Although Fernwood Cellars has only been in existence a short time the land has been in Matt Oetinger's family for over 130 years. His great-great-grandfather established a luxury hotel called Redwood Retreat in a secluded valley off Watsonville Road. The hotel boasted tennis courts and an outdoor swimming pool, and maintained its own vegetable gardens, orchards and vineyards. Though a fire burned down the main building in 1908, the resort remained open until the great depression forced its close. The family moved to San Jose and for over 50 years the area was abandoned to nature and the occasional trespassers.
In the 1990s the family returned and restored some of the remaining buildings. A new 8 acre vineyard was planted, and Matt went to study biology at Davis. On graduating he got a job as vineyard manager at Clos LaChance and started making wine from the family vineyard. Fernwood Cellars was launched in 1999, with the aim of making wines solely from fruit that Matt manages. As a result almost all the wines are technically permitted to be called estate, though not all carry that designation. The winery produces around 3000 cases annually.
2007 Chardonnay, Vanumanutagi Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Sourced from a neighbouring vineyard that was one home to Robert Louis Stephenson's family, all the blocks are named after his novels.
Nose shows green apple and persimmon. It's rich and buttery, with sweet apple pie and tropical notes. Doesn't show as much of the butterscotch/caramel notes than marred previous tastes. 90
2006 Merlot, Small Vineyards Selection, Santa Cruz Mountains
Sourced from 5 different domestic vineyards. Smoky, earthy nose with some plum. Dry and tight, showing some bretty barnyard character and minty notes with plummy fruit on the finish. 88+
2007 Zinfandel "Oetinger Reserve", California
A 50/50 blend of estate fruit with fruit sourced from his father's vineyard in El Dorado.
Nose has spicy raspberry, with porty notes. Dry, very tannic and oaky with some brambly fruit. Time may help. 85
2007 Estate Syrah, Santa Cruz Mountains
Spicy black berry/cherry nose. Smooth, rich mouthfeel. White Pepper, blueberry and black cherry fruit. Lots of acidity. 88
2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Nose shows smoky oak, tobacco and some blackcurrant. In the mouth there's sweet fruit backed by some earth and chewy tannins, with a good finish. 89