Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tourist guide part 1: North

Open Daily: Barterra, Domenico, La Nebbia, Thomas Fogarty
Open by appointment: Chaine d'Or/Stefania, Great Blue Heron, La Honda, Varner
Not Open: Clos de la Tech, King's Mountain, Martella, Orchard Hills, Rhys/Alesia, Waxwing, Woodside

The northern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains is known for Emmet Rixford's winery and La Questa vineyard. It's the coolest part of the AVA and is the source of some excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

If you happen to be in Half Moon Bay there are two tasting rooms close by. Barterra is located in the town centre and La Nebbia is on Highway 92 to the east. But if you aren't in the city anyway it's difficult to justify making a special trip.

On the eastern side of the mountains Domenico in Redwood City is open from 12-5PM daily.
Thomas Fogarty on Skyline (Highway 35) is open Wed-Sat 11AM-5PM and Sunday 1-5PM.
La Honda Winery is located in Redwood City and is open by appointment. They are SCMWA members and often host other wineries on passport or Vintners' Festival weekends.
Varner are open midweek, by appointment only. The Spring Ridge Vineyard is located in Portola Valley.
Great Blue Heron is a tiny winery producing a few barrels of estate Pinot Noir from the owner's garage. Tasting is by appointment at weekends.
Chaine d'Or is located close to the junction of Highways 84 and 35. It's now managed by Paul and Stef Romero of Stefania Wine and takes visitors by appointment.

Varner, GBH, Chaine d'Or and Fogarty are all located within a half hour drive of each other. My recommendation would be to try to start at Varner or GBH, then go to Chaine d'Or and Fogarty. From Fogarty you can then go to La Honda and (if there's time) Domenico's. To get from Fogarty to La Honda the quickest way is via the 84, which takes you through Woodside. You can stop off at Roberts Market - they generally have an excellent selection of local wines. Alternatively you can head south on Skyline to Page Mill Road - that drive is around 20-30 minutes longer, but it's more scenic and fun.

Other wineries in the area:
Woodside Vineyards recently moved from their home of almost 50 years to a new facility in Menlo Park. Though one of the founders of SCMWA they don't pour on passport weekends and traditionally only open for events a few times a year, but the new premises may make appointments possible. Watch this space.
Kings Mountain are located in Woodside. Though the vineyards are visible from the road, the wine is made elsewhere. They are members of SCMWA and typically pour on passport weekends at other local wineries, such as La Honda or Domenico.
Rhys are based out of an industrial unit close to Domenico. They open a couple of times a year to allow mailing list members to pick up their wines, and they also organise a few vineyard tours in the summertime which get booked up well in advance. They are building a new facility off Skyline which is expected to open later in 2010.
Clos de la Tech are also building a facility off Skyline; the opening date hasn't been announced. In the meantime the wines are made at Domenico's facility; any tastings are by personal invitation from the owners. Domenico is also home to a number of other small producers, including Waxwing who have been known to pour on rare occasions.
Michael Martella is the winemaker at Thomas Fogarty. Occasionally one or more of his wines will be available in the tasting room. Martella is a SCMWA member and normally pours for their events at an alternate location, not at Fogarty.
Orchard Hills is based out of Atherton, though the wines are actually made in Paso Robles. The vineyards are visible from the road, but the city's rules prohibit any visitors or sales. If you want to taste the wines your best bet is Vino Locale in Palo Alto.