By Shannon Torres
I recently had the opportunity to visit with Len Lehremen of Portola Vineyards, located in Portola Valley near Stanford University, just barely outside of the elevation guidelines to be incorporated within the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. The winery has two acres of Pinot Noir planted. These vines were originally planted in 2003 by Bob Mullen of Woodside Vineyards, and became the source for Woodside Vineyards fruit for two years, after which he concluded he had more fruit than he could handle.
In 2007 Len bonded the winery and began producing under the Portola Vineyard label. His theory was to run the winery in the manner of CSA and considered the winery a Community Supported Winery. He currently has approximately 200 members that "buy in" to the winery’s program and help to pick and produce.
The wines I tasted during my visit were all exceptional, and I found they really represented what a wine should be from the Santa Cruz Mountains. I have included the 2012 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, Regan Vineyard and the 2010 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, Regan Vineyard for our September Wine Club shipment. Also included in our newsletter is a recipe for Stuffed Grape Leaves from Len's wife. Yearly, she offers a class for guests to come out and learn how to make them.
Portola has several events throughout the year at their beautiful property. The Summer Jazz Festival is one not to be missed! Check out their website for upcoming dates http://www.portolavineyards.com/.
By Shannon Torres:
I was extremely pleased with this discovery! This Pinot Noir is a perfect example of what a quality Pinot Noir from the Corralitos Region in the Santa Cruz Mountains should be. These vines were tended by the "Vineyard Whisperer" Prudy Foxx from the Santa Cruz Mountains. I highly recommend it!
Private Vine Wines
2013 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Nose of pomegranate with a hint of brandied cherry on the mouth with a “feather-dusting” of white pepper. A delicate, fine finish – just melts in your mouth.
BUY IT NOW
By Shannon Torres
I had the great opportunity to discover a new winery from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Left Bend Winery. My first question was "where did the name come from". I was told that the name Left Bend originated from the slight leftward bend in the San Andreas Fault, which helped form the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Winemaker Gary Robinson's career prior to winemaking was as a hydro geologist working with soil, rocks and groundwater. Learning this helped me to understand the origination of the name. Gary and his partner Richard Hanke had a common love for bicycling and wine, bringing them together to start this venture we are all grateful for.
Gary began his winemaking roots by planting a small vineyard in his backyard in Los Gatos and making wine out of his garage. He continued his passion by studying at UC Davis, helping with pruning and harvests at local vineyards and spending two harvests with Testarossa Winery. When asked why he started Left Bend his response was "I founded Left Bend Winery to produce distinctive wines from the many small mountain vineyards scattered throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains."
Richard Henke joined Gary Robinson in 2013, after retiring from a high tech career in the Silicon Valley.
Richard had fallen in love with the wine industry and was impressed by the amount of vineyards he discovered while cycling in the Santa Cruz Mountains. His favorite climb while bicycling was Montebello, home of some of the most famous fruit in the region.
Left Bend has a annual production of about 250 cases. They produce handcrafted small lots of wine that capture the mountain terroir of the many small vineyards scattered throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.
While tasting through their line up of wines I can honestly say there was not one that I did not enjoy. I hope you enjoy discovering this wine as much as I did!
Their Syrah will be introduced in our June 2015 Shipment. If you would like to receive your bottle JOIN NOW!
A while back I had the opportunity to discover this new winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This Pinot Grigio I tasted proved to be the perfect summer wine. This wine has a lot of depth, more so than a lot of the Pinot Grigio's I have tried.
This wine is made from fruit from the Chiles Valley which is a sub-AVA of Napa. It is relatively full-bodied for this varietal, with a flavor of white peach and a hint of citrus. One sommolier called it a Chardonnay-lover's Pinot Grigio. It pairs very well with seafood, pastas, salads and fresh and slightly aged cheese.
Only 4 bottles remain so buy your bottle of Russian Ridge 2011 Pinot Grigio NOW!
Check out our story on Russian Ridge Winery on our Blog!
