Page 1

SEA-323 Vino_Mag_Ad_Final:Explore Ad 6/30/12 3:16 PM Page 1

Two parts luxury. One part flip-flops. A visit to Seascape Beach Resort is like having your own private beach home, with all the amenities of a four-diamond resort. Not only will you find all the luxury you’re looking for — we’re known for our relaxed, casual atmosphere. Our spacious suites and beach villas have secluded balconies overlooking Monterey Bay and offer all the comforts of home. We also offer a host of Resort Options that let you create your own private, coastal getaway. Indulge yourself in championship golf, in-suite spa treatments, a romantic package, and the popular beach-fires-to-go. At Seascape Beach Resort, we’re designed for pleasure.

Our Tasting Room Is Open 12-5 On Sat & Sun

(and most holidays)

800.929.7727 • • Aptos, California

We Are Located At 45185 Arroyo Seco Rd Greenfield, CA, 93927

(831) 674-5760

All-suite accommodations • Award-winning restaurant • Championship golf Sports center & day spa • 17 miles of Monterey Bay beachfront

Page 2 | Summer 2012


Inside 8 Big Basin Winery

22 Soif VINO

16 Testarossa

12 Fortino Winery Summer 2012 | Page 3

Table of Contents

Publisher Jeremy Burke

General Manager Victoria Nelson


Tom Dunlap


Laura Ness, Todd Guild Tarmo Hannula, Roseann Hernandez

Photography Tarmo Hannula


Jeanie Johnson, Tina Chavez Susie Ronzano, Jessica Woods

Production Darryl Nelson


Jeremy Burke VINO is published quarterly by the Register-Pajaronian. All rights reserved, material may not be reprinted without written consent from the publisher. VINO made every effort to maintain the accuracy of information presented in this publication, but assumes no responsibility for errors, changes or omissions.

Contact Us VINO

100 Westridge Dr. Watsonville, CA 95076


Thank you for reading!

Cover Shot: Taken by Tarmo Hannula. The Cave at Testarossa Winey


Rock Star

winemakers richardalfaro 6 lindseyotis bradleybrown 8 randallgrahm 10 ginofortino 12 micaraas 14 pisonifamily 20 michaelsones 25

Architecture Restaurant Special Maps







monterey santacruz

30 31 Summer 2012 | Page 5


Richard Alfaro A Family affair on the Corralitos Wine Trail

Richard Alfaro, co-owert of Alfaro Family Vineyards of Corralitos, trims leaves from Chardonnay vines Friday. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

Roseann Hernandez, Laura Ness VINO


n a bucolic, sun-drenched piece of paradise at the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery offers visitors on the Corralitos Wine Trail an idyllic escape with fun for the entire family. “We want families to enjoy coming here,” says Richard Alfaro, winemaker and co-owner with wife of 30 years, Mary Kay, a certified sommelier. After all, this place is all about family. While mom and dad enjoy a tasting flight of estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the little ones are given complimentary Martinelli’s apple juice, along with coloring books and crayons to keep them occupied. The family dog is catered to as well, with biscuits and a water bowl outside in one of the two adjacent picnic areas. ““We also have a basketball court for kids – while mom and dad are tasting, the kids will be shooting baskets,” Alfaro notes.

Page 6 | Summer 2012

The importance of family is borne out in the sweeping landscape all around. “I named vineyard blocks after my kids when they were tiny and now that they are adults, they kind of get a kick out of that,” he laughs. Named after Alfaro’s son, the Ryan Spencer Vineyard was planted in 2001 and is comprised of seven acres broken into six different blocks on a very steep hill between 450 and 800 feet in elevation, planted to Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot. The seven-acre Lindsay Page vineyard is named after their daughter, and is one of the oldest hillside plots on the property with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir plantings. Fittingly, the largest plot at sixteen acres, the Alfaro Family Vineyard, is planted exclusively to Pinot Noir. Keeping with the Burgundian tradition, with a slight twist, the most recent plantings are eight acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Grüner Veltliner. The latter is quite an exciting experiment: it’s a white wine grape widely grown in Austria and Central Europe, and currently, Alfaro’s is the only vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains to grow it. The eight

acres were COOF Certified Organic in 2010. The Alfaros have two other vineyards in nearby Aptos, bringing their total acreage under cultivation to 57 acres. That’s a lot of grapes, but Alfaro is not one to pussyfoot around with a project: he goes whole hog. “We are a completely self-contained operation,” observes Alfaro. “We grow our own grapes, we have our own winery, storage area and bottling facility – we do everything in house.” Last year, they produced 4,000-6,000 cases and are on track to produce 8,000 this year. Alfaro’s journey to the vintner’s table was not a straightforward one, however. “I am a bit of a vagabond,” explains Alfaro, with a twinkle in his eye. Independent since the age of 16, Alfaro learned Spanish in Peru, his father’s homeland, spending time in Guatemala as well. While his parents moved to Europe, Richard lived on his own in a studio apartment in Pacific Grove. Attending high school in the mornings, he worked in a restaurant during lunch and as a janitor at night.


An industrious restaurateur, Alfaro was a general manager by age 21 and opening restaurants for a major chain by his 20s. The restaurant business sparked his love of wine: “When my buddies were drinking beer, I always had a bottle of wine.” In 1988, Alfaro decided to strike out on his own and open Alfaro’s Micro-Bakery in Watsonville, which produced specialty, artisan breads which he later sold to Sara Lee Fresh. Subsequently, Alfaro bought the 75-acre apple farm that would become one of the largest producers of Pinot Noir grapes in the Santa Cruz Mountains, complete with hundred year-old outbuildings, plus the original homestead, which he later renovated. It was a long-lingering lust affair. Alfaro admits, “I drove by this property every day, because we lived off of Green Valley Road (in nearby Watsonville), and I remember just looking up at that hill and thinking, ‘what a great spot to grow grapes!’” He knew he would be in good company. Near the apple farm was the famed Christie Vineyard, source of some of the most brilliant, award-winning Chardonnay produced by local legend Storrs Vineyard. “Because of the Christie Vineyard, I knew


the area had a lot of potential,” he says. The first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay plantings were done in 1998 and thrived in the microclimate of the region. Relatively cool, with fog in the morning and sun in the afternoon, the property is easily 10 degrees warmer than neighboring towns closer to sea level. “We have a nice combination of cool and warm weather and really long growing seasons,” Alfaro explains. “We can have good weather from March through November or December.” Contrary to just about any other agricultural pursuit on the planet, for grapes, this soil is full of gravel and sand and lacking nutrients – pretty much ideal for producing ideal winegrapes. Says Alfaro, “It makes the plants struggle, and when plants struggle, they produce really concentrated and compelling grapes for wine.” And producing special wine is what this is family endeavor is all about. “We are not run of the mill,” admits Alfaro, who, along with his neighboring winemakers that make up the Corralitos Wine Trail, are all dedicated to crafting the best possible wine. “We are all close friends – we are not competitors: we work together to draw people to this area as a group.”

