell as far away as Boulder Creek. Married just a few years, Vann and Christine took over the property from Christine’s mother in 1968.
Vann grew up in Capitola, “a beach boy,” Christine says, and graduated from Soquel High. He served his country as a Navy Seal, completing three tours of duty. He started Slatter Construction in 1984. In that kind of business, she says, “You become involved in the community.”
Christine grew up in Pasatiempo and considers herself more of a “hill person.” “I’ve always loved the mountains, there are so many fun places you can go to: Forest Pool, the Trout Farm, Pasatiempo Pool, Hollins House…”
“Mountain folk usually stay to themselves. The winery has brought the neighborhood together.”
She tries to be at the tasting room every weekend when they open in spring, greeting everyone she can at the door with a hug. She likes to keep things small, preferring intimate pourings for wine club members and locals who stop in for a sip and a sit in the sun by the pond. The grounds teem serenely with life on a relaxing summer day – dogs, kids, a babbling water feature flitting with wild birds, and occasional live acoustic music.
Long a member of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, Hunter Hill has poured at area festivals such as The Scotts Valley Art Wine and Beer Festival, Boulder Creek’s Santa Cruz Mountain Art and Wine Festival, and Capitola Art and Wine Festival, to name a few. For many groups, including Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit’s Gourmet Grazing on the Green in Aptos; Valley Churches United Missions, Tasting Under the Redwoods; and Congregational Church of Soquel, Taste of Soquel, Hunter Hill has graciously donated their wine. “This is still one of the most important things that makes money for all these people – wine is the big sell, it’s all local”
Locally you’ll find Hunter Hill wines at Boulder Creek Pizza and Pub and Redwood Keg Liquor and Deli, and other shops around the valley.
As they prepare for the eventual sale of the land and winery and for leaving the rural California coastal mountain lifestyle they’ve known all their lives, Christine said her favorite moments have been those spent with visitors and friends “sharing this piece of property that we feel is fairly sacred – it’s family property.” And there is the resounding satisfaction of knowing that they’ve done something wonderful with the land.
Hunter Hill Vineyard and Winery
7099 Glen Haven Road, Soquel, CA 95073
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.
Labor Day Weekend – Saturday & Sunday, September 5 & 6 2015
11:00 am to 6:00 pm
Garrahan Park, Hwy 9 Boulder Creek On Facebook
By Julie Horner
Enjoy the last days of summer with family, friends and community at the second annual Santa Cruz Mountain Art, Wine, and Music Festival at Boulder Creek’s Garrahan Park. Showcasing local artists and musicians, the Boulder Creek Brewery and mountain wineries will be pouring. Expect great food and drink, groovin’ times in the sunshine; face painting, a jumpy house and other activities for the kids. More to be announced!
I love working with glass in all its forms – molten glass is probably my favorite. When the glass is heated to molten, it can be manipulated into simple shapes like spheres, cylinders, and barrels. It can also be rolled and pressed and then decorated with more molten glass, or it can be sculpted into complex shapes – like plants and animals.
My inspiration comes from nature. Anyone who sees my glass work would probably say I love the ocean and all its creatures. My torch-worked glass bead creations are often sculpted creatures (sea stars, jellies, turtles, etc.), but I also create mini ocean scenes on my pressed glass beads. I make 3-D aquarium beads that are a bit like swimming in the reef (only smaller).
I also work in fused glass – cutting sheet glass and melting it in a kiln. Some of my plates include Monet-like backgrounds with inlaid copper sea creatures and hand-pulled glass “plants” – creating the illusion of depth. While my Ocean Series plates tend towards the cool colors of blues and greens, my Caribbean Series plates are very bright and colorful. I love working in different color palettes, often pushing myself to try new combinations.
While I love the ocean, I also love the forest. The redwood and oak forests speak to me in birdsong and babbling brooks rather than in crashing waves. I often use the forest solitude to come up with new ideas and directions. Standing beneath the redwoods and looking up can make one feel quite insignificant – a bit like a banana slug.