By Shannon Torres
Fourteen years ago when I started my position with the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, I was beginning my education of what makes a great wine. I will never forget the first bottle of Clos Tita I was given. My former Director’s handed it me amazed that I had not had the opportunity to taste Clos Tita as of yet. They handed it to me as if they were handing me their first born child to meet for the first time. I will never forget the beauty of the bottle. During that time, Dave Estrada, winemaker and owner at Clos Tita Winery, was sealing all of his bottles with a beautiful red wax seal. I took the bottle home and enjoyed every last drop with my husband. This was the beginning of my understanding of why the Santa Cruz Mountains Terroir was so influential and noticeable in Santa Cruz Mountains Wines.
Clos Tita is an artisanal producer of red wines exclusively grown within the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation; one of California's first appellations and one of its oldest regions to produce fine wine.
Their estate vineyard was established in 1990, planted to five clones of Pinot Noir and a few rows of Chardonnay and Viognier. Over the years they have produced a number of wines from other vineyards; Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc from the eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains (the "Chaine d'Or) which are used in our "Gironde" and "La Sierra Azul".
I hope you enjoy discovering this wine as much as I did!
Fellom Ranch Vineyards has been a favorite of mine for over 10 years. The owners, Roy and Karen Fellom, are so charismatic and charming that I swear you can taste their personalities in the wine. The vineyard and winery located high up on Montebello, next door to Ridge Vineyards, is a visit not to be missed. You can enjoy expansive views of their beautiful vines and the silicon valley while sipping one of their delightful wines.
I was honored to be out there tasting recently and discovered their 2011 Central Coast Pinot Noir. This wine just blew me away. I highly recommend pairing it with a nice fish or chicken dinner, or just enjoy it by itself.
Aromas burst off the rim of your wine glass with lovely bright floral notes of strawberries and pomegranate. Medium body, mild acidity. Layers of black cherry with cedar and spice notes. Smooth finish, soft tannins ready to drink now.
Only 4 Bottles Left!!
We are excited to bring you wines from a new winery in the region, Ser Wine Company. Although the label is new the winemaker has been producing in the Santa Cruz Mountains for 14 years with Bonny Doon Vineyard under the direction of Randall Graham.
In February of 2001 she started working with Randall Grahm at Bonny Doon Vineyard. Nicole has held every position in wine production including, associate winemaker, vineyard manager, and grower relations. There was a brief interruption in her tenure at Bonny Doon in 2008 when she moved with her husband and then 3 year old son, Kai, to Marlborough, New Zealand. She spent a year with Churton winery converting their vineyard to use Biodynamic farming methods and producing the wine from the vineyard she managed. In addition to Churton, she aided the owner with his winemaking consulting position with other New Zealand wineries of close to 350,000 case production of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
After a year in New Zealand she was brought back to Santa Cruz to develop Bonny Doon’s newest property in San Juan Bautista. She remains managing that property as well as winemaking at the Santa Cruz winery.
In 2012, Nicole was inspired from her New Zealand experience, especially with Pinot Noir, to start her own wine brand, Ser. She began working with local Santa Cruz Mountain growers to purchase fruit from distinct microclimates in the appellation to gain the valuable knowledge of the area. She was also able to produce small lots of several varieties such as Riesling, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cabernet Pfeffer. Selecting interesting vineyards with special soils and microclimates, it is her commitment to winemaking to produce wines with minimal intervention to allow the fruit to express where it comes from.
Ser Wine Company is an artisanal wine producer, based out of Santa Cruz, CA committed to preserving the “Being” of wine, producing wines that allow the wine to truly express the varieties and vineyards they are sourced from. Ser Wine Company is committed to producing soulful wines made with minimal intervention to allow the full expression of the fruit and what the wine wants to be.
We are pleased to include a sampling of what Nicole has produced under the Ser label. We hope you enjoy this wine as much as we do!
I had the pleasure of visiting Stockwell Cellars this past month and tasting their current releases. Typically when I vii sit a new winery I don't expect to enjoy every wine I taste. I always hope I can find that outstanding one wine that I feel showcases the new winemaker. Stockwell Cellars was definitely the exception to my expectations. EVERY wine I tasted I enjoyed. The Syrah that we are including in our September club shipment is everything, I feel, a Syrah should be. It is a nice big and spicy Syrah.
BUY THE SYRAH NOW!
