Quick Take:

From a grenache-focused dinner in downtown Santa Cruz later this month to a grand tasting in April and a May sip-and-stroll event, the spring puts the focus on celebrating wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

This story was originally featured in this week’s Lily Belli on Food newsletter. Be first the first to hear about food and drink news in Santa Cruz County — sign up for Lily’s email newsletter here and text alerts here.

Three upcoming events showcase the unique flavors of the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, federally recognized since 1981.

Tickets are still available for a celebration of grenache at Big Basin Vineyards’ Santa Cruz tasting room on Friday, March 31. Winemaker Blake Yarger will lead guests through a horizontal tasting of grenache and grenache-dominant wines, accompanied by a five-course meal that includes braised lamb shank with sweet potato puree and spring onion. Grenache, also known as garnache, is one of the most widely planted grapes worldwide — but it’s also difficult to grow. Beloved by winemakers, it’s often overshadowed by more popular red varietals when it comes to consumers’ tastes. With six wines being showcased at this event, Big Basin Vineyards aims to change that.

The Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association will host its seventh annual Santa Cruz Mountains Grand Wine Tasting at Mountain Winery in Saratoga next month. The April 30 event will feature more than 150 wines from over 40 different vintners, according to executive director Keikilani McKay. One of the highlights of the annual event is a silent auction where rare and collectible wines will be up for bidding.

General-admission tickets are $70 before March 22 and $79 after that. If you’re looking for a more exclusive experience, VIP grand tasting tickets are $105 before March 22 and increase to $120 after that. These include early entry and access to the VIP lounge with special rosé and sparkling wine tastings accompanied by small bites (including desserts from Marini’s). Go really big and purchase the VIP grand tasting coupled with a winemaker-led tasting featuring library wines from the likes of Ridge Vineyards, Kathryn Kennedy and Thomas Fogarty. Purchase tickets here.

A winemaker dinner at Big Basin Vineyards' Pacific Avenue tasting room.
A winemaker dinner at Big Basin Vineyards’ Pacific Avenue tasting room. Credit: Via Alex Potter / Big Basin Vineyards

If you prefer to walk and sip, the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz is hosting its annual Spring Wine Walk on May 7. Attendees will start at Soif and enjoy wines from 12 participating wineries — which have yet to be announced. It’s a perfect opportunity for a little shopping while you’re at it. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 the day of. Purchase them here.

Lily took a deeper dive last summer into what our regional winemakers anticipated for the 2022 harvest and what makes this area so special.

Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...