Tag Archives: Santa Cruz Mountains

Soquel Vineyards on a Saturday Afternoon

No, not “Saturday in the Park,” for those of you old enough to remember the song by Chicago, but a Saturday afternoon spent at Soquel Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Lori and I started really spending time in the Santa Cruz Mountains area about 2001, and Soquel Vineyards was our first “find”. Small winery, and it takes a bit of an effort to get there, but worth it. Excellent wine, great people, great setting and view.

View of Monterey Bay from Soquel Vineyards

View of Monterey Bay from Soquel Vineyards

We hadn’t been to Soquel Vineyards in a few years, but we’ve been drinking some of our older Soquel wines lately. (Read our posts on The Business of Blends and When Should You Open That Bottle.) And since we’re almost out of Soquel wines, and had a free afternoon, there we went, up the winding road, and found ourselves there on a simply beautiful day. When we first visited many years ago, they only had a small tasting bar inside. They have since added an outside patio, and have different inside and outside tasting menus. We got one of each tasting menu, and they were nice enough to serve us both outside on the patio. (Thanks to Kelsey for taking great care of us!)

Soquel Vineyards tasting room

Soquel Vineyards tasting room

We really enjoyed the following wines (i.e. we bought a mixed case of these):

2013 Chardonnay, Lester Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains
2013 Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains
2012 Trinity Rosso, blend of Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo

(As an aside, we opened a bottle of the Trinity Rosso a few days ago, and it was perfect for dinner with Lori’s meat loaf.)

After finishing our tasting, we wandered inside, and caught up with Peter Bargetto. On every visit we’ve made to Soquel, either Peter or his twin brother Paul – two of the three partners in the winery – have been there talking with the guests and helping with the tastings, usually providing some select barrel tastings at the end. Today was no different, and Peter treated us to tastes of the 2013 and 2014 Intreccio, and new Bordeaux blend that Soquel will be releasing soon. Each year the blend changes a bit, depending on the quality and taste of the grapes. We were impressed with both vintages, and can’t wait to see them in bottles and released to customers. We also tasted a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Coombsville District, which was still really young; hard to get a read on. Although based on the Soquel track record, it’s going to be great.

To our view, Soquel embodies and exemplifies what is great about the Santa Cruz Mountain wineries: small family wineries, producing outstanding wine with a lot of passion and care, in a great area, and taking great care of their customers. In particular, their longevity and consistency make them a must visit winery in the area.



Windy Oaks: Love and Tragedy

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Alfred Lord Tennyson

Windy Oaks Estate 2001 Pinot Noir, Proprietor's Reserve, Santa Cruz Mountains, Schultze Family Vineyard

Windy Oaks Estate 2001 Pinot Noir, Proprietor’s Reserve, Santa Cruz Mountains, Schultze Family Vineyard

We opened and drank our last bottle of Windy Oaks Estate 2001 Pinot Noir, Proprietor’s Reserve, Santa Cruz Mountains, Schultze Family Vineyard last night. We went out to dinner locally, Café Esin in Danville, and brought our last bottle with us. We’ve written about Windy Oaks in general, and this wine specifically, in the past. Maybe because this was our last bottle of this wine, or maybe because it is continuing to get better as it ages, but this was one of the best wines I’ve ever had. Wow!

When wine ages — when really good wine ages — it comes together in this whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts sort of way. A young really good wine has the nose, fruit, acid, finish; all the different components of the wine. And each of the components is really good. As it ages though, and if the magic and chemistry happens, all those components come together like the different sections of an orchestra playing together. Certainly that’s what happened with this wine.

We first visited the Windy Oaks winery around 2003, about the time this wine was being bottled. The winery and vineyard sit at the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains, in the Corralitos area. From the peak of the vineyard (about 1000 ft elevation I think) you can see the town of Watsonville, and out to the Pacific Ocean. With that location and altitude they get early bud break, minimal fog, and relatively low daytime temperatures. What this means is long hang time for their grapes, which are typically harvested later than Pinot Noir grapes in Napa and Sonoma counties. And long hang times translate to a lot of time for the fruit and flavors to develop, without getting a huge amount of sugar. I’d put this Pinot Noir up against the Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Oregon and Burgundy wines without hesitation.

The good news as well was that we treated this wine to a very nice dinner at Café Esin. Our meals were excellent. While I’ve had their fish quite often in the past, last night the lamb shank with Turkish spices spoke to me from the menu, and it was wonderful. The spices were not too strong, and went with the Pinot Noir in a great way. The even better news is that we shared the wine and dinner with close friends who also love and appreciate wine. The salmon (had by two of us) and the pork were also great. 4 empty plates went back to the kitchen.

That may have been the last bottle of that vintage, but we’ve got more Windy Oaks Pinot Noir in the cellar. Still, this was such an outstanding wine, it will be missed. I guess we should go try, and buy, some of the more recent vintages.

By the way, how many of you thought, as did I, that the opening was a Shakespeare quote?