Saturday, Jan. 15, is the first Passport Day of the year, and Sunday, Jan. 16, is the Wine and Crab Taste-off. Both days will provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about wine, as well as wine-and-food pairing.
Passport Day in Santa Cruz is always an enjoyable outing. All of the wineries in Santa Cruz are available for tastings, and it is a great opportunity to taste wines from wineries that are usually closed to the public. Passport Day only happens four days a year, and for many of our smaller boutique wineries, it is the only chance they get to display their wines. Wineries will be open to folks with Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association passports from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., many with special tastings and other perks.
One of the places I plan to stop by is Michael’s on Main in Soquel. There will be five wineries pouring at Michael’s, including Dancing Creek Winery and Aptos Creek Vineyards. Dancing Creek might be the last Santa Cruz Winery whose wines I haven’t tried yet. They produce very few cases each year, and this will be one of the only chances we’ll get to taste their pinot noir and chardonnay.
Aptos Creek is a perfect example of what Santa Cruz wine-making is all about. They are family-owned, and their vineyard is their front yard. They make a minuscule amount of pinot noir every year, and it is very reasonably priced. The best part is that they have wines available that have already had some considerable aging (eight to 10 years). This means that you can buy a bottle of Aptos Creek Pinot Noir that is already in its prime for less than $30.
The day after Passport Day is the eighth annual Wine and Crab Taste-off. Four restaurants will serve a crab-and-wine pairing from 2 to 5 p.m. as they vie for the judges’ good opinions to be named Crab Cook Champion.
Participating restaurants are Paradise Beach Grille in Capitola, Café Cruz in Soquel Ma Maison in Aptos and Sanderlings at Seascape Resort, also in Aptos.
Full disclosure: By the way, I will be one of the judges this year.
To get your passport ($40) and for more information on either event, visit www.thesantacruzexperience.com or www.scmwa.com. Cheers!
Austin Twohig is a certified sommelier and partner in The Santa Cruz Experience, which conducts winery tours in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Contact him at email@example.com.