In comparison to the large corporate wineries that dominate the market, Alfaro sees himself and his neighboring boutique vintners as part of the “one percent” of the boutique wine scene in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, producing quality wines in a burgeoning winemaking region. “We are farmers. We’re getting our hands dirty – this is our life,” Alfaro says. And that means their livelihood as well, which includes making your life just a little bit livelier. Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery 420 Hames Road, Corralitos. For more information call (831) 728-5172 or visit us online Top Left: Samples of the Alfaro Family Vineyards finished product. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/VINO. TOp Right: View of the vineyard. Photo by Roseann Hernandez/VINO. Bottom Right: Mary Kay Alfaro, coowner with husband Richard and certified sommelier, pours in the tasting room at Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery in Corralitos. Tastings are held Saturdays. Photo by Roseann Hernandez/VINO.

Summer 2012 | Page 7


Lindsey Otis and Bradley Brown Yin and Yang in the Cellar

Owners Lindsey Otis and Bradley Brown hace been turning heads for years. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

Laura Ness VINO


t’s fitting that the winemaking team at Big Basin Vineyards, located in Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains, are a malefemale duo. With a world-class yoga studio located above the cellar — and a poster of yoga positions so painfully impossible prominently displayed on the wall — this place is clearly all about balance. Yin and yang. Black and white. Positive and negative. All things relative to one another. He is Bradley Brown, she is Lindsey Otis, and they have a most efficient and well-tuned division of labor, although they collaborate on every wine to ensure that the house imprimatur is reflected in each. He primarily handles the big Rhone reds and blends; she mainly tackles the whites, roses and Pinots. That seems to suit their personalities to perfection. She’s quietly confident, soft spoken and easy to smile. He’s demonstrative, emotive and intensely passionate. They’re both

Page 8 | Summer 2012

perfectionists, detail-oriented, focused and dedicated to creating handcrafted, brilliant, unforgettable wines. Together, they’ve built the Big Basin Vineyards brand into a powerhouse of elegant pinots and brawny syrahs, with new varietals coming into the fold each harvest season. Winemaker and proprietor Brown has been turning heads and impressing pundits for years with his blockbuster syrahs, especially those from the estate vineyard located on a challenging steep hill on the way to Big Basin State Park. Heady and intense, the syrahs Brown has created from the Rattlesnake Rock block are legend: people hoard them in their cellars, trying to build the ultimate vertical experience. Brown, who grew up skiing like a fiend in Vermont, had the good fortune to ride the elevator to the top floor at a Silicon Valley high tech-startup that hit the jackpot, enabling him to pursue his dream of making wine. He chose a sunny homestead haven in the Santa Cruz Mountains to plant the Rhone varietals he had come to love, primarily due to the influence

of his brother, Derek, who spent nine years in France, and came back besotted with Rhones. Brown is married to a renowned Yoga instructor, Samantha Shakti-Brown, the mother of their young son Kieran. They are the perfect salt and peppershaker couple. He’s a live wire: she’s cool as a cucumber, sweet as honey in the hive. It comes as no surprise that the wine Bradley makes is rich, complex, statuesque and needing many hours, even days, to peel back and appreciate. While patience is required to enjoy Brown’s beefier reds, patience is not something he has in abundance. As Antonio Galloni says in a recent review of Bradley’s ‘08 and ‘09 vintages, “Bradley Brown crafts gorgeous artisan wines from his vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey County. … As good as these wines are — and they are often outstanding — my feeling is that Bradley has scratched the surface of his potential.” Brown hit the jackpot once more when he hired Lindsey Otis, a graduate of UC Davis’ oenology program, away from WilliamsSelyem, the famed pinot house in Sonoma in


2010, to help manage his pinot program. She’s helping him scratch surfaces of potential he might not otherwise have found. He’s given her the opportunity to work with an unparalleled collection of top-notch vineyards, including the estate, which is now producing enough Roussanne to finally have a Rhone white to add to the lineup. Otis, 30, a native of Santa Cruz, apprenticed in France and New Zealand, as well as at Cooper Garrod and Bonny Doon Vineyards. She worked at Silver Oak in Napa for a time before heading to Sonoma to the world famous pinot producer. Her heart belonged to Santa Cruz, though, and the Big Basin Vineyards gig was a perfect fit. As associate winemaker at Big Basin Vineyards, she brings that deft feminine touch to pinot that is so easy to taste and appreciate. Making pinot from several different Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards gives her the opportunity to showcase each site’s terroirdriven personality: there’s the sunny, fruitladen Alfaro Vineyard Pinot, and the earthy, exotic, perfectly poised elegance of Woodruff Vineyard Pinot, easily one of the winery’s most sophisticated offerings. She also enjoys crafting the winery’s gorgeous rosé, which changes varietal composition each year as the estate vineyards Rhone vines come on line. Her latest creation, the 2011 Wirz Vineyard Riesling, really shows her gentle winemaking touch: it’s at once stony and minerally, yet floral, tropical and spicy, with a plump mouthfeel and buoyant acidity. The Wirz vineyard is located in the Cienega Valley in the northeast corner of the Gabilan Mountains, where soils are granitic and limestone, and perfect for age-worthy Rieslings. This is certainly one of them. Brown, 46, has a penchant for heady, attention-getting wines that could be described as zaftig: well-endowed in all the right places. He’s certainly considered one of the rock star Rhonesters, with a cult following, not just for Rattlesnake Syrahs, but for his potent Odeon blend of syrah and cabernet that makes you set the glass down, and say Whoa! It’s as massive as the redwoods that surround the estate vineyards in this self-reliant piece of backcountry. More polished and seductive, the Mandala blend of syrah, grenache and cabernet, seeks to please with its chocolatey velvet core. Never content to rest on laurels, Brown constantly pushes the envelope to find vineyard sites that give him the proper tools to create wines of place. If a grower doesn’t cotton to Brown’s demands for certain vineyard practices, he’ll quickly find another source for fruit. Such a switch led him to Coastview Vineyard in the Chalone appellation, across the Salinas Valley from the Santa Lucia Highlands bench where he’d previously sourced wines from the former Fairview vineyard. It was a touch of kismet as Brown discovered not only a fabulous site for Rhone varietals, high above the world below, but a new site for pinot which he had planted


