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  Visit Santa Cruz
September 2005--Santa Cruz

Wine Tasting Itinerary:
Northern Santa Cruz Mountains

Spread out through the mountains of Santa Cruz are some 50 wineries between Half Moon Bay and Watsonville. Despite their relatively close proximity, winding country roads and breathtaking vistas all but force visitors to take their time in exploring this uniquely independent wine region.

If you go:

Thomas Fogarty
Ridge Vineyards
Mount Eden
Mountain Winery

Sent Sovi

Coming south from San Francisco, the Northernmost reaches of Santa Cruz Wine Country are also some of its best known—from the legendary Mount Eden (formerly the Martin Ray vineyards) and Ridge's Montebello vineyards to Paul Masson's elegant Mountain Winery and the quaint Silicon Valley suburb of Saratoga.

What's quickly apparent is that Santa Cruz's wineries have a quirkiness and sense of style that is all their own, due in no small part to the challenges of hilly terrain, sometimes unpredictable weather and typically low yields that can make for some startlingly great wine.

Though importing grapes from other growing areas around the state has become almost a necessity for many Santa Cruz winemakers, there are several that bottle varietals like Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Chardonnay exclusively from their own vineyards. These estate grown wines, with often minerally, densely concentrated flavors are worth seeking out.

Weekends are often the best time to visit, since many of the smaller Santa Cruz wineries have limited tasting room hours (or require an appointment). Call ahead if you have a special tasting room in mind to make sure they're open.

The wineries

Thomas Fogarty: Owned by a famous cardiovascular surgeon, the Fogarty Winery has a broad selection of wines, though the Santa Cruz Chardonnay is most often recognized. The winery brings in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Napa (though it also sources Santa Cruz grapes), and has about 35 acres of premium varietals used for estate bottling. Thomas Fogarty is a relaxing introduction to the region. Open Thursday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm. 19501 Skyline Blvd., Woodside, 650-851-6777.

Santa Cruz Winery Tour ItinerayRidge Vineyards: Though Ridge is another winery that sources its grapes from far and wide, its Santa Cruz Monte Bello is among the best of the region—perhaps the state. Made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon, it is blended with oft-changing amounts of Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Ridge is also well-known for its Zinfandel and Chardonnay. Perched high up on a ridge some 40-miles south of San Francisco, it’s a perfect picnic spot. Open Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 4pm. 17100 Monte Bello Road, Cupertino, (408) 867-3233.

Mount Eden Vineyards: Though there is no tasting room, and visitors are welcomed by appointment only, it’s worth noting the historical significance of this winery. Purchased in the mid-1900’s by Paul Masson winemaker Martin Ray, these vineyards were among the first in the US to bottle wines as distinct varietals, like Pinot Noir. Recognized as one of the finest winemakers of his day, Martin Ray left the vineyard in the early 1970’s, when the name was changed to Mount Eden. Critics say that Eden wines remain some of the most outstanding in the state, including their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Call for information: (408) 867-4329.

Mountain Winery: The former estate of famed Burgundian winemaker Paul Masson, this popular entertainment venue offers an upscale restaurant, the Chateau Room, aimed at pre-and-post concert diners, and a selection of wines produced by the winery. Call for information: (408) 741-2822.

Savannah-Chanelle: Pinot Noir is the name of the game at this family-run winery. With both estate Pinots and wines produced from grapes from the Santa Lucia highlands, Santa Barbara and the Russian River Valley, Savannah-Chanelle gives tasters an opportunity to better understand how wines produced in the same vintage by the same winemaker can have such a sense of place. Open 11am to 5pm daily, 23600 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, 408.741.2930.

Dining: North Santa Cruz Mountains

Sent Sovi: French-inspired California cuisine. Sample menu items include wild mushrooms, blood orange soup, porkchops, scallops and Liberty Duck breast. An emphasis on locally or small-farm-sourced foods. 14583 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, 866.285.4231

Manresa: Chef David Kinch is getting major buzz in the food world with his inspired French and Spanish cooking. Expect wildly creative dishes using elegant and sometimes exotic ingredients including veal tongue, suckling pig, Japanese sea bass and tuna belly, for example. 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, 408-354-4330.

Viaggio: Mediterranean cuisine that includes standard fare like steak, salmon, pasta and pizzas, as well as Spanikopita, fried calamari and baked Brie cheese. Special “quick” dinners for pre-concert diners. 14550 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, 408.731.1500.

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