In the first installment of this week’s column, Lookout wine expert Laurie Love relays what she saw and tasted at the Uncork Corralitos event, fills out her impressions of Scotts Valley newcomer Saison Cellar & Wine Bar and gives you some upcoming wine events to plan for.
Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of this week’s Laurie Love on Wine column, covering wine news and events. Click here for Part 2, with Laurie’s Wine of the Week pick and her Wine 101 lesson.
Welcome to Laurie Love on Wine! I am Laurie Love, a professional wine writer and educator based in Santa Cruz. I am thrilled to be Lookout’s new wine correspondent, and look forward to sharing my wine passion, knowledge, and experience with Lookout readers. Follow me on my wine blog, Laurie Loves Wine, and on Instagram at LaurieLoveOnWine. I love email from readers! Stay in touch: Email me wine news, new wine releases, wine events or questions you have about wine at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join me as we journey together through the wonderful world of wine.
Uncork Corralitos a Huge Success
On Saturday, Oct. 21, a sold-out crowd soaked up the sun and dozens of local wines, beers, and ciders at the annual “Uncork Corralitos” fundraiser. The event was expertly organized by the Rotary Club of Freedom. Proceeds from this great event benefit two local charities: Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County and El Pajaro Community Development Corp.’s Kitchen Incubator.
Set in Alladin Nursery & Gift Shop’s beautiful and sprawling outdoor space on Freedom Boulevard in Watsonville, patrons enjoyed strolling through displays of flowering shrubs, trees and succulents on a beautiful fall day while sipping on local wines, beer and ciders, and listening to the music of Alex Lucero’s band, Live Again. All the wineries pouring their current releases at this event were from the local Corralitos area. Assiduous and Anatum, two newer wineries whose wines I had not tasted before, were there alongside Aptos Vineyard, Charmant, Ferrari Ranch, La Vida Bella, Lester Estate, Nicholson, Regan Vineyard, Sante Arcangeli, Storrs, Windy Oaks and of course El Vaquero, which hosted this event last year at its next-door winery.
Almost all the wineries were pouring some type of rosé, perfect for the warm, sunny weather that afternoon. Anatum Winery poured a 2022 Santa Cruz Mountains Rosé of Pinotage ($29). Pinotage (a cross between pinot noir and cinsault) is a grape varietal not typically found in the Santa Cruz Mountains, so I was curious to taste this. The wine was light, refreshing and fun with a touch of tannin, and would pair well with lighter fare (like shrimp tacos).
Ferrari Ranch Wines offered a 2022 Estate Rosé of Zinfandel ($24), from fruit grown on its property in the Santa Clara Valley. Only 50 cases of this wine were made using whole-cluster fermentation in 100% stainless steel tanks. Fresh and lively with just a touch of sweetness, this is a rosé to drink with spicy foods or wood-fired pizza.
Lester Estate Wines poured a well-chilled 2021 Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir ($40). With persistent bubbles and complex aromas and flavors, this bubbly brut was a highlight. Dan Person made this wine for Lester using the traditional method of sparkling wine production (aka the “champagne method”), where the wine undergoes two separate fermentations: one to make the base wine and one to create the bubbles. (Be sure to read Wine 101 in my column on Friday for more on fermentation.) An appealing salmon color in the glass, the wine had aromas of rose, hibiscus, blood orange, white cherry, rhubarb and unripe peach with notable flavors of brioche from extended contact on the lees (dead yeast cells) and a creamy, long-lasting mousse on the palate.
I also loved the La Vida Bella Vineyard 2020 Santa Cruz Mountains Sparkling Brut ($55) made from two-thirds pinot noir and one-third chardonnay, all grown on its estate. As with the Lester brut, this bubbly was made by Dan Person. What I loved about this wine was how similar it tasted to a fine champagne with its elegance, freshness, and persistent perlage (bubble action in the glass), along with its beautifully balanced acid and delicate fruit aromas and flavors. La Vida Bella Vineyard is open for public tastings the first Saturday of the month only at 1624 Chardonnay Ridge Rd., Aptos. So you’re in luck: This Saturday, Nov. 4, is its next tasting, from noon to 5 p.m. Go grab a bottle of this to enjoy with your holiday happenings.
It was great fun to attend Uncork Corralitos with my daughter and husband. They enjoyed the wines, and also tasted the excellent local beers on tap at the event from Fruition Brewing, Buena Vista Brewing and Slough Brewing Collective, and Woodhouse Blending & Brewing.
I sampled many other wonderful wines at this event (including my Wine of the Week) and continue to be impressed by the quality of wines coming out of this part of our appellation. Check back on Friday to read about my Wine of the Week. Purchase the wines directly from the wineries; you might also find some of them at Deer Park Wine & Spirits on Rio del Mar Boulevard in Aptos, which stocks a good selection of local wines.
Saison Cellar & Wine Bar now open in Scotts Valley
Saison Cellar & Wine Bar just opened in Scotts Valley at 222 Mount Hermon Rd., Suite I, in the Kings Village Shopping Center, as Lily Belli and I reported in our article last week. Located next to Erik’s Deli, Saison is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.