The wines and the vines of the Big Basin Vineyards. Photos by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

there five years ago. The inaugural version of wine from this vineyard, the 2010 Coastview Vineyard Pinot, is striking: taut, yet racy, ready to unwind its sandstone-like layers of intense, energetic red fruit. Otis seems to have an innate connection to the personality of each vineyard, guiding the fruit to the proper expression of its voice. Here, her minimalist style spotlights the delicate rose petals and lavender that dance on the profoundly mineral-laden core. It would be difficult for one winemaker alone to achieve such a breadth of wine styles. Together, Brown and Otis make a formidable, dynamic team, playing off each other’s strengths. Water is yin relative to steam, but yang relative to ice. As yin and yang are never static, but always in a constantly changing balance, so, too, are they. Big Basin Vineyards is located at 14598 Big Basin Way Saratoga, CA 95070. For more information call (408) 564-7346 or visit www.

Summer 2012 | Page 9


Randall Grahm Embracing the Variability

Randall Grahm, owner of Bonny Doon Vineyard, is shown with a row of towering wine tanks. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

Todd Guild, Laura Ness



lthough Bonny Doon Vineyard and its associated restaurant, Le Cigare Volant, are located in a converted warehouse on the west side of Santa Cruz, the inside is a welcoming, sunlit place whose interior contradicts the somewhat industrial look of the neighborhood. The restaurant and tasting room are decorated in warm oaken wood, and a chandelier made entirely from wine bottles lights an alcove leading to the restaurant. Meanwhile, a row of lights fashioned from wine bottles illuminates the long bar, where staff well-versed in all things wine attend to customers. Diners can tuck themselves into booths made from giant, repurposed wine tanks whose towering walls provide intimacy, or they can instead choose a table in the comfortable restaurant. The winery’s signature wine, Le Cigare Volant, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Page 10 | Summer 2012

According to owner and founder Randall Grahm, wines that come from large-scale producers are the same every year, an effort that requires winemakers to use industrial techniques and bend the process to the winemakers’ will, which is known in the wine world as “vin de effort.” Smaller-scale producers, on the other hand, are not bound by such restrictions and are free to allow the grapes, the annual climate fluctuations and the unique soil characteristics from different vineyards to add their touch to the final product. “You have to embrace the variability and the fact that it is different every year,” he declares. Bonny Doon Vineyards was once known for the Big House Wine label that made Bonny Doon Vineyard the 28th largest winery in the U.S., but Grahm sold the line in 2006 to The Wine Group (Livermore, CA). He has since narrowed the focus of his production to smaller batches and now produces wines that bear the distinctive traits of their places of origin, known as “vins de terroir.”

“In my perfect world, the wines that are valuable are the ones that provide a sense of place,” he explains. “They express the preciousness of nature and the sacredness of the earth.” A good winemaker, he said, should be able to make a wine based on the hand they are dealt. “Nature’s creation has a much more vast scope,” says Grahm. “You have to embrace the variability.” Indeed, the wine menu at Bonny Doon Vineyard separates the wines into categories based on the soil type in which the grapes were grown. In that way, connoisseurs can discern how the flavor of wine is affected by soils made of slate, limestone, granite, volcanic, gravel or siliceous soils. The menu also has a section for “utterly unique terroirs,” or soils too complex to put into any of the categories. In keeping with their nature-driven philosophy, Bonny Doon Vineyards buys from growers who employ biodynamic growing principles, which transcend mere organic growing, combining the cyclical rhythms of nature with the astronomical calendar.


Bonny Doon Vineyard showcases a number of wines from around the world. Photos by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

Biodynamic growing emphasizes a holistic approach to agriculture and the relationship between soil, plants and other natural systems. Bonny Doon Vineyards is known for being one of the first wineries to bottle its wines entirely without corks, opting instead for screw caps. The move amounts to a sacrilege in some circles of the deeply traditional wine world, where wine with a screw cap is akin to cheap street booze. But Grahm explained that the cork occasionally taints bottles of wine with what is known as “corkiness.” As the winery states in its website, “Rest assured that the screw cap is in no way an inferior form of closure to the more prevalent 17th century technology, commonly referred to as a cork.” When asked about his overarching winemaking philosophy, Grahm has one word: “Innovation.” “The wine world always needs innovation,” he insists. “Pushing the limits and sincere efforts to make the wine world more interesting.” As Master of the increasingly interesting Dooniverse, he practices what he preaches. Le Cigare Volant Restaurant and Tasting Room is open daily for lunch from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. Dinner is served Wednesday — Sunday from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. Tasting is daily from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. During happy hour — known at Bonny Doon Vineyard as Roswell Hour — Bonny Doon wine is 51 percent off. Sunday — Friday from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. Bonny Doon Vineyards is located at 328 Ingallis St, Santa Cruz. For more information call (831) 427-6737 or visit

The tasting room at Bonny Doon Vineyard features dramatic architecture, a fountain and a sweeping bar counter.


Summer 2012 | Page 11


Gino Fortino Continuing the Tradition

Gino Fortino produces well-balanced, versatile wines. Photos by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

Roseann Hernandez VINO


t is just after 10 a.m. on a sunny Thursday morning in the southern tip of the Santa Clara Valley and the tasting room at Fortino Winery welcomes its first guest of the day. A silver-haired man dressed in tourist attire – fanny pack and khaki pants – is poured a glass of Black Muscat Blush by Gino Fortino, fourth-generation winemaker and owner of one of the liveliest events and entertainment venues in the county. Fortino Winery was started in 1970 by Fortino’s father, Ernest Fortino, who emigrated from Calabria, Italy, in 1959 and settled in Gilroy. A winemaker in his native Italy, the elder Fortino was drawn to the Hecker Pass area, an established wine grape growing region and site of several wineries. The land that would become Fortino Winery contained a vineyard that had been producing since the 1930s. “At that time, four or five wineries came in and took over as the older generation retired,”