Originally from Riverside, California, I spent 8 years in Seattle, WA before returning to the Golden State and making Santa Cruz my home. I’ve been here for 15 years and still love it! The majority of my glass work is available at Art of Santa Cruz (inside the Capitola Mall at the Target end) and Monterey Bay Artisans (Monterey). I also have limited work at Beach Girl, Many Hands Gallery, Henry Cowell, Seacliff State Beach, and Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center. I do many shows and festivals in Santa Cruz County, including Open Studios. My studio is also open by appointment.
“Express who you are through embroidery art.” The art of raised stitching can transform ordinary clothing and fabric into stylish personalized expressions of one’s self. Embroidered designs can be frilly, whimsical, edgy, strong, or compelling. While flowers, puppy dogs, and swirly letters have provided decorative flair for shirts, coats, pillow cases, and towels for eons, so much more is possible. In addition to cutesy, stitching can be alarming, disarming, and sublime.
San Lorenzo Valley is full of culture… there is so much to find here. We have Buddhists, we have people who were part of the 60’s culture change, and we have the outdoors and beautiful trees. All of these things are great for inspiration.
I still make everything at my house in Boulder Creek and my family and I show most of what I make at art shows. Originally I started making things I wanted to wear, doing whole jackets and hats that represented my aesthetic. What I create has changed over time, adding some things here and there that, while they may not be what I would wear, I think others might.
I guess one thing about my embroidery is that it reflects different cultures in some way. My inspiration may be from the Pacific Northwest Native American Tribal art, or Norwegian (my ancestry), or Japanese. I know it when I see it and I can’t get it out of my head until I can do something with it.
“It is my hope that viewing my paintings will evoke a sense of peace and fond recognition, by locals and visitors alike.”
Felton Library Watercolor by Carol Riddle
I try to capture the beauty of our local scene, choosing to depict what one might see while visiting Santa Cruz and the surrounding areas. I think my favorite thing is “getting lost” in the painting while creating. That and the “surprises” that the watercolor medium presents. You just have to adjust as you go.
I like landscapes and the out-of-doors. My family went for camping vacations growing up. Our favorite was the Redwoods, so when I got the opportunity, I bought a house among them. I love color. I use color to represent how I feel when visiting the places I paint. Since I am SOOOOO into detail, I take my own photographs on location and paint at home in my Ben Lomond studio. The light changes too fast when I try to paint while I am at the location, and it is never the same the next day. So when I see something which inspires me, I take photos. I don’t try to replicate the photo; I try to paint what I felt while at the site.
My best memories in SLV are of quiet, peace. Home. I volunteer at the Henry Cowell Nature Store at the State Park in Felton. It is run by local volunteers and Mountain Parks Foundation, which supports Henry Cowell and Big Basin through educational programs for the public about how to preserve our heritage. We appreciate all the local support.
Local favorites from the Santa Cruz Mountains, The Naked Bootleggers are reviving the standards of yesterday while writing the standards for tomorrow. Local musicians Don Mackessy (banjo/vocals), Ona Stewart (guitar/vocals), S.T. Young (guitar/harmonica/vocals), James Mackessy (bass/vocals), Jeremy Lampel (mandolin/vocals) span the gap between old time and contemporary music with captivating vocal harmonies, lyrical creativity and that high lonesome sound of old.
We love all the great music that comes through this area, and we really enjoy working together to present our art for people to enjoy, especially if they like to dance, drink and get just rowdy enough to make it pure fun.
The Leftovers are a reggae rock group from the Santa Cruz Mountains, a close group of friends that grew up together in the San Lorenzo Valley. Joey Storm and Sean Conner started the band about three years ago writing songs on the beach in their free time. Slowly adding members Travis Salangsang on drums, David Churchill on keyboard, Brendan Brose on bass guitar, Greg Del Bene on percussion, and female backup vocalists Taylor Rae and Sydney Gorham; the band now consists of seven members.
We play upbeat and fun music by fusing roots-reggae music of the past with popular reggae styles of the present, as well as some rock. Some of our biggest influences include Sublime, Rebelution, The Expendables, Bob Marley and many others.
The goal is to create “feel-good” music that will put smiles on the audience’s face as well as lure them out onto the dance floor to join in on the fun. We love music and are very excited to be able to share our passion. We love playing for the local community because they are so supportive, and because we grew up here we know most everyone!
