Santa Cruz wineries?
I will be going to San Francisco for a friend's wedding and would like to check out some of the wineries in the Santa Cruz area since I have already been to Napa. Does anyone have any recommendations? I prefer reds (Zin, Pinot, Syrah) to whites and the most I ever spend on a bottle of wine is around $40. I live in Arizona so if there are any wineries that you know of that just distribute locally those would be the best, since I wouldn't be able to get their wines here...Thanks!
Thank you all for all the tips! I think I may check out Bonny Doon on the way into town, then Vinocruz, Storrs and Salamandre, those all seem to be in the same general area. Have any of you been to Beauregard? It looks pretty close to Storrs on the map so might be an easy one to try to squeeze in...
Salamandre is in Aptos, about 10 mi. south of SC. Their tasting room is tiny and very modest and I'm almost certain is by appt. only. When you talk to the owner, make sure to get specific directions otherwise it's easy to miss a turn and get lost. Beauregard's tasting room is on the SC wharf. I've never really tried their wines and don't hear much about them (either positive or negative).
If you're going to Vinocruz early in your day, then ask the owners for tips on local tasting rooms and their favorite local wines that match w/ your tastes. That could help to shape the rest of your itinerary.
Bonny Doon used to make pretty good wine, then they lost their focus. The founder sold off big parts of the operation and is refocusing his effort on wine making. Bonny Doon is a lot of fun, sure, but the wines generally are just so so. If you're looking for serious reds, the only ones who seem to have regular tasting room hours and are sold in Arizona are Ridge and David Bruce, IMHO.
I generally agree that their tasting room wines are just ok, but I like the ambience of the place and do think it's worth a visit if in the area. Can anyone speak to their DEWN (Distinct Esoteric Wine Network)? I've considered joining but I'm not quite sure of cost or quality. Most of these club wines aren't available at stores or restaurants.
Ridge Vineyards is excellent but most likely available in AZ. Cooper-Garrod, Burrell School, Storrs, Alfaro, and Roudon-Smith are some smaller wineries that make some good reds.
Vinocruz is a wine shop that focuses on the wines of the area. It's located in downtown Santa Cruz and would be a good place to find a great selection of local wine without having to drive all over the region to purchase some bottles.
Of the wineries on the SCMWA website, I generally like the wines of:
Windy Oaks--known for Pinot Noir
The first three may be easier to find nationally, while the latter may be more limited in distribution. The tasting rooms vary in size and some are by appt. only. It's true that they are very spread out, so you'll have to be selective.
For food options nearby:
Bonny Doon--go north to Davenport and try the Davenport Roadhouse. Food can be a little hit or miss, but they're trying and the atmosphere is great. Stop in at Swanton Berry Farm if they are open.
Storrs: In a funky commercial cluster in Santa Cruz. River Cafe & Cheese Shop is a good lunch stop.
Windy Oaks: South of SC, closer to the town of Watsonville known for Mexican eateries. You probably get good Mex. food in AZ, but let us know if you end up heading in that direction and need specific recs.
Soif is a wonderful wine bar and restaurant in downtown SC, although they tend to focus more on imports. They offer tastings on weekends, and their food is fabulous!
Vinocruz mentioned below is a good store w/ friendly proprietors.
Cava Wine Bar is in Capitola and showcases local wineries.
Have a grand time and please report back!