Page 12 | Summer 2012

explained Fortino. For the four-year-old Fortino, his father’s decision would determine his destiny. “I have been here all my life,” said Fortino. He started working full-time at the winery in 1987 and took over with his sister, Teri Fortino, in 1995 when his parents retired. Since then Fortino Winery has been transformed into one of the hottest tickets in town, while continuing an award-winning winemaking tradition that began with Ernest Fortino. The winner of both local and international competitions, Fortino wines are known for being well-balanced and exceptionally versatile as Fortino strives to create wines that reflect the unique qualities of the southern Santa Clara Valley while suiting the modern palate. “The warm days and cool nights make winebalanced wine,” Fortino said. The area benefits from coastal breezes filtered through the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and a pleasant sun that keeps the Santa Clara Valley in perpetual summer time for the majority of the year. “We do not get a lot of frost or a lot of fog,

which can plague vineyards and we have a long growing season,” said Fortino. The veteran winemaker also ensures his wines are not “overpowering or heavy” and tries to keep the alcohol level below 14 percent. Fortino Winery currently has five varietals growing on the 50-acre vineyard: Carignon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Charbono, Chardonnay and Merlot. The Carignon are grown on some of the oldest vines on the land and the Cabernet Sauvignon stretch across soft hills, lending itself to an overall majestic multiterrain landscape. Fortino also purchases grapes from other Santa Clara Valley vineyards to produce his signature wines. Fortino said it is important to support local farmers and remain true to the overall flavor of the region. Fortino produces on average 15,000 cases a year and sells 85 percent in the retail market. Consumers can find Fortino wines in restaurants, bars and stores from the Santa Cruz Mountain communities to the San Francisco Bay Area. Their popular wine club is one of the first established in California and provides their members with discounts on


wine purchases and Fortino label merchandise and invitations to special member events such as wine club dinners and wine pick-up parties. The winery keeps Fortino very busy. “Everything is done here – producing, crushing, bottling, fermenting, storage; we have all of our own equipment – everything is on our own premises,” said Fortino. In addition to his winemaking duties and providing custom crushing for other wineries he is the head of a full-scale events and entertainment venue that plays host to weddings, corporate parties, concerts and even ladies nights. “We have an events center with full staff and commercial kitchen,” he said. “We have catered events every weekend.” There could be no more picturesque place to have a wedding ceremony and reception than in the Fortino Winery Redwood Terrace. Loved ones can recite their vows under a canopy of redwood trees and later dance under twinkling lights while being served by attentive wait staff. Guests can sip their Almond Champagne, another Fortino specialty, while taking in the breathtaking sight of a vineyard that seemingly stretches towards the heavens. The Fortino tasting room, with its plush décor and 40-foot bar is a congenial and welcoming hang-out for the serious wine connoisseur and the novice on their very first winery tour. “If you come to the tasting room we may have rock and roll music playing in the background,” said Fortino. “We strive to have a laid back approach – it is not stuffy.” For Fortino, outlook is decidedly good. New blood has come into the Hecker Pass area over the last five to ten years, which has helped uplift the region and “everyone seems to be making good wines lately.” Though every individual winery is special in their own way, Fortino views their fates an intrinsically intertwined. “We are all in this together,” he said. “The more visitors we get to our tasting rooms the better.” When Fortino isn’t greeting visitors in the tasting room or attending to any of a million other winery duties, he likes to go boating in the summer and hit the slopes in the winter. But any long vacation? That may have to wait until the next generation of Fortinos comes up through the ranks. Fortino Winery is located at 4525 Hecker Pass Hwy Gilroy, CA 95020. For more information call (408) 842-3305 or visit


Summer 2012 | Page 13


Mica Raas Watsonville winemaker stresses local ties

Mica Roas is a hot commodity in vintner circles. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

Todd Guild, Laura Ness VINO


f young, ambitious winemaker Mica Raas has his way, Santa Cruz County in general, and Watsonville in particular, will one day be well known among wine aficionados and foodies alike as a gourmet destination. Raas, whose life in wine started when he worked as a “cellar rat” at a winery while majoring in geology at Sonoma State University, is the proud owner of Mica Cellars, a boutique winery tucked into a small cluster of businesses on Hangar Way in Watsonville. An avid learner, Raa since earned degrees in geology, botany and environmental studies, while working in Napa, Sonoma, and Lodi. All of this aided him as he learned about the highly technical and deeply historical world of winemaking. Now, he’s passing that love of wine and winemaking along to others who are curious about the world of wine. He taught his inaugural wine appreciation class in June, and plans to continue this every

Page 14 | Summer 2012

third Sunday at the “Winemakers Studio.” If the classes generate enough interest, Raas hopes to someday add a home winemaking component to the educational series. The “Winemakers Studio” brings multiple winemakers under one roof for Saturday tastings, which makes for an ideal arrangement for small-scale, local wine makers for whom the cost of owning or renting their own location is out of reach. Here, they can share in the cost of jointmarketing and combine the power of their individual wine club lists to leverage a cooperative marketing effort. And in the wine business, as we’ve seen from locations like Surf City in Santa Cruz, the proximity of wine tasting rooms to one another draws wine lovers to a destination, with the convenience of onestop tasting of multiple brands. Raas also invites local cheese makers and other food producers to the tastings, all in an effort to promote locally produced products. These include Mugnaini wood-fired ovens, Gelatto Massimo and Freedom Bakery. All of these are a stones throw from Mica Cellars,

which is consistent with Raas’ philosophy of supporting local businesses. “I’m a local person doing local things for local people,” he states matter-of-factly. Raas handcrafts artisan wines, all from locally grown grapes, and all carefully aged in oak barrels, at his modest Watsonville warehouse. As a small, independent wine maker, Raas said he is not constrained by the requirement of large-scale companies that they produce the same product every year. Wineries like Gallo must stick to a formula to ensure that allimportant consistency that keeps the relatively non-adventurous wine drinker coming back over and over again to the same brand and wine. Instead, Raas appreciates how the variation of grape crops from year-to-year makes each vintage of wine unique and exciting. “If wine is always the same, it’s a commodity,” he said. “If it’s new and better every year, it’s a food.” Indeed, Raas boasts that every wine he’s made has won awards, and that each one is distinctive. Plus, he emphasizes, “I’m selling


