The disparity between life in Silicon Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains never ceases to amaze me. As a high-tech flatlander I find it difficult to imagine life without broadband internet, cellphone service and TiVo. Simple things like electricity and fresh running water are just taken as read.
But up in the mountains things are different. Take Dexter and Val Ahlgren for example. They built their wooden cabin on a secluded hillside on Highway 9, outside Boulder Creek. There is no water supply, not even a well; instead they catch rainwater in huge tanks and occasionally have it brought in by tanker. So it's somewhat surprising to realise that this is also the home of Ahlgren Vineyards.
Val Ahlgren was a teacher who began making wine in the garage of their Sunnyvale home in the 1960s out of whatever fruits were available. In the early 1970s Dexter sold his engineering business and the couple purchased their idyllic property. The winery is in the cellar below the house; it was bonded in 1976.
Grapes are sourced primarily from a couple of well known and highly regarded sources; Bates Ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Ventana Vineyard in Monterey County. They also source Zinfandel and Semillon from Livermore and Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains. There is a small 1 acre vineyard (with the potential for maybe 5 more acres) which is planted to Pinot Noir; the first successful crop was in 2007, when one barrel was made.
The winery is open to the public on Saturdays from 12-4PM. There is no tasting fee.
2007 Chardonnay, Ventana Vineyard, Monterey County
Nice nose of tropical fruit and caramel. Sweet, creamy flavours of asian pear and pineapple; rich and full bodied with balanced acidity and a long finish. Recommended $27
2004 Merlot, Bates Ranch, Santa Cruz Mountains
Super-ripe, plummy nose leading into sweet, rich, heavy plum fruit and a big finish. Surprising acidity and lack of heat given the 16.2% alcohol. $30
2004 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Sourced from a vineyard near Aptos. Lovely cherry nose, nice fresh cherry flavour and bright acidity. $30
2007 Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains
Unreleased; only 25 cases made. (Will be available to wine club members only.)
Nose of rose petals and ruby grapefruit. Light, fresh flavours of red cherry; good balance, nice tannins. $NA
2002 Syrah, Ventana Vineyard, Monterey County
Black fruit and tobacco on the nose. Dry, tart black cherry and plum with a little white pepper; lots of acidity and good mouthfeel. $15
NV Zinfandel Livermore Valley
2% residual sugar, 16.9% ABV
Spicy raspberry notes with some heat on the nose, but not so evident on the palate. Sweet candied fruit; raspberry and loganberry with a slightly port-like finish. $35