The Bargetto family has grown grapes and made wine in the Soquel area for more than a century. Now John Bargetto introduces Regan Vineyards, a labor of love in Corralitos that’s newly open for public tastings.
When John Bargetto told his mentor, André Tchelistcheff, that he could see the ocean from the 53-acre plot of land he had just purchased above Corralitos for his family’s estate winery, the famed winemaker told him approvingly, in a thick Russian accent, “John, the best vineyards in the world see water.”
This was 30 years ago. Tschelistcheff, known as America’s most influential winemaker, had then recently consulted for Bargetto Winery, Bargetto’s family winery in Soquel, to help craft its premium pinot noir program. He knew, as Bargetto did, that the cold waters of Monterey Bay would breathe cool air over their new estate vineyard and help create an ideal environment for pinot noir, chardonnay and other varietals Bargetto planned to grow. John named the site Regan Vineyards, after his mother, Beverly Una Regan Bargetto.
Since then, Bargetto has brought friends, colleagues and wine club members to experience the gorgeous site and its stunning views. Now, for the first time, Bargetto invites the public to visit his beloved vineyard for special wine tasting experiences every Sunday through November. He has also released two single-varietal wines under his own label, Regan Vineyards Winery, that showcase Regan’s expressive terroir. While he remains the director of winemaking at his family’s Bargetto Winery, a position he has held for more than three decades, this marks a step out on his own from the family business.
To discover what makes this vineyard so special, I made my way out Green Valley Road, past trellised berry vines and apple orchards and up a steep gravel driveway to Regan Vineyards. After a short hike from the parking lot, I took a seat in a bistro chair inside the new, stately gazebo where the tasting takes place. Surrounded by rows of vines just beginning to sprout spring leaves, I sipped a glass of Regan’s inaugural 2020 chardonnay and took in the stupendous views of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Pajaro Valley and Pacific Ocean.
Bargetto — tall, friendly and energetic — wowed me and other guests with his knowledge of and enthusiasm for the site. Our side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, he explained, benefits from a cooler climate than the other side of the mountains near Los Gatos and Saratoga. The bay bathes the vines in cool air, which slows ripening and allows time for complex flavors to develop. He pointed out tall owl boxes as one of his many sustainable farming practices; the owls are excellent gopher hunters, and provide natural pest control. Regan, he says, has been certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance for the last five years.
Dirt crunched under our feet as we took our second pour, a pinot noir made from a Mount Eden clone, into the vineyard. We learned that the diversity of the soil also distinguishes Regan. Bargetto explained how, over the course of seven years, he painstakingly chose grape clones he believed would excel in Regan’s many soil types. He planted Italian nebbiolo in thin, sandy sandstone; pinot noir in heavy clay; and merlot in rich, alluvial soil. When he finished planting in the late 1990s, rows of vines covered more than 35 acres, including two clones of chardonnay, four clones of pinot noir, merlot, pinot grigio, nebbiolo, dolcetto, and a rare, dark-skinned Italian varietal called refosco. He blends those last three grapes, creating Bargetto Winery’s luscious “La Vita” red wine. Other wineries, including Stockwell Cellars in Santa Cruz and Beauregard Vineyards in Bonny Doon, also purchase Regan grapes.
This fall, Regan Vineyards Winery will release its first merlot. Next year, it will release a nebbiolo and, in honor of Bargetto Winery’s 90th anniversary, a champagne-style blanc de blanc sparkling wine made with Regan chardonnay.
The Bargetto family has grown grapes and made wine in the Soquel area for more than a century. Many of Bargetto’s four siblings and 10 cousins remain in the industry they grew up in, including his cousins, Peter and Paul, who own Soquel Vineyards with their partner Jon Morgan.
In the early 1980s, John Bargetto studied winemaking at the University of California Davis, and became the winemaker at his family’s winery soon after. He has held that position for the past 35 years, rising to director of winemaking. What made him want to step out on his own? To Bargetto, a father of three, growing grapes is a bit like parenthood. “It starts to give you just that deep, deep sense of joy in your soul to plant and grow and partner with nature and beauty and everything out there,” he says. “The tasting experience is an extension of the vineyard I’ve run for 30 years right this month.”
Originally, he planned to build an actual winery at Regan, complete with tasting room and wedding facilities. But the project became impossible when the projected cost more than doubled. But that setback hasn’t dampened Bargetto’s spirits, and hasn’t affected his ability to enjoy the number one feature of the vineyard that, to him, never grows old — its spectacular beauty.
Regan Vineyards Winery hosts tasting every Sunday through November, except July 3. Tasting experiences are $25 per person. Make reservations through reganwinery.com.