out of everything.” Moreover, Raas’ wines are “vineyard designates,” with each wine made from grapes from a single vineyard, all grown within a 100-mile radius. It’s with pride he will put the names of the vineyards on his labels, but in order to do so, the growers must meet his strict requirements. And, albeit something of a hands-on control freak, Raas personally handles all the grapes at harvest. “Once the grapes arrive at my door, I’m the only one who touches them until the wine is in the bottle,” he asserts. Raas hopes that local growers will harness the horsepower of the different microclimates abundant throughout the Central Coast, taking advantage of the incredible variation in climate from seaside to mountains to plant new varietals that can flourish here. “My goal is to educate as many people as I can that the Santa Cruz Mountains can be the best wine growing region in the country,” says Raas confidently. The only currently paid employee at the winery, Raas opened the facility two years ago, and relies, as do many small producers in the wine business, on a loyal contingent of friends who help out as volunteers. Still, he notes that his efforts to launch the business, which have included structural improvements to the warehouse, installing equipment and making all the wine, require him to work seven days per week. It’s a good thing he seems to thrive on this level of investment of sweat equity, and appears to be exactly where he wants to be. “From day one I loved it,” he says. “Some people call it a passion, I call it a disease.” In addition to making several varieties of his own wine using exclusively locally grown grapes, Raas also grow his own grapes and helps other grape growers improve their vineyards: a job he calls, “soil to bottle consulting.” “I’ll never be rich, I know that,” Raas confesses. “I just want to see a vibrant food and wine culture here in Santa Cruz County.” In furthering the realization of that noble goal, we can all eat and drink of the local bounty, supporting not just businesses, but hopes and dreams. Mica Cellars tasting room is located at 18 Hangar Way Suite C. The tasting room is open Saturdays from 12 until 5 p.m. For information visit or call 831-288-5921.


Summer 2012 | Page 15

TTesta esta

arossa arossa

Architecture FEATURE

Testarossa Winery Passion in the Monastery

Hand-carved stones make up the cave, which is the entrance to Testarossa’s tasting room. Photos by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

Todd Guild, Laura Ness VINO


ust a short drive from the bustle of downtown Los Gatos lies the Testarossa Winery, tucked into the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains and housed in a 120-year-old Jesuit monastery. Here, time stands still, as if catching its breath. You can almost hear church bells, perhaps even the muffled murmurs of vespers, as you make your way into what is without doubt the most dramatic and historic tasting room in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Originally constructed in 1892, the building that houses the winery is comprised of handmade bricks that bear the distinctive chisel marks of those who made them well over a century ago. The long, stone entryway dubbed “the cave” was built in 1939, and is lined with historical photos detailing the long and colorful history of the winery, including the beautiful wedding photos of winery owners, Rob and Diane

Page 18 | Summer 2012

Jensen, who, 20 years ago, took their vows in this very beautiful, sacred place. This is no ordinary cave: it is elegant and classy enough to be the backdrop of all manner of catered wine gatherings, from informal to black tie. Outside, the winery offers a shaded, outdoor seating area, a favorite of frequent visitors who come to silently sip glasses of wine and snack on cheese plates or appetizers prepared by Los Gatos-based Talula Bay Catering. With the din of traffic far removed, Testarossa Winery is an oasis for wine aficionados seeking a unique, unhurried tasting experience. “We get spoiled,” owner Rob Jensen admits. The tasting room is an open, comfortable space where knowledgeable staff offers several tasting flights. These include Testarossa’s internationally acclaimed Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, consistent award-winners and 90+ point scorers in all the trade publications. Using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes from vineyards near and far, to Santa Ynez in the south to Russian River Valley in the north, Testarossa produces about 20,000 cases

under the Testarossa brand. They also customcrush an additional 20,000 cases for vineyards lacking their own winemaking facilities. The winery also produces a line of wines bearing the historic “Novitiate” label, in honor of the winery’s heritage. A portion of the proceeds goes to the retirement facility at the adjacent Sacred Heart Jesuit Center on the property. With construction dating back to 1892, the Testarossa Winery facility is the fourth oldest continuously operating winery in California. Built into the side of a mountain to facilitate gravity flow, that same original wine making system is still in use today. On the top of the building are the remnants of the tower once used to distill brandy into the sacramental altar wine originally made there. Altogether, the rooms and additions over the years make up a labyrinthine series of laboratory-like spaces, production areas and age-old cellars, most of which are still in use. “We’re two minutes and 100 years from Main Street,” Jensen observes. Originally called Novitiate Winery, the


building has a rich history that dates back to 1888 when a group of Northern Italian Jesuit fathers and brothers from the college at Mission Santa Clara began making altar wines as a way to help support the novitiate and the seminary. The order continued production through prohibition until the 1980s, when sales began to decline. Novitiate Winery ceased operation in 1986 after a 98-year run. There followed a period in which two different wine makers leased the property. Jensen and his wife moved their fledgling operation into the facility in 1997, naming it Testarossa, which is Italian for “redhead” and the nickname the red-haired Jensen picked up while studying in Italy. Before he bought the property, however, Jensen worked in the hightech world, and along with his wife, made small batches of wine in their garage with a tiny grape press, which is on display in the tasting room. With its unseen complex chemical reactions requiring constant vigilance, winemaking allowed Jensen to put his technical knowledge and science background to use. It took a visit to Italy, however, and the guiding hand of his connoisseur wife, to make Jensen realize that a marriage between the scientific and the esoteric is what makes a truly great wine. “Without science, you can’t make great wine,” says Jensen. “But you also need heart and soul and passion. Traveling to Italy and experiencing the culture and the love of food and music and art opened a part of my psyche I didn’t know existed.” He and Diane invite you to experience a bit of the heart, soul and passion that they put into all their wines. Come, relax on the shady patio and ponder the passion in your glass. Testarossa Winery is located at 300 A College Avenue in Los Gatos. The tasting room is open 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day, excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The tasting fee is $10, which is refundable with the purchase of wine. Gourmet cheese plates and a selection of appetizers are also available. For information, or to make a private tasting reservation, email or call 408-354-6150 extension 41. Information is also available at www.


Summer 2012 | Page 19


Pisoni Family Slightly East of Eden: Where Grapes Meet Lettuce

The Pisoni Familt of Gonzales: great wines with a cause. Photos: Courtesy Pisoni Winery

Daisy Chavez, Laura Ness VINO


he Salinas Valley has been home to the Pisonis for going on five generations. Farmers they have always been, be it lettuce, broccoli or grapes. The family roots go deep here: as deep as the roots of the grapevines at the vineyards they own and farm in the Santa Lucia Highlands. With consistent attention to agricultural details and by limiting their wine production, the Pisoni Family of Gonzales has turned wine from the personal quest and windmill fixation of founder Gary Pisoni, into a successful premium wine operation with an international reputation and following. The key to the Pisoni Family’s success is constantly striving to improve all aspects of winegrowing and winemaking. “We’re not looking to expand,” states Vineyard Manager Mark Pisoni. “We want to make sure that every vintage we are making a better wine. We really try to do an excellent job every step of the way, and our primary focus

