I decide to take a few days off and take a trip to Nothern California.  I planned on a couple of days in Santa Cruz and then make my way up to Sonoma for the Russian River Pinot festival.

After my non-sleep at the airport, I made into to San Jose around noon, picked-up my rental, who made me a deal I couldn’t refuse and rented me a convertible mustang, and made my way south towards Santa Cruz. On the way I would have to drive over the Santa Cruz mountains so I decided to start my wine vacation by stopping at some of the wineries in the mountains. Unfortunately many of the wineries in the mountains are closed to the public and the ones that are open are opened on weekends only so I had limited options. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a long drive from the airport to wine country. About a fifteen minute drive to the highway exit for my first of two wineries to visit, David Bruce and Byington.

That drive from the highway exit to the wineries was pretty spectacular, real mountain driving. The road was barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass with winding roads and no guard rails and in many cases the road turning into one lane. The views were great, the air smelled great but I didn’t think I would be doing to much power drinking in the mountains this day.

First stop was Byington Winery. Beautiful building surrounded by a great view of the mountains.  I tried six of their wines. The 2009 “Ball Mountain” Chardonnay from Santa Cruz was golden in color with a spicy, pineapple nose good mouthfeel with a minirality running through it, nicely balanced and reminded me of a Meaursalt. The 2006 “Bates Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon was black with a nose of herbs, lush and concentrated with nice minirality. The 2007 Estate Pinot Noir had a beautiful nose of dusty barnyard with a tight velvety, lingering finish with a little of the 14% alcohol heat peeking out at the finish.

Down the road was the David Bruce Winery. Another spectacular view from the tasting room. I started with their 2004 Estate Chardonnay. Interesting to try a Chard with some bottle age, deep gold color, nose of camel, toffee and some sherry notes.  The 2002 Estate  Syrah which was blended with some Petite Sirah, was dark and concentrated with a nose of dry leaf  and a long finish.

Since most of the tasting rooms were not open to the public, I headed to the town of Santa Cruz. They have a warehouse district where several wineries have a tasting room. I stopped by the Bonny Doon tasting room. Bonny Doon is one of the “Rhone Rangers” and specializes in wines made from the Rhone varietal. The tasting room is also a restaurant as well with a modern decor. I had a cheese plate with my wines, all the cheeses were from California and very good. I had several of their “Le Cigare Volant” (flying cigar) wines which are blends of Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. The 2000 had a nose of cardiman and old leather, bright fruit with a crisp, lively finish. The 2007 & 2008 had a nose of warm plum with tight, slatey fruit. The 2010 Le Ciagare Blanc  (Rousanne & Grenache Blanc) was tasty with a nose of white flowers with good balance and a long finish.

I stopped at the Santa Cruz Mtns Winery tasting room. They were unusual in that they specialize in Spanish and Portugese varietals. The 2011 Verdelho had typical nose of grapefruit with citrus, grapefruit flavors. I also tried their 2010 Tempranillo, and their 2009 Touriga. The 2007 Duriff SCM was dark red with a nose of blackberries and rosemary with crisp acids and firm tannins on the long finish.

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