They say an acoustic shadow can cause sound to be refracted to an unexpected location similar to how light is transformed by mirage. Acoustic Shadows all-original jam band was born deep in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Infectiously affable, Erik Rozite fronts the band with a signature conviction, that right hand in constant motion driving the rhythm on guitar. Lead guitarist, Zac Clow never breaks a sweat squeezing out the high wail, and Paul Stevens holds down some serious drum beats while “Wygz” William Van Kol keeps it cool and steady on bass. Jim Anderson (booty shakin’ percussion), and Brian Valentine (screamin’ harmonica) fill out the Acoustic Shadows sound, an intoxicating jambalaya of solid rock rhythm and atmospheric groove.
The group has released five CDs professionally recorded at local studios, and they are ever present in the mountains and performing at familiar venues all over the greater Santa Cruz area. The band is eager to share their “cask fermented and high times” Acoustic Shadows vibe!
Hailing from SLV and Santa Cruz, Who’s Holdin’ is a kick ass rock band that’s been around for over a decade creating an energetic, ultra-addictive sound!
Featuring Ian McDonough (vocals, guitar), Matt Harris (guitar, vocals), Troy Tano (horn, vocals, percussion), Morgan Monticue (bass), Zac Farmer (drums), Who’s Holdin’ promises “slammin’ rock, high energy, punk-tinted, groove- laced, thoughtful-fun music for partyin’, playin’, drivin’, downloadin’, home chillin’, layin’ around the pool drinkin’ and just about anything.”
“Our theme is Native American rock centered on musical healing and positive energy. We feel our music is good medicine for the heart, soul, and body.”
Boulder Creek’s Medicine Road formed in 2008 and has been playing steadily ever since. We love every single song we do. How could a band play music just for someone else and not themselves? It’s the same as how can someone love you if you don’t love yourself? We love our music; therefore, we are putting out love in the most peaceful and loving way.
The medicine is the music, which heals the soul, nurtures the body’s need to move in a positive flow, and stimulates the brain to think about the positive change needed to heal ourselves and our planet. When viewing the earth from a distance, we look like ants with our ant hills, living close to each other to advance our ability to survive. Every living thing on this planet is sacred. Every living thing is exactly that, living. If you value life as a huge thing, then all things fall under that huge thing, ALIVE.
Born in the Bay Area and adopted by the Santa Cruz Mountains, this legendary group of players is more than a band; they’ve created their own community attracting generations of people from all over to their shows to groove together. Grampa’s Chili has a long history starting in the 1990s with original members from Old Dead Bug, The Bliss Ninnies, and Soup and they’ve kept a following of fans from the early days known collectively as the “Vibe Tribe.”
The current incarnation of Grampa’s Chili includes Mike Boston (vocals), Victor Manning (guitar, vocals), Jerry Brown (bass, vocals), Tom McQuillen (guitar), Michael Palladino (drums, vocals).
“Songs are like children, you can’t force them to be something they’re not, they’ve got to take their own direction.” The band has been going through a prolific period of writing new songs, and the new material wants to be played.
The Crooked Branches Band plays original music with lyrical influences ranging from soul to roots rock and country. Their songs exhibit a blend of styles from their current home in the Santa Cruz Mountains and former homes in the Midwest, Southern states and Latin America.
The band has two members from San Jose, two from southern California, and one from Illinois. They now all reside in Santa Cruz County (three in the mountains and two in Santa Cruz) and play most shows in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Band member, Manny Steffen says, “My favorite thing about playing music in this band is that I get to hang out with four of my best friends…our friends, family and others who have come out to our shows have been so great in showing their support. They’re the best part of each of our shows.” The bass player recently got married among the redwoods here, and when they can, they partake in the local hiking and swimming hole action.
Whiskey driven, heartbreak influenced, good time music, Rollin’ Hazard is an original country, alt-country outfit out of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Including members, O.T. Duvall on 6-string flat top (also the band’s eye candy), Anders ‘Virginia Nasty’ Steele on Telecaster (with attitude), Ebin Lee on Bass, Boss Doss on drums, and the ghost of John Barleycorn as spiritual advisor.