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.
Harvested from more than two dozen sites around Woodside, some of the grapes that transform into Woodside Vineyard's wines grow plump on vines that have thrived there since as early as 1884. Back in 1960, the winery's founder Bob Mullen began crafting small batches of wine in limited quantities. Today, he works with the head winemaker Brian Caselden, and together, they produce more than 3,000 cases annually. On weekends, guests travel to the picturesque winery to visit the tasting room, where they can sip up to five varietals, from Chardonnay to Port.
In 1955, Dominick Chirichillo’s grandfather began teaching him the family pastime: winemaking. They worked on a wine press in the basement of his New York home, transforming bunches of grapes into nuanced reds and whites. Quickly finding that the hobby of his ancestors was his passion, Dominick entered his creations in amateur competitions around the East Coast. When he felt confident enough to open up his own winery, he moved to northern California, lured by the prospect of living and working right next door to the vineyards that grew his grapes. His winery—named Domenico to honor his Italian heritage—now produces boutique wines that have won more than 300 awards for their rich, complex palates and excellent scores in the swimsuit competition. Some varieties are made in batches of only 100 or 200 cases, allowing his staff to innovate fearlessly. Locals often drop by the winery’s spacious tasting room to sample these limited-edition flavors. Outfitted with a 24-foot mahogany bar and sweeping drapes, the tasting room recalls an elegant Tuscan café, complete with impeccable hospitality. The staff eagerly shares the undertones and flavors of every pour, suggesting potential food pairings or the best glass of red to throw at an offensive suitor.
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.
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.
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.