Page 20 | Summer 2012

stays on growing grapes and making wine.” The Pisoni family began as farmers, and Gary would work alongside his father Eddie cultivating cauliflower, lettuce and broccoli just north of Gonzales. “In the late 1970’s, early 1980’s, my Dad (Gary) got started because he loved wine and wanted to make some for himself,” Mark said. “He would drive up and down the road trying to find grapes to make into wine.” With the profits made from the vegetable farm, Eddie and his wife Jane purchased a property in what would later be designated the Santa Lucia Highlands, initially intended to be a cattle ranch. Gary, being a wine fanatic, had other ideas in mind for the new property. “My dad eventually convinced my grandparents that there was more money to be had in grapes than in lettuce and he planted five acres of vines, without having a water source,” Mark shares. It was Gary’s relentless passion that drove him there at night after his work on the farm to pursue his new venture, and to eventually find water. “He drove back and forth to the mountains all night with a water

truck until he eventually got those five acres established,” Mark recalls. With the location being more than 1,300 feet above sea level, on the dry side of the Santa Lucias, it was a challenge finding a reliable water source. “Dad kept drilling wells! After drilling five wells, which almost broke us, he finally discovered some water. With that he planted more of the ranch to vines. His determination was unbelievable.” The first vines were planted in 1982, and this year celebrates Gary’s 30th year of growing grapes. Gary never looked back, and never took his eye off the prize of making worldclass wine. The first site where Gary first planted vines is called the Pisoni Vineyard. Since then Gary and his sons have planted two additional ranches in partnership with lifelong friend Gary Franscioni. These are Soberanes and Garys’ Vineyards. Creating wine is a family affair for the Pisoni Family. Gary’s sons are involved in the day to day activities of grape-growing and winemaking.


Mark is the vineyard manager who is in charge of the vineyard and vegetable growing side, while his younger brother Jeff is in charge of the winemaking in Santa Rosa. Grandma Jane continues to do payroll for the vineyard even though she is well into her 80s. She also picks up the mail from the post office in Gonzales each day and delivers it to her son and her grandson, Mark, both of whom live nearby. Gary remains very involved, Mark said, “He has the vision, comes up with the ideas, and points my brother and me in the right direction. He attends events and travels the country talking about our vineyards and the Santa Lucia Highlands. He is an outstanding ambassador for the local wine industry.” Working among family is what has kept the business successful. With the family invested in the grapes that make the wine – attention to detail is key. “We invest so much hand attention in our vineyard,” says Mark. “Everything is done by hand—hand pruning, hand harvesting, leaf-pulling, etc. We touch each vine every two weeks and our vineyard crew consists of the same guys and gals that have been working with us for the past 20-30 years. We have an outstanding vineyard team.” The Pisoni Family creates pinot noir, chardonnay, and a small amount of syrah, but focus mainly on pinot noir. They produce three wines: Pisoni Estate, Lucia and Lucy. Pisoni Estate is a special pinot from the Pisoni Vineyard. It is a dark, deep, complex wine with powerful bones around which richly ripe fruit and spice notes are tightly wound. Under the Lucia label, the Pisoni Family produces pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah. Lucia is named after the Santa Lucia Highlands, and the wines represent all three of the vineyards farmed by the family, including Soberanes and Garys’. Wines from these vineyards generally have aromas that are floral and delicate. Color is still dark red, yet their structure is softer. Lastly, Lucy, Lucia’s younger sister, is a rosé of pinot noir that is lightly pink in color. Lucy is very aromatic and contains hints of watermelon and ripe strawberries. Lucy is quite exceptional not just for the taste, but because every bottle purchased provides $1 toward breast cancer research. Though Lucy was also named after the Lucia Highlands Region, another Lucy was affected by the wine all the way across the county. “There’s a woman in Chicago named Lucy Millman who is a three-time breast cancer survivor.” Mark explains. “She saw the wine in the grocery store, picked it up and called us. She loves the wine and through her, we donate money toward breast cancer research.” Every year, Lucy Millman does a three-day walk where she continues to raise money and awareness for the cause. With a reputable wine known around the country, the Pisoni Family moves forward and hope to help promote the Santa Lucia


Highlands as a great place to grow grapes. “This is a great region,” Mark declares. “It has a cool climate because we are close to the ocean.” With their grapes in such high demand, the Pisoni Family not only cultivates wine, they cultivate relationships with people in the business. “We make our wines from our vineyards, and we also sell grapes to several different wineries,” says Mark. With his dad Gary’s vision, and 30 years in the wine business, the Pisoni Family keeps everyone involved and active. “He (Gary) tells everyone, “It’s my 30th anniversary, share a glass of wine with me,” says Mark. “He’s a compassionate person who loves wine and loves sharing it with everyone. We love wine. Wine really connects people: it’s one big family, and it has brought people together around the country, and around the world.” For more information on Pisoni Vineyard and Winery call (800) 270-2525 or visit www.

Summer 2012 | Page 21




It’s Hip to Be Soif

Soif clerk Alyssa Twelker shows some of Soif ’s cast collection. Photos by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

Todd Guild, Laura Ness VINO


oif Restaurant Wine Bar & Merchants is an intimate restaurant and wine bar tucked into a side street off Santa Cruz’s downtown business district. It’s like a little piece of France floating in a sea of total California beachtown. Soif ’s home, a 70-year old building, was the only one built in Santa Cruz during World War II. The restaurant, a success from the getgo, has been a mainstay in Santa Cruz for 10 years now. With an attentive, knowledgeable staff, diminutive-yet-elegant decorations and the ubiquitous laid-back feel of its beach community home, the place has aptly been described as Santa Cruz’s living room. Here, customers can contentedly browse more than 450 wines in the wine shop or opt for scrumptious appetizers or dinner in the restaurant. The word “soif ” is French for “thirst,” and

Page 22 | Summer 2012

if the wait staff does their job properly, you won’t leave thirsty or hungry. To hone their sommelier skills and better understand the products they serve, the experienced servers attend weekly wine classes, where they discover new wines and study wine geek stuff, like geology, geography and the history of wines and winemaking. Wine aficionados can order from a lengthy list of “wine friendly” appetizers and an everchanging menu of entrees that have been handcrafted by the resident chef and expertly paired with a wine by a master sommelier. “We make these pairing suggestions hoping that our customers will try something new,” owner Patrice Boyle explains. Adventurous wine lovers can order a glass from a menu of more than 30 wines, or for half the price can order a small portion known as a “taste.” “Trying a ‘taste’ is a fairly small investment to try something you’ve never heard of,” Boyle says. “We want people to be adventurous, to exit their comfort zone and challenge their palates.”

