Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Wine >
Dec 7, 2012 09:43 PM

Santa Cruz Mountains

I am looking for suggestions to give as holiday gift's to our freinds. Looking to spend around $70 / bottle. Something from our area. Not worried about the varietal. Thanks?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I do like the products of this place. they have a tasting room in town and their small vineyard is just a few minutes North on PCH 1.

    I've only had some of their reds and dessert wines at first in CA.

    a somewhat cheesy website and somewhat lower price point than what you're looking for. but once when I went to the East Coast, at one restaurant the sommelier was very excited (and not in a fake way) that we were interested in a btl. of BD's.

    1 Reply
    1. The Santa Cruz Mountains covers a huge area and a variety of wines and styles.
      Fpr instance, I know of someone who loves Ridge's Jimsomare Zinfandel, a grape not widely associated with the Santa Cruz Mountains.
      You won't be able to get Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet sauvignon in your price range, but Ridge has other bottlings.
      I'm a big fan of Varner's Chardonnay and Pinot noir. Dry farmed and native yeasts. Among the chardonnays, the Home Vineyard is now apparently the most restrained, the most European like. I haven't tried it recently. Which probably hurts my credentials as a Varner fan. But you drink what you can buy and I can't get it in my area.
      Mount Eden is a historic Santa Cruz Mountains vineyard. Their wines may need cellaring time to show well.
      For pinot, I also like Clos La Chance.
      Kathyrn Kennedy's top wines are probably out of your price range but she makes others that are nice. I also like Big Basin.
      JBL worked at a Santa Cruz Mountains vineyard for a long time may also have some suggestions.

      1. Very few wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains creep into the rarefied atmosphere of $70/btl. Some do, sure -- Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet is $100+. Kathryn Kennedy Estate Cabernet is also quite expensive.

        I know you said varietal doesn't matter. In that case, I am presuming you wish to showcase Santa Cruz Mountain wines, not just wineries. Well if that is indeed the case, as much as I like Randall Graham and his wines (we've known each other since 1974), I would SKIP BONNY DOON . . . they are a) ubiquitous, and b) the grapes rarely originate from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

        Look for the *Estate* wines from Mount Eden Vineyards (great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), as one choice. Storrs Winery makes excellent Santa Cruz Mountains AVA Chardonnay. Soquel Vineyards makes both Santa Cruz Mountains AVA and Napa Valley AVA Cabernet -- make sure you get the "local" one. Zayante Vineyards only produces Santa Cruz Mountains AVA wines. Keep an eye out for Ahlgren Vineyards "Bates Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz Mountains AVA) -- it's outstanding. Look for David Bruce Winery's bottlings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mtns. AVA -- they, like Ridge, produce wines from many appellations throughout the state.

        When it comes to Ridge -- Monte Bello and Jimsomare are specific vineyard designations from within the Santa Cruz Moutnains AVA. Cabernet and Chardonnay, plus the occasional Zinfandel. All highly recommended!

        None of these wines should be all that difficult to find. You could get them from the winery and from quality merchants on both sides of "the hill." There are many other wineries to recommend (Rhys, Clos Tita, etc.), but these are often winery-direct/you have to be on "the list" offerings that are very difficult to get if you are not . . .

        Hope that helps.

        3 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          Thanks for the the recommendations.I'll look for them at Shoppers Corner.

          1. re: zin1953

            >>"Very few wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains creep into the rarefied atmosphere of $70/btl. Some do, sure -- Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet is $100+. Kathryn Kennedy Estate Cabernet is also quite expensive."<<

            Sheesh!! I'm helping out in a second wine shop for the holidays and I just sold their last bottle of '07 Ridge Monte Bello for $62. I should have bought it myself at the employee discount. Duh!!!!!!!

            They have a separate, competitively priced, online store, so some of their "odds and ends" wind up in the store at really good prices.

            1. re: zin1953

              Love Ridge - but you already knew that!

              Oh, to find good Zinfandel in southern France. <g>

            2. Ahlgren also makes great Semillon that ages very well. Apparently they're going out of business and selling off their library wines.


              13 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                The 1988 Sémillon is excellent right now . . . .

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Darn I did not see this until Sunday and they are only pouring on Sat. Still looks like a chance to get some bottles with some age at some pretty good prices. And a chance to get a Semillon case of varying years. and some older Cabs also. Thanks for the heads up!

                  1. re: budnball

                    Bates Ranch is among the finest Cabs (IMHO) in the state . . . so, too, the Sémillon.

