Santa Cruz Mountains

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Santa Cruz Mountains, diverse 350,000 acre/141,700 ha california wine region and ava immediately south of San Francisco. Its vineyards amount to a light dusting of freckles on a long, lopsided, bony body. In a stretch of coast ranges that begins as the ridgepole of the San Francisco peninsula and continues south as far as the city of Santa Cruz, climates and soils would be so diverse as to beggar description even if vineyards were not separated one from another by miles of redwood forest, meadows, and artist colonies populated by cyber-refugees earning a living through the optical fibre. The most useful points to make about it are: this is one of California’s cooler growing regions; Pinot Noir has a rich history here, although Riesling and Zinfandel had their day in the last century; Cabernet Sauvignon has won the AVA its greatest fame albeit grown on the inland slopes of the ridgeline (see ridge Vineyards); and a prominent rhône ranger, Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm, started in the counterculture woods behind UC Santa Cruz. Jeffery and Ellie Patterson carry on Martin Ray’s quest to produce pure, minerally Chardonnays and Pinot Noir at Mount Eden Vineyards, and stalwarts David Bruce and Thomas Fogarty wineries are also admirable. There is also much excitement for the wines being made by newer producers such as Rhys, Varner, and Big Basin. In the Corralitos area at the southern end of the AVA small producers such as Alfaro and Windy Oaks produce tiny quantities of precise, focused Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that are relatively low in alcohol thanks to the cool growing conditions. Top wineries include Ridge, David Bruce, Mt Eden, Fogarty, and Storrs. At the southern end of the AVA, overlooking Monterey bay, the hamlet of Corralitos is the geographical centre of activity for many small-scale producers of Pinot Noir which have sprung up since the mid 1990s.