Archive for the ‘Santa Cruz Mountains’ Category

Mt. Eden Vineyards – 74

Friday, May 13th, 2005

Mt_eden_signJeffrey Patterson is sitting pretty high atop a mountain in Santa Cruz, at an elevation of 2,000 feet, looking down upon his vineyards which trellis down the mountainside and the valley floor, what is now known as the Silicon Valley. His winery, Mount Eden Vineyards, has a long and illustrious history dating back to 1942 when Martin Ray planted Pinot Noir on Mt. Eden.

View_from_mt_edenRay had purchased the estate from his neighbor, Paul Masson, and had watched the Masson wine industry take off and clearly was inspired to take it further. Now, sixty-plus years later, Ray is known for having started the first boutique winery in California and his spirit certainly exists in what Jeffrey and his wife, Ellie, are continuing.

Mt_eden_houseAfter driving up a very treacherous unpaved road, one is greeted by Jeffrey in his working boots walking from his stunningly restored Arts and Crafts home, perfectly appointed with period antiques, a billiards table, and numerous musical instruments. Jeffrey started as the assistant winemaker at Mt. Eden in 1981, becoming the general manager and head winemaker just over a year later. Investing in the business as shareholders, he and Ellie were able to purchase the business outright in 1993.

Jeffrey_over_vinesExplaining the legacy he was able to acquire, this quiet, serenely eloquent man immediately impresses with his passion, accessibility, as well as knowledge of arcane local history. My fortune on that day was that I was visiting with friends, Ron and Marcia Cali, who have a pretty significant family history attributed to Ron’s family having run a poultry and dairy mill. How can one express the joyful serendipity of Jeffrey reminiscing for a valley once known for apricot and prune orchards, pointing out what had been the one landmark he could see from his mountain, the tallest building in the valley being the local mill, and Ron chiming that it had been his family’s business?

Contemplative_jeffreyNow, almost 25 years later, Jeffrey is obviously proud of the reputation he has built, producing 10,000 cases of a Chardonnay that are known for their cellarability of up to thirty years, some being estate grown and some from purchased grapes. At only 4,000 to 5,000 cases, is his classic, elegant Pinot Noir that rivals the French. He explained that he utilizes the French style of not irrigating his Pinot Noir grapes, believing it provides a stamp of originality to his finished product. Original and impressive, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jeffrey for opening up his home and allowing me a glimpse of his castle.

2002 Mt. Eden Estate Chardonnay – Unfiltered and elegantly balanced. Layers and layers of tropical fruit danced with a creamy tease in the aroma. An acidic entry explodes and the heady aroma expands, producing some additional creamy fruit which was reminiscent of guava, papaya, and kiwi. A second smell produced a hint of lime and the heady aroma blossomed driving the long, luxurious finish. $35.00

2001 Mt. Eden Estate Pinot Noir – Immediate aromas of dark berry just barely hide the teasing of the dark spice; clove, cinnamon, and sumac. The spice bouquet seems to heighten the fruit to another level of being completely unctuous in minerality and clean and forthright. The mouth entry is rich and vibrant with a bright mid-palate. The wine shows some reticence, being on the European style of slighter higher acids. Would age exceptionally well. $35.00

Mt. Eden Vineyards ~
22020 Mt. Eden Road ~
Saratoga ~ CA ~ 95070 ~ 888-865-9463

Testarossa – 66

Monday, April 18th, 2005

Testarossa_signI had indicated in the Pinot Paradise blog that the event was held at Testarossa. But I made sure to arrive at the event early enough to do a little tasting at the host winery. The winery setting is exceptionally stunning as it was an historical Noviate and still houses many of the retired Brothers on the property.

Testarossa_entrance"Testarossa" literally means "red head" was so named after after founder Rob Jensen, a nickname he acquired while a university student in Italy. He and his wife, Diana, began winemaking in their garage but by 1993, had been fully bitten by the bug and purchased the Novitiate estate to showcase their finely made juice.

Testarossa_caveThe entrance is a long, stone walkway which houses many historical photographs of the Brothers and the legacy contained within. The tasting room is large, inviting, and comfortable. The pouring staff is generous and informed, helping with questions about the various I had about vineyards. Testarossa specializes in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah which is a bit of an oddity and a delight in the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot-heavy world.

Testarossa_tasting_room2003 Castello Chardonnay – 100% malo from Central Coast vineyards. Tropical fruit followed by darker, more elegant apricot aromas. Creamy entry with a mid-palate of oak and the classical, buttery finish. $26.00

2003 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay – Elder Series – From the Santa Maria Valley. Pineapple and citrus bouquet with a lively, tangy entry. A layered mid-palate shows both hints of oak and honey. $36.00

2002 Palazzio Pinot Noir – A blend of fruit from Bien Nacido, Brosseau, Clos Pepe, Garys’, Michaud, Pisoni, Rosella’s, Sleepy Hollow, and Sonatera vineyards. Dark strawberry and raspberry tones with brown spicy aromas. Mineral entry with a tangy mid-palate and a bright finish. $32.00

2003 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir – Dark raspberry and elegant, layered spice on the nose with hints of tobacco. A vegetal center complements the fruit with a long, finish of BBQ and fat. $54.00

2001 Gary’s Pinot Noir – (Member’s only, not available for purchase) Intensely dark berry and opulent spice. Some minerals on the entry which transforms to an herby mid-palate and a long, earthy, morel finish. $54.00

2002 Ferrari Club Syrah – Made in affiliation with the Ferrari Club of America, the label shows the famous Italian sportscar. Incredible fruit-forward dark berry that subsides to produce cinnamon and clove bouquet. Astonishing bright cherry entry that gives was to an earthy, mushroom middle. Even acids and layered textures provide a bright finish. $25.00

Testarossa Vineyards ~ 300-A College Avenue ~ Los Gatos ~ CA ~ 95030 ~ 408-354-6150

Cooper-Garrod – 65

Friday, April 15th, 2005

Cooper_garrod_signCooper-Garrod is a small winery and riding stables located in the Santa Cruz mountains. But it is also actually two family names; George Cooper being the winemaker and manager and Jan Garrod as vineyard manager with members of both family  working many aspects of both businesses.

