Nestled in among redwood trees at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Fernwood Cellars prides itself on its high-quality processes, using only grapes grown on-site and only premium oak barrels for aging. Veteran vintner Matt Oetinger oversees the winemaking process from grapes to bottle, looking after each batch of fermented nectar like a proud parent at a children’s roller-derby bout. Great for a spending a romantic afternoon with a wine-loving date or boldly confronting a grape phobia before it ruins another trip to the supermarket, a visit to the estate allows sippers to get a taste of potable delight before toting home a chosen bottle. Today’s Groupon can be redeemed for a bottle of chardonnay, zinfandel, syrah, or il cane.
Nestled in the scenic Hecker Pass region of the Santa Clara Valley, the family-owned winery focuses on crafting exemplary grape concoctions unlike anything inside a juice box or peanut butter sandwich. Solis has produced dozens of award-winning wines, baiting a 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition gold medal for its 2008 Muscat Canelli, 2009 Fiano Estate, and 35,000 B.C. Chateau de Cro-Magnon. Grab a pal and perambulate the charming winery premises while sampling a variety of palate-stimulating wines during your tasting for two ($5 value per person). Five wines are included in the tasting. Additionally, budding winecionados will be able to take home a bottle ($12 to $30), such as the red 2006 Seducente ($20) or white 2007 Chardonnay ($24).
Bought by brothers Alex and Charlie Larson after an award-winning stint in the restaurant business, Rapazzini Winery tickles tongues with an eclectic collection of wines drawn from California's vineyards. After bottling, most Rapazzini wines rest for an additional one to two years, mellowing tannins, developing fruity bouquets, and finishing majors in art history. Unique wines include the almond champagne, created by Alex Larson using his training at the California Culinary Institute, and the Arpibella, blending sweet wine, apricots, and peach into a delectable aperitif or dessert wine. Guests to the winery can taste 21 of the 22 available wines, guided through the selection by resident grape expert Adam and his airedale, Butters. Behind the beaten copper bar, Adam and the brother Larson can also whip up wine-based cocktails, amusing mouths with more complex flavors.The two-story, open-beamed tasting room lulls guests into placid relaxation while sipping on palate-pleasing pours, whereas a stained-glass window depicting the winery's whimsical mascot reassures eyes that the sun has not been devoured by a dragon-shaped cloud.
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.
It all began in 1987 with a few humble rows of chardonnay growing in a backyard. Bill and Brenda Murphy dreamed of being small-scale vintners, and within a few years the wines produced in their bite-size vineyard were tasty enough to sell. With the success of those initial bottles, Clos LaChance Wines—a European-inspired winery—was born, releasing its inaugural vintage in 1992. Since then, the business has grown from producing 200 cases of wine to 80,000, and from less than an acre of backyard to 150 rolling acres of hilly vineyards that have caught the attention of Orbitz and been recommended by numerous other media outlets. The Murphys’ daughters have folded into the business too, and Bill and Brenda hope that someday in the future, their grandchildren will take over and find a way to control the weather.
The Murphys are not only focused on their future, but also on the future of the land and resources for which they are responsible. Clos LaChance Wines is committed to eco-friendly growing and production practices and has been certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. The Murphys built the operation from the ground up, creating an open, Old-World-style space whose rolling hills, ivy-covered walls, and stone-walled courtyard are reminiscent of a villa in Tuscany. They even installed a regulation-size court where guests can bring their own bocce balls for a friendly game.
Poetic Cellars, one of the newest wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains, is set amidst the rolling, oak-studded hills and the solitude of a country estate. This is the perfect place to relax and enjoy fine wine in an unhurried, tranquil atmosphere.
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.