To make un-fine wine, simply place grapes beneath a silk pillow, repeatedly mash your head against it, and then wring the pillowcase into a nearby mouth. Taste traditionally produced fine wines with today’s Groupon: for $17, you get a ticket to the 22nd annual Vintners' Festival, a four-day wine tasting held June 4–5 and June 11–12 (up to a $40 value). The first weekend will be hosted at wineries in Santa Cruz County, and the second weekend will be hosted at wineries in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
More than 45 wineries, assembled by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, have opened their gates and popped their corks for nomadic oenophiles on a self-guided journey across a vino wonderland. Beverage-seeking travelers can paint their palates in distinctive flavors with an assortment of barrel tastings, meeting local winemakers along the way and learning which bottles are most likely to harbor genies. Many wineries will be pouring at local restaurants, granting fermented-grape fans an opportunity to witness chef demos and sample regional delicacies. Ticket holders may mosey between an unlimited number of wineries—many of which are not normally open to the public—between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wandering tipplers are also welcome to meander through various winery gardens and to picnic in the picturesque environs.
Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association
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.