Cooper_garrod_bldgThe neighboring valley, before it was "Silicon Valley," was actually known for apricot and prune orchards. The tasting room is a Historic Fruit House where apricots and prunes
were dried. Scattered around the room are many historical documents and
family photos from George’s days as a WWII figher pilot. Immediately adjacent to the building are the numerous stables and horses.

Cooper_garrod_tasting_roomThe day of my visit saw Barbara Cooper manning the tasting room who is  diminutive in stature, but hardly in character, cracking jokes and making everyone feel as though they are very much at home. There is a free tasting of three wines and an additional Proprietor’s Flight of an additional four wines for $5.00

2002 Viognier – Enticing sandalwood aromas. Mouth feel of stone fruit with even acidity and citrus peel in the finish. $24.00

2001 Chardonnay – 100% malo. Spicy, tropical buttery bouquet with a hint of minerality. Honey-like entry is smooth with a continuation of the mineral notes. Some light vanilla tones on the finish. $20.00

2000 Cabernet Franc – Pale red in color, very spicey with brown sugar that barely hides bright raspberry bouquet. The velvety entry shows the faintest hint of medicine. Balanced in tannins and medium bodied. Excellent for the price. $24.00

1999 Lone Oak Cabernet Sauvignon
– Some bright plum and red berry aromas with a hint of green bell pepper. Thin, mineral entry that is a bit pale and wanting. $28.00

1999 George’s Cabernet Sauvignon – Jammy blackberry in nose belies a bit of green bell pepper on the mouth entry. Leather in the mid-palate does provide a long finish. $35.00

1999 R.V.’s Fine Claret – 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc. Explosive black cherry that is perfumey and inviting. Cherry enters the mouth, accompanied with some raspberry and cassis and subsides to produce a balanced, cedary mid-palate. Some green on the finish. $32.00

2001 Syrah – From the Maridon vineyards (where Kathryn Kennedy gets her Syrah), this is Cooper-Garrod’s first attempt at a Syrah and quite exceptional at that. Deceptive aromas of exotic perfumey incense and violets does not anticipate the dark cherry and cedar tastes. Quite fun. $24.00

Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards ~ 22645 Garrod Road ~ Saratoga ~ CA ~ 95070 ~ 408-867-7116

Ridge – 64

Thursday, April 14th, 2005

Ridge_signRidge is one of those names in the wine business that immediately evoke a response – usually one of awe. I have been fortunately to taste some very old Ridge wines and my regard is long-standing based on those older offerings of Cabernet and Zinfandel. Ridge single-handedly convinced me that quality-made Zinfandels can age, and age well, as I have tasted 20-year old Ridge Zinfandels that continue to show depth and structure.

Ridge_bldgRidge is also unusual for another reason – for while there are many wineries that utilize multiple vineyards, very few build winery tasting rooms in separate counties; the two counties from which their grapes are gleaned. My visit to Ridge occurred at their Santa Cruz location and if you can at all handle twisty, windy roads, I highly recommend the jaunt.

Ridge_tasting_roomThe tasting room is austere and elegant with natural wood that reflects the beauty of the surroundings. The staff are knowledgeable and extremely friendly. They know their product and are readily able to answer the most arcane of questions.

2003 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz – Utilizing both American and French oak, no malo was utilized. Mineral tones produce a crisp entry which blossoms into apricot flavors. $30.00

2002 Geyserville – 84% Zinfandel, 12% Carignane, and 4% Petite Syrah. At 14.6% alcohol, port-like cherry fruit pervades with a bright, engaging entry. Teases at elegance with balanced oak and fruit. Punctuated dark fruit finishes. $30.00

2001 Lytton Estate Syrah/Grenache –  50/50 blend. Young and rather green with medicinal qualities on the nose and a touch of tar. Fruitier on the nose than in the mouth with a dry mid-palate. $28.00

2002 Santa Cruz Mountains – 50% Cabernet, 48% Merlot, and 2% Petite Verdot. Lovely, complex bouquet of cocoa, cherry, and spice. Same spicy entry that heightens with red fruit in the mid-palate and cedar on the back-palate. A slightly mineral finish. $33.00

1998 Pagani Ranch, Northern Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County – 88% Zinfandel, 9% Alicante Bouschet, and 3% Petite Sirah. Hedonistic, showing up front fruit of blackberry, boysenberry, and dark raspberry. Some hints of brett. Amazingly deep and textured with a bright entry that darkens and expands, falling off a bit on the end. $33.00

2002 Buchignani Carignane
– Opulent black raspberry and strawberry aromas layered with complex cinnamon and clove spices. Deceiving mineral entry explodes to light, enticing fruit. Great, great fun. $24.00

2000 Lytton Springs Zinfandel – A bit spritzy upon pouring. Mostly mineral tones with some raspberry that blossoms on the finish. $33.00

Ridge ~ Monte Bello ~ 17100 Monte Bello Road ~ Cupertino ~ CA ~ 95014 ~ 408-867-3233
Ridge ~ Lytton Springs ~ 650 Lytton Springs Road ~ Healdsburg ~ CA ~ 95448 ~ 707-433-7721