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Displaying items by tag: Santa Cruz Mountains

Thursday, 15 August 2013 10:46

August 9, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Loma Prieta Pinotage bottle Picmonkey

2010 Pinotage


 Loma Prieta Winery

Appellation: Lodi

Alcohol: 15%

Suggested Retail: $45


“This wine is made from a grape unknown to most consumers in the United States. Pinotage, sometimes called “the workhorse grape of South Africa,” is a cross between the more familiar Pinot Noir and Cinsault, a variety native to the Rhone growing region in France. We have tasted some South African Pinotage that we liked, but none as much as this example from Loma Prieta. It's possible that just as Malbec, a grape native to the southwest of France, finds a higher expression when grown in Argentina, South Africa's signature grape also does better elsewhere.

“Loma Prieta is a boutique winery located at the 2300-foot level in the Santa Cruz Mountains and, though they do have a small plot of Pinotage growing on the estate, our Pick of the Week was sourced from Pinotage grapes grown in the Amorosa Vineyard in Lodi. Loma Prieta proprietor Paul Kemp tells us that as far as he knows there is only about 20 acres of Pinotage growing in all of the U.S. and that his winery is the largest producer of this variety in North America.

“Paul is justifiably proud of his 2010 Pinotage, which has been awarded a platinum medal, as well as 10 gold medals. We found it powerful, yet soft and very drinkable for a wine this young. Though the label says 15%, it didn't show any of the unfortunate heat often associated with wines at this alcohol level. While not exhibiting flavors radically different from red wines made from more familiar varieties, it isn't quite like any of them, either. It's less reminiscent of red Burgundy or Pinot Noir than wines from the southern Rhone, we feel. There's plenty of berry fruit here, some coffee notes and just a bit of spice. It's a damn fine red wine and wouldn't seem out of its league if poured at a dinner where more expensive California reds were being served.”

Food Affinity: “The winery suggests 'fatty meats, like lamb or ribeye steak.' We can't disagree with those choices, but we served it with stuffed red bell peppers and thought it a delightful pairing.”

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 15:19

Mountain Vines, Mountain Wines

Mountain Vines, Mountain WinesWritten by Casey Young Photographs by Ken Dawes

Published by Mountain Vines Publishing, 2003

115 pages, soft cover. $24.95


The Santa Cruz Mountain appellation produces some of California’s best wine, yet it remains relatively anonymous. “Mountain Vines, Mountain Wines” may go a long way toward remedying that situation.

Casey Young’s text provides a clear picture of the region’s geography and its long history of wine grape cultivation, dating back to the efforts of Franciscan missionaries 200 years ago. This was the land of French-born pioneers of the California industy Charles LeFranc and Paul Masson in the latter part of the 19th Century. For much of the middle of the 20th Century it was iconoclast Martin Ray who upheld the banner of Santa Cruz Mountain-grown wines. By the 1960’s Dr. David Bruce was making wine under his own name and Ridge Vineyards was established with Paul Draper assuming winemaking chores at the end of that decade. Both Bruce and Draper remain very significant players today, but they’ve been joined by many others now making wine here.

Roughly fifty wineries are currently operating in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Young has profiled all of them. Most are small and some may be as much hobby as business for their operators. There are no Gallos or Beringer-Blasses in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but some of its wineries are larger than most wine fans might suspect (Ridge has an annual production of 70,000 cases and Bonny Doon does about a quarter of a million cases each year).

“Mountain Vines, Mountain Wines” provides essential information on each winery—location, varieties made, days of operation, etc. Also included is the web address of nearly every one of the 50. Artisan winemakers seldom lack for personality and the author has done an admirable job in bringing those personalities to the reader. It’s not easy to avoid repetition in doing so many one and two-page profiles, but Young accomplishes the task.

Ken Dawes gives a window on those personalities with his shots of the winery principals. His outdoor photography illustrates the natural beauty of the area. Grape clusters, gnarled old vines, morning mist over steep hillsides—the vineyards of the Santa Cruz Mountains may not be that many miles from the urban sprawl of the San Francisco Bay Area, but they’re a world away.


--reviewed by Dan Clarke

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