I had the absolute pleasure of previewing this new, hip spot recently with Lily for Lookout. Mark Bright — owner, local winemaker, and co-founder/beverage director of Saison Hospitality Group — welcomed us with his warm and generous hospitality and his passion for all things wine. We were greeted with a lovely glass of Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé ($12 glass), such a pretty pink in the cut-crystal glasses. This wine, made in the traditional sparkling wine method (like Champagne) from 100% pinot noir, is from Alsace, France, and is good quality for value. The wine was so fresh and lively with rose and white raspberry aromas and flavors.
Bright’s concept is to provide a welcoming, approachable and lively place to share fine wines alongside small-plate offerings of French pâtés, cheese plates and charcuterie plates. “I put together the menu with pâté en croute and terrines, super traditional like what you might find in a French bistro,” said Bright. Saison will also offer a wine club with monthly releases and unique benefits including wine storage service, where club members can store up to 10 cases of their wine in a secure, temperature-controlled space.
Saison’s impressive wine list features global and local wines by the taste (3 ounces), glass (6 ounces) or bottle (750 milliliters). Bright’s extensive knowledge of and access to French wines is on full display, both on the walls — wine bottles from his collection, wine maps, and wine-themed art — and on the wine menu. The list leans heavily on French wines, but also features wines from Italy and Spain and about a dozen Santa Cruz Mountains wines, including Bright’s own Saison Winery.
At the bar, seated in very comfortable soft leather bar stools, we sampled some of these wines. The 2018 Olivier Leflaive “Oncle Vincent,” Bourgogne Blanc ($20), one of two featured white Burgundy chardonnays on the list, had lovely citrus, apple and sandalwood notes and an intriguing tension on the palate. The 2017 vintage of the same wine showed more maturity and a rounder texture.
The pâtés were delicious, served alongside pickled vegetables. When I asked Bright what wine he suggested with the pickled white asparagus, one of the most challenging foods to pair wine with, he said easily, “Oh, the grüner!” as he poured some out for us to taste. The 2021 Kracher Grüner Veltliner ($12), a refreshing white wine from the Burgenland region in Austria, offered notes of pear, lime and white pepper, and indeed bridged well with the pickling spices in the asparagus.
The Maison de Partage “Blanches Fleurs” ($12),” a 2017 red Burgundy vintage from Bright’s own wine label in partnership with Maison Roche de Bellene in Beaune, had elegant pinot noir characteristics with silky fine-grain tannin: earth, cherry, mulberry, sassafras and cinnamon. When paired with the lamb terrine, the fruit qualities in the wine (cranberry, sour cherry, pomegranate) really popped.
We finished by sampling two Beaujolais cru wines: 2018 Château du Moulin-à-Vent “Clos de Londres” and 2020 Domaine de la Grand Cour Fleurie, both poured from 1.5-liter magnum bottles. The Fleurie was made from organic grapes and biodynamic farming practices (a sustainable and holistic approach that relies on seasons and phases of the moon and uses organic and homeopathic soil inputs in the vineyard). Fruity and perfumed with notes of black pepper and cinnamon, both Beaujolais wines tasted great with the pâté en croute.
Bright’s passion for his work, for wine and for hospitality is completely infectious. He and his team of seasoned professionals aim to draw the community in with their attention to detail and overall care for the customer experience. And did I mention they have Krug Champagne by the taste and glass? Krug is one of the most highly rated and expensive luxury brands and has been making outstanding quality bubbles since 1843. Saison Cellar & Wine Bar amps up the food and wine scene in Scotts Valley. I’m sure it will be a huge hit for local wine enthusiasts.
UPCOMING WINE EVENTS
Each column I highlight some of the wine events happening around our region. If you are a winery or organization that has an upcoming wine event, email me with the details at email@example.com.
Coming up this Saturday, Nov. 4, from 4-7 p.m., enjoy an evening of Wine & Roses at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. Lookout is a sponsor for the 40th anniversary of this annual fundraiser for the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley that features food, beer and wine tastings, plus a silent auction and an after-party with county favorites the Joint Chiefs.
On Friday, Nov. 10, is the Wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains popular annual event, Premier Cruz, featuring cabernet sauvignon wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains and dinner prepared by chef Ross Hanson of Los Gatos-based Oak & Rye. The event takes place at Vidovich Vineyards on Montebello Road in Cupertino. Tickets are going fast, so grab them while you can.
A couple of fun wine walks are coming up. The Downtown Santa Cruz Wine Walk is on Sunday, Nov. 12, from 2-5 p.m. This year, ticket, map and glass pickup is at Oswald Restaurant in Santa Cruz. Also on Nov. 12 is the Capitola Village Sip & Stroll from noon to 5 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 9, is the Aptos Wine Wander in Aptos Village, 1-4 p.m. For each of these events, buy a ticket, get a souvenir glass and map, and stroll from one retail shop to the next tasting wines of the region and maybe do a little early holiday shopping too.
Until next time!
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