Tree-lined road.  Santa Cruz Mountains.

Santa Cruz Mountains

by Eve Andersson

Home : California Wine Regions : One Article
The verdant Santa Cruz Mountains lie just minutes from the bustling, high-tech Silicon Valley, yet they feel a world apart. About 70 wineries sit in these mountains. They are typically rustic, unpretentious, and serious about making good wine. Any characterization of a region's wine is, of course, an oversimplification, but Santa Cruz Mountain wines tend to be more fruit forward than that of other California regions. Getting to some of these wineries can require long drives along winding roads, with sparse light shining through the thick forest. Perhaps that's why I haven't encountered a single tour bus at any of these wineries. Hooray!


Thomas Fogarty Winery
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. What a spectacular setting, high in the mountains with breathtaking, panoramic views. This winery was founded in 1981 by Dr. Thomas Fogarty, a cardiovascular surgeon. The winery produces a number of excellent, single-vineyard wines (something I appreciate as a terroir-seeker), many from Santa Cruz Mountain vineyards, although it also has long-standing relationships with vineyards in other AVAs.
Thomas Fogarty Winery. Portola Springs Vineyard.  Thomas Fogarty Winery Tasting room.  Thomas Fogarty Winery. Tasting room.  Thomas Fogarty Winery. View.  Thomas Fogarty Winery.
David Bruce Winery
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. David Bruce specializes in Pinot Noir (though they do produce a few other varietals). Their mission is, in fact, "To Make the World's Finest Pinot Noir!" (exclamation point theirs). To this end, they grow their own Pinot grapes and source additional Pinot grapes from all over California, producing a number of single-AVA Pinots every year.
Picnic area.  David Bruce Winery. Vineyard.  David Bruce Winery. Tasting room.  David Bruce Winery.
Ridge Vineyards
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. Ridge may be one of the region's more prestigious wineries. Their historic, beautiful, high-altitude vineyard at Monte Bello Ridge was first landscaped into a vineyard in 1885. Ridge produces very high-quality wines, mostly reds, using natural, labor intensive techniques. International acclaim was won when Ridge's 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon received the 5th place ranking out of all red wines in the 1976 Judgment of Paris.
Picnic area.  Ridge Vineyards. Tasting room.  Ridge Vineyards. View.  Ridge Vineyards.
Beauregard Vineyards
Ben Lomond Mountain AVA. For the last 40 years, Beauregard has been the largest supplier of grapes in the region to other wineries. They have recently begun producing their own wines, some of which are quite good. Syrahs are their specialty.
Beauregard Vineyards. Tasting room.  Beauregard Vineyards.
Bonny Doon Vineyard
Ben Lomond Mountain AVA. Bonny Doon may be the most prominent winery within the Ben Lomond Mountain AVA. They are known for their irreverent and playful nature. Just look at their bottles! They're not afraid to experiment and break the "wine rules," e.g., by making Amarone-style Barbera/Freisa or using non-traditional varietals like Ruchè or Loureiro or Treixadura in their blends.
Bottles of wine.  Bonny Doon Winery.
Vine Hill Winery
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. This winery is tiny; only one barrel of wine was produced from the seven acres of vines on site, though eventually they plan to expand their acreage to 40. Naturally, they source grapes from elsewhere. This is an excellent picnic spot, with gorgeous views over the valley below. Though some of their wines are pleasant but unspectacular, the Gatos Locos 2007 Mokelumne River Zinfandel stands out with its peppery, cola, raspberry flavor.
Rooster, Vine Hill Winery. Exterior of the tasting room, Vine Hill Winery. Chairs facing the view, picnic area, Vine Hill Winery. Picnic area, Vine Hill Winery.
Heart O' The Mountain
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. Located on an estate once owned by Alfred Hitchcock, Heart O' The Mountain produces solely Pinot Noir. It is all estate grown from five clones from the Dijon and Pommard regions of France. Their wines are more complex and intense (and more enjoyable, in my opinion) than typical Pinot Noirs.
Statue with a cracked neck, Heart O' The Mountain winery. Statues, Heart O' The Mountain winery. Tasting area, Heart O' The Mountain winery. Walkway, Heart O' The Mountain winery. Heart O' The Mountain winery.
Poetic Cellars
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. Winemaker Katy Lovell is very welcoming, and it was enjoyable watching as she pulled juice from the must (fermenting grape juice).
Buddha in a tree, Poetic Cellars‎. Winemaker Katy Lovell of Poetic Cellars pulling juice from the must (fermenting grape juice). Must (fermenting grape juice), Poetic Cellars‎.

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