1933 was a banner year for Phillip and John Bargetto. Prohibition finally ended, and the brothers were able to reopen their winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Originally from Piedmont, Italy, Phillip and John embraced their passion for growing northern-Italian varietals, twining their hillsides with vines of dolcetto, nebbiolo, and refosco grapes.
Now run by the Bargetto family's third generation, the winery continues to cultivate these same grapes as well as two of Santa Cruz's more well-known varietals, chardonnay and pinot noir. Its most heralded wines hail from the 40 acres of trellised vines at Regan Estate Vineyards, which produces balanced yet concentrated fruit thanks to its sunny hilltop location, loamy soil, and cool breezes from thousands of naturally occurring ceiling fans.
Controlled aging in new-French- or American-oak barrels imbues some of the winery's reds with lingering finishes and toasty sweetness, and stainless-steel barrels ensure that the whites retain their vibrant acidity. Although most of the wines display a more approachable style, the La Vita line embraces the family's Old-World routes, featuring complexly tannic and age-worthy blends of Phillip and John's favored dolcetto, nebbiolo, and refosco grapes.
Odonata's winemaker, Denis Hoey, combines old-world methods with modern ideas and techniques to create subtly complex wines in the traditional French style. A focus on sustainably grown, organic local grapes helps to create the food-friendly wines, which can be enjoyed immediately but also age well.
After immigrating to America early in the 20th century, Emilio Guglielmo saved up for years before he was able buy a plot of land for his winery in 1925. In the years since, three generations of his family have run the vineyard and kept its Old World style alive. Large wooden beams, stone walls, and terracotta tiles surround guests in the tasting room, where they can sample carefully selected vintages. Each year, the winery produces nearly 40,000 cases, including the award-winning 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and Estate Petite Sirah, each of which took home gold medals in San Francisco’s International Wine Competition.
At 2,600 feet up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, one might expect to find sprawling views of the ocean and surrounding forest and not flourishing vineyards. Yet there are more than 70 wineries dappling the hills at various altitudes, privy to the dewy, cooling breezes of the sea and the richness of the rocky soil. The San Francisco Chronicle speaks to their scattered presence, deeming them "less a cohesive wine region than a patchwork of vineyards." Still, this characteristic isolation has resulted in "a perfect laboratory for winemaking not held hostage to fashion"—no one style dominates in this rustic setting.
Pinot noirs and chardonnays populate the western front, and the east yields cabernets, merlots, and zinfandels. The majority of the vineyards are small and family owned—a fact reflected in their meticulously bottled libations and the matching sweaters of their holiday photos—but though they exist in chosen hermitage, many of them welcome visitors to their scenic sites. They host weddings, festivals, and open events such as Pathway to Pinot Paradise, a self-guided tour of the pinot noir hotspots.
Fueled by an enthusiasm for wine and the visual beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Wine d'Tours' owners Diana and Ken Sharma organize tasting tours that celebrate local viticulture. During shared tours, groups accompany docents to three wineries located in Santa Cruz and the surrounding areas. The full-bodied flavors of cabernet and merlot dance across palates while guides reveal the details of wine production at vineyards such as Bargetto Winery, Soquel Vineyard, and MJA Vineyards. Tour groups comprise anywhere from 6–15 visitors, and each day's tour peruses different wineries, allowing avid explorers to revisit the tour for an experience as distinctive as the finish of a vintage Fanta grape.
After 16 years spent with Kona Coffee, MJA Owner Marin Artukovich took up residence in Napa Valley, where he renovated an idyllic estate on the side of Howell Mountain before opening the MJA Tasting Room in March of 2010. With the help of local winemaker Mikael Wargin, Marin’s vineyard produces cabernets, sauvignon blancs, and pinot noirs reflecting the terroir of Napa Valley and the Santa Cruz mountains, with bottles for sale through its very own Serene and DaVine cellars. Cups of house-roasted Hawaiian Kona Coffee cap off each tasting, warming hands and souls inside MJA’s gorgeous brick-walled estate or on a heated patio overlooking the Santa Cruz mountains.