For the Soquel Foothills, proximity is far and away the most important of these factors.
The Soquel Foothills District consists of Soquel Vineyards, Hunter Hill Vineyards, Bargetto Winery and Poetic Cellars. What binds these wineries? Proximity and pinot noir.
Soquel, Hunter Hill and Bargetto are all on Glen Haven Road and Main Street. Poetic is just down the way on Rodeo Gulch. Soquel and Hunter Hill both grow estate pinot noir, while Bargetto and Poetic get their pinot noir grapes from Regan Vineyard in Corralitos.
Soquel Vineyards makes hands-down some of the best pinot in California. The Muns Vineyard and Lester Vineyard pinots are to die for. Peter and Paul Bargetto use high-end French oak and dry ice during fermentation, among other techniques, to make sure their pinot is some of Santa Cruz’s finest.
A note: Soquel is also owned by Bargetto, but it should not be associated with its neighbor down the street. The two wineries are completely separate.
Hunter Hill makes a vast variety of wines that come from different parts of California. Their estate wines include pinot noir, merlot and a delicious syrah. The estate vineyards of both Soquel and Hunter Hill are only a stone’s throw away and consist of healthy, loamy soil and some clay. Both are smothered by morning fog on many days. Pinot noir grapes love morning fog almost as much as redwood trees do.
Poetic Cellars might be the new kid on the block, but Katy Lovell, the proprietor and wine maker, has been in the wine game for many years. She gets her pinot noir grapes from the neighboring Bargetto Winery and specializes in Rhone varietals, such as mourvedre (pronounced moy-ved), syrah and viognier.
Bargetto has been around since Prohibition and makes more wine than all three of its neighbors combined. The winery makes an array of different dry wines and sweet meads.
The biggest difference between the Soquel Foothills wineries is the seemingly endless varieties they cumulatively make — Italian nebbiolo and sangiovese, French cabernets and syrahs, port and zinfandel.
On the other hand, this can be seen as a similarity, too. Any time you visit this region, you know you could be heading home with a grab-bag of different wines.
That experimental trait is true for many, though not all, Santa Cruz region wineries and will be a recurring thread in its patchwork of districts. Pinot noir will also be noteworthy, as it is the preeminent grape of the western side of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
This column is the first of several in which I’ll describe my wine districts of Santa Cruz County. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.