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.
The wine enthusiasts at Signaturewines.com—a group of professionals from various industries—foster a community for other wine and food lovers to connect and share their oenophile experiences. They regularly notify their members of tours, tastings, and wine-related events at more than 20 Northern California wineries. They also orchestrate special deals that immerse visitors in settings such as the opulent gilded decor of Domenico Winery, the rustic wooden architecture of Guglielmo Winery, and the verdant vineyards and 200-horse stables of Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards.
Keeping abreast of local and national food events,SignatureWines.com also introduces members to regional wine bars, wineries, and restaurants, and provides an online community where members can read reviews and share wine experiences. VIP cards let customers take part in complimentary tastings and avoid standard hassles such as corkage fees and general-admission mosh pits. Proceeds for such events often go to charities involved in various initiatives.
As a child living at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ralph DiTullio spent his Sunday afternoons brewing hearty sauces side by side with his grandfather in preparation for the family dinner. As the smell of tomatoes filled the kitchen, his mother and grandmother cut and boiled fresh pastas. On other occasions, he found himself in the cool darkness of the garage, where his grandfather smashed and fermented his own grapes to make wine. Today, nearly all the recipes at Nonno's Italian Cafe build on the hearty Italian dishes Ralph’s mother and grandmother used to make. In the small mountaintop cafe, Ralph cultivates this same sense of familial bonding with new patrons and usual crowds alike, proffering updates on current weather and traffic to callers from the valley below.
While Ralph begins each day crafting potato-filled breakfast burritos and freshly baked turnovers, his lunch and dinner menus transition into traditional Italian fare, such as pastas stuffed with cheese or topped with artichokes and meatballs. He and his culinary crew fire pizzas outside in a wood oven, stacking each with Mediterranean vegetables and barbecued meats with greater care than an artist painting a still-life jenga tower. Every Friday and Saturday, the staff fires up the barbecue for sizzling steaks and sausages. To complement both hearty and light fare, the culinary crew keeps a cellar of nearly 2,000 wine labels and up to 70 beers, replenishing their stock with selections from mostly small international vintners and brewers. They present a changing roster of these wines at weekly tastings to suit different themes and keep the wines from becoming codependent with the house crystal. While all sampling services are kept at small sizes indoors, they can spill outside to bocce-ball courts with courtside seating for up to 150.