Too often, according to Boyle, social anxiety surrounding wine culture can be intimidating to the uninitiated. “We want to introduce people to wine in an environment that is familiar, yet challenging, but definitely not snobby.” Boyle has been in the wine business practically all her life. She got her start at a Martin Brothers, a nowdefunct winery in Paso Robles, where she did everything from planting grapes to developing new wines. She also spent 12 years at Bonny Doon Winery, where she became familiar with the management side of the wine business. She said she decided to open a wine bar in order to bring hard-to-find and obscure varieties to Santa Cruz. Although she has a penchant for Italian wines, she has built an inventory of wines from all around the world. “I wanted to have the wines I loved and enjoyed available here in Santa Cruz,” she explains. “I really like California wines, but I felt there wasn’t enough variety.” Boyle strives to purchase wine from small-


scale producers who use sustainable methods, a philosophy that finds its way into the food she purchases. Approximately 90 percent of the food she purchases for the restaurant is also locally sourced. Most importantly, Boyle avoids purchasing wines simply because they are expensive or popular. Each wine has a story to tell, and a unique flavor that can speak of the climate, soil and culture of its region. “I want wines that reflect where the grape is grown, but also reflects the way the makers look at the wine.” On the Amalfi Coast, for example, grapes are grown on the top of trellises on the steep hillsides, with the vines growing straight out of the hills. The resulting wines have a powerful austerity that speaks of their struggle with verticality. “To me, trying something new is very fun! There are a huge variety of flavors and ways of thinking about wine.” So come, venture out of your comfort zone and quench your thirst for some new wine knowledge at Soif. You’ll be a better, and perhaps more interesting, person for it. Soif Restaurant Wine Bar & Merchants is located at 105 Walnut Avenue in Santa Cruz. The restaurant is open every day from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. The Wine shop is open Tuesday through Thursday from 12 p.m. until 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. until 10 p.m. and Sunday and Monday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. For information, call 831-4232020 or visit


Summer 2012 | Page 23

We use only the finest ingredients Smoked Low and Slow No Order is to Small or to Large Come taste the difference at Freedom Meat Lockers.


y da on

— pm 12

5 pm | Cl os ed Tues da


We dn es


Wa ts


oa d

Te re s

ys .





er nt

on vil le


Uvas Road


Open Thu r

s da


i da hol jor ma nd


da ya




now serving beer & wine.

a Bl

. vd

GILROY y tere Mo n

Da y Roa d

Roa d

Hecker Pa s s Roa d

Freedom Meat Lockers & Sausage Co. 160 Hi Grade Lane, Freedom, Ca. 95019


es l Le a v


R d.

Jason-Stephens Winery 11775 Watsonville Road | Gilroy, California 95020 408-846-8463 Follow us on Facebook!





Michael Sones Bargetto Winery: A History of Reinvention

Bargetto winemaker Michael Sones pulls a sample of Zinfandel. Photos by Tarmo Hannula/ VINO

Todd Guild, Laura Ness VINO


his vibrant, always humming familyowned winery on the outskirts of Soquel in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, dates back to 1909, when brothers John and Phillip Bargetto, newly immigrated from Italy, opened the South Montebello Vineyard and Wine Company in San Francisco. In 1917, when it became clear that Prohibition was inevitable, the Bargettos closed the winery and purchased the present property in Soquel, where they began making clandestine batches of wine for friends and family out of their barn. Many other “underground” wineries did the same, supplying wine for the customary mealtime accompaniment that is such a vital part of the European lifestyle. Can you even imagine Prohibition in Europe? When the 21st Amendment was finally ratified and Prohibition ended in 1933, the winery was reborn, this time bearing the family’s name.


This makes Bargetto the oldest operating winery in the Santa Cruz. “We literally started the day Prohibition was repealed,” explains current-day Bargetto winemaker Michael Sones, who has been at the winemaking helm since 2004. When pioneer Phillip Bargetto died in 1936, his brother John was left the sole owner of the business throughout the 1940s and ‘50s, during which time he was joined by his sons Ralph and Lawrence. The legacy continued with Lawrence at the helm during the 1960s and 1970s, during which time he introduced modern technology including stainless steel fermentation, oak barrel aging, and the addition of new Santa Cruz Mountain varietals to the portfolio, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. He also created the Chaucer’s line of dessert wines, flavorful and delicious as the fresh fruits from which they are made. The third generation of Bargettos now operates the winery, headed up by proprietor and winegrower, John Bargetto, who uses a “team approach” to his business, including

collaboration with employees about new varieties and listening closely to what customers want. “It’s a lot of work to grow grapes and produce wine and then sell it,” he says, with considerable understatement. He spends a good deal of his time working the 40-acre estate Corralitos vineyard he planted in 1992, where the Bargetto’s grow cool-climate varietals like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio, along with Merlot. They sell a fair amount of their fruit to local winemakers, including Poetic Cellars and Rexford Wines. Winemaker Michael Sones, has a long history in the Santa Cruz Mountains himself, although he came the long way round from his native England. While working on a cruise ship, he had a mid-life crisis that landed him at UC Davis, where he earned a degree in Fermentation Science. From there, he want to work in the cellar at Ridge Winery’s Lytton Springs Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, where he crushed 180 tons of Zin his very first harvest. From there, it was a stint at Bonny Doon, where he spent four tempestuous years under

Summer 2012 | Page 25

Winemaker Michael Sones (left) is all smiles with John Bargetto at the winery. Photos by Tarmo Hannula/VINO

the tutelage of Randall Grahm, only to up the excitement level with four years at David Bruce Winery. He’s happy to be making wines at Bargetto, where he introduced the use of more Hungarian oak as well as different cooperages, and he began buying fruit from new vineyard sources, including Chardonnay from Scheid. The focus, however, has been on showcasing the estate Regan vineyard, and the biggest change for Bargetto since Sones came aboard is the marked increase in fruit quality. Hiring renowned viticultural “grape whisperer,” Prudy Foxx, has helped to elevate the quality and reputation of the Regan vineyard to what might be considered Grand Cru status. The 2009 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir from the Regan Vineyard earned them a Double Gold from the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, as well as a Gold from the 2012 Pinot Noir

