EATERS DIGEST: Doon to Earth, pie mania — and the truth about Gayle’s

Bonny Doon Vineyard and Ser Winery are teaming up to open a joint tasting room in Aptos this fall.
Bonny Doon Vineyard and Ser Winery are teaming up to open a joint tasting room in Aptos this fall.
(Via Bonny Doon Vineyard)

Bonny Doon Vineyard will team up with Ser Winery to open a tasting room in Aptos, plus a life-changing slice of pie at Venus Pie Trap and Gayle Ortiz puts a rumor to rest.

Heads up, foodies: I’m now sending alerts every time I publish a story. Sign up for texts from me here. Thanks to those of you who’ve already subscribed and offered your thoughts! And catch up on my recent work here.


Happy Friday! This week, pies are on my mind. First, I dug into the offerings of Venus Pie Trap, which opened earlier this month. At the newest addition to the Venus Spirits family, the focus, as implied, is on pies — sweet, savory, pizza and otherwise — and I was thrilled to discover some incredible flavors.

And if you’d like to see how your pie skills rank against other local pie makers, consider entering your sweet or savory creation in Collective Santa Cruz’s pie-making contest. Yours truly will be judging, as well as Collective Santa Cruz organizers Jalen Horne and Kendall Denike and baker Lance Ebert of S.C. Bread Boy. The winner will be announced at the next Collective Santa Cruz event — a country fair-themed affair. More info on that below.

Plus, Bonny Doon Vineyard announced this week that it will open a tasting room in Aptos Village this fall. I spoke with marketing manager and longtime Doonster Barbara Smith about what it has planned.

Read on to find out all about it — and Gayle Ortiz puts a rumor to rest, a fall wreath-making class and Monterey Bay Cocktail Week.


Nicole Walsh and Randall Grahm during blending trials.
Nicole Walsh and Randall Grahm during blending trials.
(Via Bonny Doon Vineyard)

Attention, earthlings — I have a transmission from the Dooniverse! Bonny Doon Vineyard is touching down in Aptos Village and will open a new tasting room there this fall. The famed winery, headed by Randall Grahm, closed its Davenport tasting room and relocated operations from Santa Cruz to Aromas in 2019. Now, Grahm is partnering with Nicole Walsh of Ser Winery and together they are rebranding the existing Ser tasting room as Doon to Earth. Both Ser and Bonny Doon wines will be available to taste. In recent years, Bonny Doon has returned to its Rhone varietal roots, so expect grenache-based wines as well as lesser-known varietals, including very limited quantities of wine from Popelouchum, Grahm’s experimental vineyard in San Juan Bautista.

Grahm and Walsh have a long relationship; Walsh has been the winemaker at Bonny Doon for more than 20 years, and launched her own winery, Ser, in 2012. The duo share a love of wines that spark curiosity and enjoy exploring unique grape varieties and winemaking methods. Both source grapes from select vineyards on the Central Coast. Guests can expect an approachable, unpretentious environment with Bonny Doon’s well-known whimsy — although no word yet if the flying cigar spaceship will make an appearance.

The team is hoping for a late October opening, and I will keep in the know on the details. See Bonny Doon’s current selection of wines at

If you’ve heard a rumor recently that Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria in Capitola has sold, I’m happy to report that it is not true. A reader and Gayle’s fan emailed me to ask about the validity of such a rumor, so I reached out to owner Gayle Ortiz, who put this and any future rumors to rest. “We never intend on selling it — it’s our life,” she says. She and her husband live three blocks away from the beloved local bakery and deli, which opened in 1978, although their longtime business partner Louisa Beers manages the business on a daily basis.

“We could not do it without her. She’s a treasure, along with our amazing longtime staff members who number in the dozens,” says Ortiz. Guests can continue to stop in for blue plate specials, a wide selection of prepared meals, fluffy loaves of bread and exceptional pastries seven days a week. See the menu at

Eat this

The mushroom and cheese pizza at Venus Pie Trap.
The mushroom and cheese pizza at Venus Pie Trap.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

I appreciate commitment to a theme, and Venus Pie Trap does just that. Here, at the newest member of the Venus Spirits family — located next door to the recently opened Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside on the Esplanade in Rio Del Mar — the focus is on pie rather than the Westside distillery’s craft spirits. Sweet and savory pies, quiches and hand pies from Oakland’s Edith’s Pies fill the deli case while thin, Neopolitan-ish New Haven-style pizzas slide in and out of the brick-lined oven. At 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, most customers are walking away with coffees made with Santa Cruz’s 11th Hour Coffee and beautiful Manresa Bread pastries from Los Gatos or bagels by Santa Cruz bagel darlings Holey Roller — both of which also have a commanding presence in that same deli case. But I came for pie and found myself unable to decide between a white pizza with mushrooms and a slice of coconut cream — so I ordered both. I recommend if you find yourself in a similar situation to do the same.

The aroma of rosemary and melted cheese surrounded me as I dug into the first slice. It was my first experience with a New Haven pizza, and I know we will be good friends. It made such a good impression that I might even be brave enough to come back and try the clam and garlic pizza — a regional speciality, I’m told.

A "life-changing" slice of coconut cream pie from Edith's Pie at Venus Pie Trap.
A “life-changing” slice of coconut cream pie from Edith’s Pie at Venus Pie Trap.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

My slice of coconut cream pie, however, was life-changing. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it was one of the best slices of pie I’ve ever had. The coconut filling was the perfect balance of chewy and creamy. Paired with the graham cracker crust, nutty and rich with brown butter and a touch salty, it was a transcendent pie-xperience. I had heard that Edith’s Pies, made by a small pop-up based in Oakland, were the best. While I have yet to try other creations like the raspberry lemonade ice box, the chocolate chess or strawberry streusel (all $8 a slice), based on the coconut cream alone I think its fans must be right. And this is the only place to find them in Santa Cruz County.

Venus Pie Trap is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and pizza is available starting at 11 a.m. View the menu at


If fall decorating is on your mind, be sure to stop by the Foodie, Fruity Wreath Making workshop at the Scotts Valley Farmers Market this Saturday. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., visit the wreath-making station piled with greenery and colorful components and make your own festive autumn wreath decked out with dried fruit, dried flowers and foraged foliage. This workshop is free and open to everyone. More info at

Are your pie skills unmatched? Enter your sweet or savory homemade pie in Collective Santa Cruz’s pie contest for a chance to win $50 and some serious bragging rights to show off at the next event. Collective Santa Cruz’s free, semimonthly events focus on supporting local beverage, food and craft artisans, and Wednesday’s event at Harbor Café in Santa Cruz is country fair-themed — hence the pie baking. I will be judging these pies along with Collective Santa Cruz organizers Jalen Horne and Kendall Denike and baker Lance Ebert of S.C. Bread Boy. To enter, drop your pie off at Harbor Café on Sunday between 4:30 and 5 p.m. The winner will be announced at the Collective Santa Cruz event Wednesday. More info on Instagram at @collectivesantacruz.

Love great cocktails? Edible Monterey Bay and Event Santa Cruz have teamed up to bring the first Monterey Bay Cocktail Week to the Central Coast. The event starts this Saturday and runs through Sunday, Sept. 25, aiming to highlight exceptional cocktail makers in our area. All 18 participants are offering special cocktails in addition to customer favorites. Santa Cruz County participants include: Chocolate, Copal, Jack O’Neill Restaurant & Lounge at the Dream Inn, Vim Dining & Desserts, Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen’s Santa Cruz and Aptos locations and East End Gastropub. See the full list of participants and speciality cocktails at