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Wine Institute Series Offers Tips on How to Sip, Stay and
Play in Wine Country
SAN FRANCISCO—California’s many beautiful wine regions offer an extraordinary variety of wines and experiences to enjoy. To help visitors explore them all, Wine Institute’s California Wines Road Trips series highlights a different region each month. This month, take a trip to the coastal Santa Cruz Mountains wine region, known for its wooded peaks and small, family-owned vineyards tucked into serene hillsides. The diverse microclimates allow growers to cultivate a variety of winegrapes, but the region is known primarily for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
One of California’s first American Viticultural Areas (AVA), the Santa Cruz Mountains wine region is located adjacent to the Central Coast AVA. San Francisco is just an hour’s drive to the north and Monterey is to the south.
SIP: The Santa Cruz Mountains is home to more than 60 wineries. Browse this list of Santa Cruz Mountains wineries or use the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries by amenities such as tours, gardens, picnic areas, food for purchase, concerts, art and more. The Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association also lists wineries, events, and even a selection of passport participants and wine trails. Love to surf and sip? The popular beach town of Santa Cruz offers several urban wineries.
STAY: The Santa Cruz Mountains wine region straddles the coastal town of Santa Cruz to the west and Silicon Valley to the east, so visitors have a wide variety of accommodations from which to choose. City seekers can stay in San Jose, just 15 minutes from wine country, while beach seekers can choose Santa Cruz, just minutes away from coastal foothill wineries. Those who prefer rustic and charming wine country towns will particularly enjoy Los Gatos and Saratoga in the mountains.
PLAY: One of the most pleasant ways to explore wine country is through various wine trails. Try the Summit to Sea Wine Trail, where you can see the Pacific Ocean from summit wineries and make your way down to wineries close to the coast. Just south of Santa Cruz on the coast is the Corralitos Wine Trail, while up in the hills is the Saratoga Wine Trail. Active travelers can ride horseback through Cooper Garrod Estate’s organic vineyards, take a surf lesson, or hike the redwoods. Families can take in elephant seals or ride an old-fashioned train to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park. A great way to taste your way through the region is the Passport Day event on July 16, which is also held every January, April and November.
MAKE: Culinary travelers can try vegetable gardening classes at Love Apple Farms, which also offers cheese-making instruction. Or they can switch gears and take a class at the Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center, where they can paint, sculpt, draw and more.
GROW: The Santa Cruz Mountains has played a pivotal role in the history of winemaking in California, with roots going back over 100 years, and including legendary winemakers such as Paul Masson, Martin Ray, David Bennion (Ridge), and David Bruce. The region has been known for its strong commitment to sustainable winegrowing practices for decades, from cover crops and erosion control to canopy management, alternative energy and animals in vineyards.
Recognized as an AVA in 1981, the Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation was among the first to be defined by its mountain topography, following the fog line along the coast to encompass its highest vineyards on the 2,600-foot-high ridge tops. This broad region is marked by diverse microclimates: warm on the eastern inland side where Zinfandel, Cabernet, and Merlot predominate; and on the coastal side and ridge tops, cooled by ocean breezes and fog, where cooler climate varieties such as Pinot Noir are grown.
EAT: With a wealth of farms, ranches and fisheries in their backyard, many of the Santa Cruz Mountains region’s restaurants source local ingredients and wines and use farm-to-table methods. Fun events this season are the 22nd Annual Watsonville Strawberry Festival (Aug. 6-7), the Scotts Valley Art, Wine & Beer Festival (Aug. 20-21) and the 34th Annual Capitola Art & Wine Festival (Sept. 10-11).
Visit discovercaliforniawines.com for information on wine regions, wines and wineries throughout the Golden State and for planning a trip to California wine country. California is the number one U.S. state for wine and food tourism with dozens of distinct wine regions, 138 American Viticultural Areas and 4,400 wineries that produce 85 percent of U.S. wine. Established in 1934, Wine Institute is the public policy association of nearly 1,000 California wineries. See: wineinstitute.org.
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Wine Institute Communications Dept.