Sherman Cellars serves as the exclusive tasting room for the red, white, sparkling, and dessert wines from Creekview Vineyards, a small-production winery. Many of these wines emerged with gold, silver, bronze, and best-in-class awards in 2011 at such events as the San Francisco International Wine Competition, Monterey Wine Competition, and Grand Cru Wine Competition. The Cellars' wine educators exhibit their detailed knowledge of the wines as they provide guided tastings of each varietal's flavor and bouquet in an intimate atmosphere, and also point out historical facts such as which grapes descended from dinosaurs. The wines they pour at each tasting draw their styles from a range of global regions, but have all been crafted from local grapes. Many staffers are also pairing aficionados, and channel their passion into regular tasting pairings, which introduce chocolates and wine-infused truffles from local chocolatiers in Napa and Saratoga.
Coterie Cellars believes part of wine's beauty is tasting the fruits of a tiny parcel of land captured at a certain moment. To that end, they aim to interfere as little as possible in the grape-to-bottle process. In their California vineyards, they harvest and sort clusters by hand and ferment their wines in small batches—red wine in small lots, white wine in individual barrels. They punch the grapes down by hand, using gravity to move wine through the system with as little fining and filtering as possible. The result: bottles of wine named for the vineyards where all of the grapes are grown.
In 1972, California's central coast was not the winemaking capitol that it is today. But Jerry Lohr trusted his agricultural instinct—developed in his youth on a South Dakota farm—that the region's soil and climate were ideal for his proposed vineyard. Though the venture seemed like a gamble at the time, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines prospered, selling a half-million cases of wine before the turn of the millennium. Today, more than 900 acres of estate vineyards in Monterey County house grapes for the winery's Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, while 2,000 acres of grapes in Paso Robles look forward to futures as Merlot, Cabernet, or stains on someone's carpet.
Ray Sliter is a California-born marine geologist, and Mats Hagstrom a Swedish-born physician, but they claim at least one common passion—wine. The duo began crafting wine when, one day in 1999, Mats arrived at Ray’s door with a half-ton of grapes, given to him by a patient, and a used barrel. They launched their wine-making pursuit nearly immediately and, in 2005, became fully bonded as Travieso Winery. Today, the duo hold close to their original principles—they purchase grapes by the acre to ensure control, stir in wild yeast, and limit suflites during production. They press each of their wines in new french-oak barrels, and age the concoctions for at least a year, even when they're really thirsty. The end result is a range of cheekily themed Spanish- and California-style wines, which their tasting room supplies by the bottle or introduces by the glass at Saturday tastings.
When owners Kellie and Mike Ballard purchased the land for Savannah Chanelle Vineyards in 1996, they also inherited the plot of land's rich history. Originally cleared in 1901, it features a zinfandel vineyard that was planted in 1910 and a cabernet-franc vineyard that was planted in 1919, just to name a few. Today, the Ballards, winemaker Anthony Craig, and the staff rumba on the grapes to make an array of wines, including chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet franc, and zinfandel. Guests can sample the libations and take in the Santa Cruz Mountains at the vineyard's charming tasting room.
The knowledgeable, friendly staff at the The Fogarty Winery Tasting Room will help amateur ambrosialists and experienced grape sniffers select five vintage fermentations to sample from the wine list. The 2006 Langley Hill Vineyard SCM Estate Chardonnay stays true to its mountainous roots, packing a steely mineral punch, as hints of fruit usher in a soothing, refreshing finish. Only 94 cases of this nectar were produced and bottles are available for $48. Pamper your scarlet palate with a 2005 Lexington Santa Cruz Mountains Meritage. Poor weather patterns and surprise alien crop circles aside, 2005 produced a perfectly ripened yield. This cabernet-merlot blend is apt to drop flavor bombs of black fruit, spice and toasty oak, with lingering chords of cassis, plum, and loam. Only 447 cases were captured in the wild and you can walk your own bottle home for $45.