                    1. re: zin1953

                      Thanx, I can see my holiday shopping fund going quickly. Hopefully there will be some good stuff left. Doubt if the Semillon will go go as fast as some of the other varietals, but I will be there on Sat.

                      1. re: zin1953

                        I have stayed at the Bate's Motel, but have never had any of Norman's wines... ! Shows how little I know.



                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I went by Saturday. Though they're not going to release any new wine, they have a lot to sell off. In addition to what's in the spreadsheet on the web site they have 100 cases that they will bring over from the warehouse as they clear out what's in the basement. They thought they might be selling for more than a year.

                      The Livermore Semillon was indeed Wente old vines, the same source Kalin uses for their similarly-styled wine.

                      They also said that when they first made Semillon they had never tasted one. They just found the St. Charles vineyard and were sure the old vines would make good wine.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        That makes me feel better. I was afraid I would miss getting any more, having to work the next few Saturdays.

                        I wonder how you feel about their old style reds?

                        1. re: budnball

                          Hopefully you've had the Ahlgren Sémillon by now . . . hands down, my favorite white of theirs, and -- at the very least -- rivals Kalin (though, IMHO, it's better).

                          Their Bates Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon is *consistently* one of the finest Cabs produced in the Santa Cruz Mountains -- rivaling Ridge's Monte Bello. That means it's also on the the top Cabs in all of California, BUT . . . you have to like "classic" wines, rather than the über-ripe, opulent, heavily oaked Cab more commonly seen in wine from the Napa Valley floor.

                          This is also true of their limited Cabernet Franc, and their Merlot -- also from Bates Ranch.

                          They have long made Zinfandel, and done a great job -- typically the grapes come from Besson Vineyard in Santa Clara Valley, though there are occasionally bottlings from the Livermore Valley.

                          Pinot Noir is a newer addition to their portfolio, and so there aren't many older vintages or a lengthy track-record.

                          Syrah -- not quite as recent as Pinot Noir -- really good, has aged well.


                          As a bit of background, Dex & Val Ahlgren started their winery under their home (which they built) in 1976, which is about as long as I've known them (1978). It's basically been the two of them the whole time -- Dex was a home winemaker when they lived in Santa Clara -- with the help of one of their daughters or another over the years.

                          I have helped them at various times over the years, as well as been their "designated house-sitter" when they been traveling.

                          They have no well, and are not on city water. Rather, they have a cistern setup where every drop of water that falls on the roof is collected and stored in a water tank at the lowest part of the property -- which, in turn, is then pumped to a 6,000 gallon tank next to the house. Only in the worst part of the 1976-1977 drought did they have to truck in water.

                          When the 1989 Loma Prieta struck, part of the winery -- under the house -- collapsed and the foundation cracked. As a result, the cellar capacity of the winery increased.

                          To the best of my knowledge, Ahlgren Vineyard has never exceeded 3,000 cases/year, and in many years, produced much less.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            Jason, what are your thoughts on the 2006 Cab Franc vs the 2007? Also between the 2007 and 2008 Cab Sauv? TIA



                            1. re: zin1953

                              Thanx for the info. I have to admit that the Cab I tasted was a bit hmm...austere for me. Despite my attempts to be a grown-up, I am still a fruit forward kinda guy. The Cab Franc and Zins are more up my alley.

                              The Semillon is sheer bliss!!! But only the first night. A totally different wine the next day, it tasted worn and tired.

                              I wondered about their set up and assumed most of it was elsewhere. I am greatly impressed at their romantic ambition and success. Talk about local and sustainable!

                              1. re: budnball

                                Perfect timing for this discussion as I just happened upon some Ahlgren at my local Safeway. DH & I also prefer more fruit forward styles so will pick up the '08 Cab Franc vs. the '07 Cab.

                              2. re: zin1953

                                Jason, FYI, Dexter called for an ambulance for Val on Sat. I was turning into the drive as they came, which made for an awkward traffic issue getting out. All Dexter said to us was that she was feeling poorly and to check back next week. As a friend of theirs, I thought you would like to know.

                              3. re: budnball

                                Ahlgren's reds are great but having stocked up on mature Napa cabs for $15-20 at Grocery Outlet during the 2009 recession I have to get over the sticker shock.

                          2. Picchetti is a great Santa Cruz producer, with a wide-ranging portfolio, I have never had a weak wine from them.