Page 26 | Summer 2012


Shootout. This follows on the heels of the 2008 Reserve which earned a Best of Class at the 2011 Pacific Rim Competition, as well as a Gold in the 2011 Pinot Shootout. The stunning 2007 Reserve Pinot also posted laudable results, with a Best of California/Double Gold at the 2010 California State Fair, plus a Double Gold at the Florida International and a Gold at the 2010 Santa Cruz Commercial Wine Competition. But it’s not just about the Pinot: recently, the 2009 Merlot Santa Cruz Mountains Reserve was chosen Best Merlot in the 2012 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition. Both Pinot and Merlot really shine in these mountain climes, as John Bargetto is quick to point out: “Our tradition here for 80 years has been to produce mountain-grown wine. There is something distinctive about our region.” Sones, always modest, concurs, saying that indeed it is really all about the fruit. He credits the improvements in viticulture practices over the last 5 years at the Regan vineyard with much of the success, and mentions that the addition of the Mt Eden clone of Pinot to the mix has given the wines an amazing intensity that really makes the Reserve wines sing. Some thanks needs to go to Mother Nature as well, as 2007 and 2009 were really fantastic years for Pinot. True to their ancestral roots, the Bargettos are also experimenting with northern Italian varietals such as Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, and Refosco, a blend of which has resulted in the winery’s highly acclaimed and celebrated “La Vita” blend. This earthy, intense, massively-hewn and distinctively Old World style wine, rewards patient cellaring. The winery began producing this distinctive blend in 1998. When you visit the Bargetto tasting room, which is open daily, one of the few in the region to offer daily access, you’ll first walk through a well-stocked retail shop with all manner of tempting tourist memorabilia, along with a broad selection of Bargetto wines at a variety of price points, many chilled for your immediate drinking pleasure. Then, you step down to the intimate tasting room bar, where the service is always friendly and you feel like you’ve been whisked back in time. Venturing further to the patio, you can enjoy the outdoor, shaded ambience of winery’s crown gem, offering a tranquil view of Soquel Creek and the surrounding woods. Attached to the patio is a recently completed area constructed of mountain redwood taken from old wine tanks, a throwback to the earliest days of winemaking in the Santa Cruz County Mountains, before oak barrels became the norm. It’s great to escape from the hectic pace of today while relaxing on what was once a redwood cask where wines of old were aged. It’s just one more way the Bargetto’s are constantly reinventing new ways of serving their customers, as they’ve done so well for three generations. “We never take our customers for granted,” says Bargetto. “We never put anything mediocre in our bottles.” After all, his name is on every single one. Bargetto Winery is located at 3535 North Main Street Soquel, CA 95073. For more information call 1-800-4Barget(422-7438 or visit


• Grass-fed, grass finished beef from N-A Ranch in Santa Cruz • Pasture raised pigs from Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio • Pasture raised coastal lamb from Marin Sun Farms in the Bay Area Food Shed • Only locally sourced & local seasonal organic ingredients • Custom sausage blend, custom cutting & cured meats

Summer 2012 | Page 27

Join our wine club

Tastings every Saturday from 12-5 Wine & Food pairing classes

VINO is published quarterly. Over 30,000 readers. 25,000 print and an estimated 5,000 online. If you would like to advertise with us please call 877-694-9048.

Rates start at only


Page 28 | Summer 2012


10% OFF



18 Hangar Way Suite C, Watsonville CA 95076

18 Hangar Way Suite C, Watsonville CA 95076

Mica Cellars

Mica Cellars

Mica Cellars 831-227-4916

18 Hangar Way Suite C, Watsonville CA 95076


Special feature

Storrs Vineyard Corralitos vineyard showcases resource conservation

A sheep used in resource conservation pauses from its grazing at Storrs Winery in Corralitos. Photo by Roseann Hernandez

Roseann Hernandez VINO


t’s a beautiful, sunny morning at the idyllic Hidden Springs Ranch, where Steve and Pamela Storrs grow more than 10 acres of organic chardonnay and pinot noir grapes for their award-winning wines. The 56-acre former apple orchard also serves as a showcase for resource conservation and wildlife preservation. Champions of organic and permaculture growing practices, the Storrs also worked with the Wild Farm Alliance, a Watsonville-based organization that promotes conservation-based agriculture, to transform an underutilized orchard into a thriving vineyard that restores native habitat, creates safe thoroughfares for wildlife and minimizes water usage. According to Jo Ann Baumgartner, director of the Wild Farm Alliance, the project at the Storrs Vineyard is part of a state-funded initiative from the California Department of Conservation’s Wildlife Conservation Board. “The aim of the initiative is to help the farmer as well as benefit the natural ecosystem,” said


Baumgartner. One of the most successful aspects of the project was the development of safe passageways for local wildlife. “The only thing we fence is growing areas,” Pamela Storrs said. By choosing to set their fences away from the road and by using native hedgerows, the Storrs created a migratory pathway for deer and other wildlife, while also providing a secure habitat and food source for birds. Being in the Pajaro Valley where water usage remains a hotbed issue, Storrs said they have put all their efforts into trapping water, thereby limiting the amount they need for irrigation. With guidance from the Wild Farm Alliance, they created a filter strip of native grasses and wildflowers, which also support native pollinators. The Storrs also refurbished a 1930s era drainage ditch that was an original WPA conservation project. “The other thing I am trying to do – with the sheep and all – is close the loop,” said Storrs. Instead of using chemicals, Storrs uses a special breed of sheep to help control the weeds. The only drawback – the sheep also

happen to love vine leaves. “They are like dolmas to them,” Storrs said. Yet the sheep, which as well as eating the weeds also provide fertilizer and help till the soil through the movement of their hooves, is to Storrs part of the “permaculture concept – one thing nourishes the next.” Storrs believes that by using organic, sustainable, permaculture type growing methods you also get a better tasting wine. “There is that saying, ‘the more the vines suffer, the better the wine,’” she said. “But you cannot overdo it, because they would be too stressed to set fruit. It’s a very fine balance.” Storrs agrees that how she has chosen to grow her vineyard requires a longer process than if she had decided to go the conventional route, but remains economically viable and ties into the overall “permaculture balance.” “Steve and I make our living doing this,” she said. “It has to sustain or it’s not a good choice.” She said they set out to go organic and make it affordable because then other growers would be more inclined to follow. “The answer is,” Storrs said, “It can be done.”

Summer 2012 | Page 29

Page 30 | Summer 2012


Wineries of

The Santa Cruz Mountains

For Information About Events 831-685-VINE (8463) • Join The Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Club Call For Information

Winetasting Available

We suggest the use of a designated driver DOMENICO

© Copyright 2008 SCMWA





























BURRELL SCHOOL -San Jo uel se R d Soq
















Monterey Bay





Summer 2012 | Page 31

VINO - Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Clara  

Wine lifestyle magazine

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you