Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > California >
Nov 13, 2011 03:34 PM

Santa Cruz Wineries [moved from SF]

I searched chowhound but couldn't find a posting on this topic, which strikes me as strange given how many there are on Napa/Sonoma/Healdsburg.

Anyway, I'm heading to Santa Cruz next weekend for the Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers "Passport Day" and was trying to decide which of the many wineries down there to visit.

I have been to Ridge on a number of occasions and love it (the wine and the ambiance are both great). I also really like David Bruce. And I used to go to Bonny Doon before they sold off a lot of the labels and re-vamped their tasting room. I'd like to try some new spots and am looking for recommendations. I was thinking of going to McHenry's because I've had their wine before and enjoyed it. I don't know many of the others that are participating (

In terms of wines I like, I generally tend to like reds more than whites. I like Zins, Syrahs, Cabs, Tempranillos, Pinot Noirs. I guess there aren't too many varietals I don't like.

Any suggestions?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Santa Cruz county is covered on the California board. There are lots of topics on Santa Cruz wineries if you do a search there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pamf

      Thanks for the reply. I just looked on the California board and the only posting I could find didn't list any specific wineries other than Ridge (which I've been to) and Thomas Fogarty - I've tried searching "Santa Cruz Wineries" and "Santa Cruz Winery" to no avail. Can you point me to some of the postings you mentioned seeing? Maybe I am using the wrong search terms but I'm not sure what else to call it.

    2. When you search try changing the time parameters to 5 years - you'll get lots of outdated stuff but you might find something like this thread from 2007...

      1 Reply
      1. Has anyone been to Testarossa or Bargetto? Would you recommend them? What about Santa Cruz Mountain Winery? Those are all on my list but I'd like more info or recommendations if anyone has tried them.

        1. Go to the CH wine board

          Search for Santa Cruz, then widen your parameters to the past 5 years.

          Look specifically for posts by zin1953, doubt that you'll find any better suggestions. Please report back.



          4 Replies
          1. re: PolarBear

            Thanks, will do. Seems to me like this region is not very well covered compared to those regions further North which is a shame because the wine can be really excellent. At least at Ridge and David Bruce. I used to go to those two quite frequently when I lived in the South Bay but didn't try some of the smaller places so I was excited to hear about the passport day when smaller places open their tasting rooms to the public. I'll try to remember to report back.

            1. re: PolarBear

              Note that topics about winery touring are covered on the regional boards, such as this one. For Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, the winery locations span both the California and SF Bay Area board since some are located along the ridge lines on the San Mateo or Santa Clara counties. Topics discussing the attributes of the wines, if they are available outside the region of origin, are discussed on the Wine board.

              Last month I had a chance to taste at three winery tasting rooms on Ingalls St in Santa Cruz: MJA, Bonny Doon and Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard/Quinta Cruz. I took notes on everything I tried and then promptly lost them so I can't go into a lot of detail. At MJA, you taste with the owner but most of the wines are from Napa, so not what I was in the mood for. Bonny Doon's line-up was fun to try, very vibrant and fruity, and some a bit oddball. Nothing there to lay down, so I didn't buy anything since I can just buy a bottle at a retailer when I feel like drinking one.

              I was most excited about visiting SCMV, and had a good and informative tasting with Michelle. I had shared the 1992 SCMV "Matteson" Pinot Noir a few days earlier with some friends, and it was simply gorgeous.

              I'd not tasted young, current release SCMV wines for a couple-three years now, and I can say that Jeff Emery has managed to hew to the long-aging structure that SCMV is known for, yet introduce more fruit and a bit smoother tannin profile so that they're easier to taste young. His Iberian grape variety program, Quinta Cruz, is blossoming. I did purchase wine here for the cellar, and had sent this note to a friend who wanted to know what I'd liked.

              "bought 2010 Verdelho $20 (12.5 ABV!), 2008 Petite Sirah San Antonio Valley, $18 (great value, lusher & more forward than the SC Mtn appellation durif), 2008 Branciforte Creek Pinot, $29, and newly released 2001 SCM Estate Reserve Pinot $65. Didn't taste the 2001 reserve, but they say it could age another 10 yrs."

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Thank you Melanie! I'll see if I can add SCMV onto our schedule that day. At this point I'm thinking of starting at Testarossa, then heading to Bargetto, then to Santa Cruz for lunch and to try the sparkling wine at Equinox. Then to McHenrys. Seems like we might be able to do SCMV after lunch and before McHenrys. I like Verdelhos so glad to hear they have some.

            2. McHenry's was definitely my favorite overall. They are way up the hill on Bonny Doon Rd. and it's a small, family run vineyard. They don't have any official tasting room but they were pouring some great Pinots. Henry and Linda McHenry, the owners, were pouring and I believe their son and some other family were also there. We ended up buying four bottles of different 2008 Pinots. Henry told us they'd be amazing if we're able to keep them for 10 years, but they're so good now I can't really imagine waiting that long.

              Other than that we went to Testarossa, Bargetto, and Equinox and Black Ridge Vineyards.

              Testarossa was my second favorite. They don't grow the wine on the property, just buy grapes from others. It was probably the most expensive one we went to. We tasted the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. I generally don't love Chardonnays but I enjoyed theirs. It was not too heavy on the oak. The Pinot was my favorite but at $65 a bottle I wasn't ready to commit. The Syrah was decent but I ended up not buying anything. They have lovely grounds, a nice area for picnics and a cool cork tree out front. If I lived closer to Los Gatos I'd consider joining their club for discounts on the glasses and first dibs on the picnic area.

              Bargetto was not my favorite. They do have a very nice tasting room, overlooking a stream and some redwoods in Soquel. We had the Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and some hot spiced mead. I wasn't as crazy about their wines but we ended up buying some mead for my dad since he has beehives and likes all things honey related.

              Then we went to Equinox. It's in one of the many tasting rooms in that industrial area in Santa Cruz. Not the prettiest spot, but it's convenient if you want to taste from a lot of different wineries without having to drive. I was hoping to enjoy it because I'd read good things from other posts but I was disappointed. The owner was pouring and was very nice and informative but I just didn't love the product enough to buy any.

              Finally, after McHenry's we stopped for a final taste at Black Ridge Vineyards which is off of 17 on the drive back North. The views were great. The winery itself was not my style. New construction with lots of overstuffed, leather couches and dark wood. They had some appetizers. I honestly don't remember what the wines were that we tasted. Sorry. They were unremarkable.

              All in all it was a fun day and I'd recommend the passport to others if you want to get out and try some of the smaller, off the beaten path wineries of the Santa Cruz mountains.