Santa Cruz Mountains Wingrowers Assocation Harvest Dinner

The Santa Cruz Mountains Wingrowers Assocation held their Pinot and Chardonnay Harvest Dinner last night at Deer Park Ranch in Aptos, CA. Deer Park ranch is the home of Lester Family Vineyards and now Lester Estate Wines. There was a tasting featuring local producers first followed by dinner from Chef Brad Briske of Home, Soquel, CA

Kitty and I really enjoyed the event and thought it was top notch bottom to top. We arrived shortly after 4:00 PM and the sun was shining and fog and haze was starting to form and crawl into the mountains. The photo’s don’t do it justice. Overall there were many quality Pinots Noirs but only 2 Chardonnarys cut it for me.

Kitty enjoying some Left Bend Pinot Noir

Big Basin Vineyards
1st table we stopped at was with winemaker Bradley Brown who was pouring the 2015 Coast Grade vineyard Pinot Noir, and the 2015 Woodruff vineyard Pinot Noir. Both these wines are on the more elegant side of SCM Pinot vinted with good amounts of whole cluster, natural yeast. Both see minimal amounts of new oak but the recipe really seems to vary year to year. Both these were solid pinots with my preference being for the elegance of the coast grade. The namesake Lester Family yard pinot was saved until dinner which feature the 2016 rendition. The Big Basin lester is one of my favorite all around wines. Love the intense earth and pepper (signature for this vineyard) that plays with the fruit and a very long finish. This wine put Lester Familty vineyards on the map for me and this event was the perfect opportunity to try a few more winemakers interpretation on this site.

Lester Estate Wines
I had heard from Wes Barton that Lester Family vineyards was going to start producing estate wines as well so I was super excited to meet Frank Cates from Lester Estate Wines. Their Pinot Noir is certainly what they are best known for but they also have Syrah, Chardonnay, Reisling and some others… (Martin Ranch’s Lester Syrah is superb!) They are taking a a different approach at Lester Estate Wines. Rather than having a single wine maker or single style their are reaching out to the favorite producers to get them craft specific wines for Lester Estate. I started the tasting with the Chardonnay. The bracing acidity was noticeable from the first whiff. This is not your normal SCM Chardonnay. Pale straw in Color. Clear with nose of citrus, lemon peele and honey. Great mid ripe fruit with fantastic balancing acidity. Rich mouthfeel without the caramel. Long finish with the acid and fruit dancing around. Won’t beat around the bush. Mind blown, Taste more like Rhys or Burg. My WOTN. Kept going back to this wine. Learned that this wine is made by John Benedetti the owner and winemaker of Santa Arcangeli Famly wines. Additionally they were pouring two Pinot’s from two different winemakers. The first was more typical SCM and fruit forward, medium concentration, wasn’t familiar with the winemaker. The 2nd one was a step up in my opinion and made by winemaker Ed Kurtzman. Lighter and more elegant in style. Leads more with earth than ripe fruit. This was right up my alley at around 13.4%. Anyway, I like the concept and look forward to seeing the different interpreations of this amazing site. Looking forward to fall allocation.

Sante Arcangeli Family Wines

So I ventured next table over to meet John Benedetti who started me off with his Rose. Rich mouthfeel, delicate acid and fruit. This is a subtle thinking mans Rose. Very enjoyable. Then he poured me his Lester Pinot Noir and wow. Earthy Mushroom funk on the nose. Earth, pepper, strawberry and bracing acid dominate the palate and firm tannins drive a really long finish. Reminds me of Burg. 13% My other WOTN. Will be visiting John shortly at his tasting room. Very talented winemaker with a real passion for the old world style. I asked him about inspiration for this stunning Chardonnay and he smiled and said Mersault. Pretty sure I’m going to be drinking a lot of John’s wines in the near future.

Silver Mountain Vineyards - Winemarker Jerold O’Brien was there celebrating this 40th vintage here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He was pouring his excellent estate chardonnay which has great fruit but also good acid to balance out the party. More so than Mount Eden reminds me more of Rhys. I really like this wine. Its organically farmed and produced right down the street from me. Jerold has been a pioneer in organic farming and his comittment to Sustainability. He’s been organically farming for decades and his entire winery has been solar powered for 15+ years. Additionally he was pouring his Lester family vineyards pinot noir. More AFWE is style. 13.4% ABV. Leads with that earthy and pepper nose layered on the fruit that to me is just a characteristic of the vineyard that comes through regardless of the producer. Great Finish. Both of these wines were some of the best of the tasting.

Burrell School Vineyards & Winery - Winemaker Dave was puring this Teacher’s Pet Chardonnay and his excellent estate pinot. The chard is crisp with ripe fruit and decent acidity and the 2014 Pinot is a med concentration version with good fruit and richness. Firmer Tannis and better acid than the 2013 version. House dinner party favorite (We’ve drank through about 2 cases of the 2014 Pinot).

Kings Mountain Vineyards - They were pouring a 2012 and 2014. The 2012 was a nice place with some earthy mushroom on the nose and the palate. Not familiar with this producer. Need to visit and taste some more.

Left Bend - Owner richard was their pouring a chardonnay and one of their SCM Pinot Noirs. Chardonnay a bit too tich and ripe for me. I find their Pinots more balanced and enjoyed. Med+ concentration, 14.5% ABV.

Loma Prieta Winery - Home of Pinotage in the SCM
Neely Wines - The Varners made their chardonnays famous. The legacy continues on with Neely Wines.
Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery - Across the street from Burrel School. Not my favorite. A bit riper than I like in some cases.
House Family Vineyards - Amazing view’s if your looking for a picnic spot in Saratoga,Ca. They’re not making wine at Mount Eden anymore and the funk is gone. Their style is evolving. Cleaner wines now…

Beautiful Late afternoon and early evening shots looking down on the vineyards and the ocean.

Link to great write up From Ken Zinns on Sante Arcangeli

I believe Kings Mountain is still made by Woodside Vineyards winemaker Brian Casseldon. (He also planted a couple o’ them Rhys vineyards.)

Nice report Sean. I debated going to this but had too much going on.