Passport days, through the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, happen only four times a year. This is a chance to celebrate the Santa Cruz wine culture and learn something about local agriculture.
Some of the private wineries that will open up are Heart O’ The Mountain, McHenry Vineyard, Naumann, Pleasant Valley Vineyards, Zayante and Vine Hill Winery.
Heart O’ The Mountain is always popular on passport days, because they make top-notch pinots and are rarely open. If you make it up there, be sure to introduce yourself to Bob or Brandon Brassfield, the father-and-son duo who watch over the luscious pinot noir vineyards and are responsible for the winemaking.
Don Naumann, owner of Naumann Vineyards, is up Montebello Road near Ridge Vineyards. Naumann makes a tiny amount of excellent merlot and chardonnay every year. On passport day, he opens his home to visitors to try his wines and experience his amazing back-deck view of the Silicon Valley.
Pleasant Valley is another Santa Cruz winery that specializes in small-production pinot noir. Its Dylan David Pinot is estate-grown in its amphitheater of vines and is the wine for which the winery is best known. If you visit the Corralitos region on passport day, Pleasant Valley is a must.
Zayante Vineyards is one of those places that make you want to relax in the country. They produce merlot, zinfandel and a Rhone blend they call Clos Du Z, among other wines. Zayante is accessible from Bear Creek Road or from Graham Hill.
Information about buying or using passports can be found through the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, www.scmwa.com, or any of its members. You can also contact me for transportation or route advice or general questions about passport day.
If anyone out there has a passport booklet that is completely filled out with stamps, I would love to hear your story. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those of you with incomplete passports, you’ve got work left to do. 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.