Have you ever just had a moment, a perfect wine-drinking moment? I certainly have… and one of those times was a few weeks ago while wine tasting with our friends Ed and Katie. Actually, when I think about it, it seems we are always “wine tasting” with Ed and Katie; well, I am anyway, Doug is usually having a beer.
This occasion was different in that it actually involved visits to a few wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA (what’s an AVA, you may be asking… read my very first blog entry for the answer to that one). Our goal was to hit three spots off Hwy 17 near Summit Road. First stop was David Bruce. I was inspired to lead our little group to this winery, as we had enjoyed a really impressive bottle of the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon at dinner the night before; it had gentle hints of American oak, teasings of vanilla and cherry, and a rich mouth feel; many of the features I like in a cab.
At the winery:
–We tasted a few interesting Pinot Noirs (I bought an ’01 Estate),
–We found out they don’t grow, nor sell, Cabernet anymore (bummer)
—but they will plant again soon,
–We got to talk with the David Bruce…cool 75+year old man…that was fun.
Our second stop was the winery Byington….it was literally 9 turns down the road from David Bruce. I should say it was a gorgeous, windows down, music loud, 80-degree afternoon in the mountains. As we turned down the gravel road toward the winery, we spotted an enormous stone chateau surrounded by vineyards and Mediterranean plantings: olive trees, sage, lavender and rosemary were everywhere. There was a small picnic area and bocce court. But what was stunningly gorgeous was the view from the edge, we were at the top of a valley, on the sunny slope of a dense forest….it was as green as far as the eye could see. Ahhh, California.
With views like theirs, certainly wine had to be good, right?? They were pouring their viognier, sauvignon blanc, viognier/sauvignon blanc blend (not thinking outside the box too much on that creation, I’d say), pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon, in that order. We were pretty disappointed with the overly sweet nature of the whites, the viognier/sauvignon blanc was weird, and the pinot noir was just boring. I was actually dumping my tastes….not common behavior on my part, free wine, right?
We had absolutely no hope for the Cabernet Sauvignon, obviously, if you’re making dumpable wine, surely you can’t make and age a decent cab, right? Well, if I didn’t know it, I’d have said the wine was right out of Rutherford: big, bold, and well balanced. We bought a bottle and went out to the bocce court for a couple’s challenge. I couldn’t have planned a more perfect moment…..warmth of the sun, bocce on a sand court, the smell of lavender, and sharing this surprisingly character-laden bottle of wine with friends. A big treat for me with this wine, was that while some frown upon any sediment in their wine, I actually like it, and this wine had plenty! The tannic residue from the grapes and stems seemed to deposit on my fingers with each poor from the bottle—I love that connection to the earth. Haven’t been to the south of France in a few years…..this felt pretty close!
If you go tasting in this area, don’t forget David Bruce and Byington. Here are a couple of my recommendations from down there, and a few finds for this week.
Byington 2005 Bates Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauv –$37/discounted with tasting—avail at winery
David Bruce 2001 Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyards–$32/discounted by the case at the winery
Souverain 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast –Costco (still young, but good)
Mantra 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley-Costco (still young, but good)