About Stockwell Cellars: Eric Stockwell is the owner and winemaker. Ten years ago he began making wine as a hobby in his basement. By trade he is a welder, and if you visit the tasting room on the West Side of Santa Cruz you will also see his shop right next to the winery. Eric is known for toting the message "will weld for grapes". His first professional production was in 2010 with Syrah and Cabernet. He has been producing with the help of Beauregard and Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard. A big thank you to these two wineries who have been a great asset in helping him get his start. I plan to include his Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir in our December Pinot shipment as it is one of the best, if not the best, Pinot I have had in awhile. I am a self proclaimed PInot snob and tasting this Pinot gave me everything I want and more in a good Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir. In November they will be hosting a "Poultry for Pinot" event. I hope to see you there!
I recently had the opportunity to meet with Dan Lokteff, owner of Wrights Station Vineyard and Winery. Dan has had a long history of winemaking in the Santa Cruz Mountains with wineries such as Storrs Winery and Downhill Cellars. His goal was to first get his feet wet working at other wineries before establishing the dream of owning his own.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when visiting this new winery. My vision was that it would look like many of the typical “start up” wineries in the area, expecting something very rustic with the old world charm of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was pleasantly surprised when arriving to see a beautiful vineyard that obviously had a long history, and a beautiful building for tasting.
Walking around the site, I found a charming terrace with an extensive view of the vineyards surrounding, and a great place to sit with a glass of wine or play bocce ball with friends. As a previous event planner, my first thought was how amazing it would be to have an event at this location. Although my brain was spinning with ideas, Dan informed me this was not a current goal of the winery.
When I walked into the elegant tasting room, Dan himself greeted me and we walked through a tasting of his current vintages.
2010 Chardonnay – very nice every day chardonnay with hints of citrus and apple
2010 Reserve Chardonnay – new oak with more tropical flavors
2010 Pinot Noir, Far Away Block –fruit forward yet still earthy, lovely and well balanced. This wine is produced from vines grafted over from Chardonnay, 2000-2001
2010 Reserve Pinot Noir, Cave Block – French oak, very well balanced wine with dark cherry, plum and figs. A rich Pinot Noir
2010 Cabernet, Bates Ranch – nice Cabernet that will only get better with age
During my tasting, Dan explained the history of the vineyard. It was originally known as “Dirk Vineyard” (after owner Dirk Reed), then changed to “Quenneville” when the family purchased the property. Over the years I’ve heard of this vineyard as a source of fruit for other wineries, including Villa Del Monte, Storrs, Cinnabar, Byington, Thomas Fogarty and others.
The vineyard was planted in 1983 with Chardonnay. The clones planted were clone 4 (Wente Clone) and the Mt Eden Clone. During the early years the property also served as an Equestrian Center. In 2000-2001, much of that area was planted with Pinot Noir and some of the Chardonnay also grafted over to Pinot Noir. In 2009 Dan Lokteff bought the vineyard and started restoring the old buildings. The tasting room is located in the house on the property built in 1947, with many additions over the years. Dan put the winery building in the location of the barn that was used for the former Equestrian Center.
Currently the winery has between 6-7 acres planted with 2/3rds Chardonnay and 1/3 Pinot Noir.
We are excited to include a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Wright Station in our upcoming September Shipment. Join now to receive your shipment! I look forward to future vintages with this winery under Dan’s guidance.
The Wine Club of the Santa Cruz Mountains allows members to have direct access to high quality wines produced locally by regional winemakers.
With so many sustainable programs out there supporting local farmers, we at the Wine Club of the Santa Cruz Mountains decided it was time to take this concept to the wine industry. This program allows consumers to enjoy wines that are produced here locally with no need for the high cost of importing the wine from other areas.
When you become a member of the Wine Club of the Santa Cruz Mountains, you’re purchasing a taste of the terroir that is here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. With each unique selection of wines you will have the opportunity to support your local grape growers and vintners’ in this region and enjoy the bounties of your local winemakers from the unique wine region of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Wine Club members currently receive 4 shipments a year. The hope is to grow this program to a monthly subscription with options of 2 bottles or 4 bottles. Members are able to pick up their selections at a local office in Soquel or have the option to have them shipped to their door.
For more information please visit www.wineclubsantacruzmountains.com.
Shannon worked as the Director of Operations for the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrower’s Association for approximately 13 years. Shannon has brought wine events of all kinds to the area in an effort to excite interest in the local wines and food. She loves watching people from all over enjoying the region’s wine and witnessing the local vintners businesses grow and prosper.