Sunday, February 17, 2008


I live on the edge of one - and potentially two - of the finest wine regions in the world.

The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA was established in January 1982, making it one of the oldest AVAs in the USA. It produces some of the greatest wines, not just in the USA, but in the world. It's home to Ridge Monte Bello, one of California's undisputed "first growths" and considered by some to be the finest red wine in America. It was home to Paul Masson, whose name is recognised across the world, though perhaps more for the mass-produced litre carafes of the 1970s than for the top quality wines he made in the years before Prohibition. It's home to Randall Grahm, the iconoclastic "Rhone Ranger" behind Bonny Doon Winery. It's home to established names like Mount Eden and Kathryn Kennedy as well as newcomers Rhys and Windy Oaks, whose wines sell out quickly to mailing list customers.

Next to the mountains lies the Santa Clara Valley AVA. It too has a distinguished history; though the Almaden brand name now conjures up images of 3L boxes of supermarket plonk it wasn't always that way - the Almaden winery was the second oldest in the state (the oldest being Buena Vista in Sonoma). These days Silicon Valley now covers many of the old vineyards and orchards but there are plenty of vineyards to the south. And while some there are content to make garlic wine and almond flavoured "champagne" there are others such as Martin Ranch and Stefania Wine who believe that the AVA has the potential to match the state's better known appelations.

These days there's a change in the wind. Some of the long established winemakers are retiring or passing on and a new generation is about to take over, with new ideas and plans to make wines that will get noticed. New vineyards are being planted, with varietals and rootstock better suited for the soils and microclimates. Consumers are paying more attention to what they eat and drink, demanding quality and value for their money.

January 2007 saw the 25th anniversary of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. At that time I began a project to document the wineries and vineyards - past and present - of the two AVAs; you can find it at This blog is intended as a companion to that project. If you are interested in contributing to either the wiki or the blog please get in touch.