Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir Soars

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Santa Cruz Mountains

Megan Metz took the reins as Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association a little over a year and a half ago.  Working with the association’s board and members, Megan has been implementing new marketing strategies and together they are broadening the exposure of their vineyard practices, winemaking talent, and well-crafted wines coming from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

In conjunction with the 2014 Pinot Paradise event in April, five California wine writers came together to review selections of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages of Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation.  Lovely fruit and balance was showcased in all three vintages. I also picked up distinctive characteristics in each vintage, including accents of spice in 2010, vibrancy and brightness in 2011, and earthy, forest floor accents in 2012.  The tasting was enlightening, and made it quite clear this region continues to raise the bar.   Here is a peek at some of the praiseworthy wines reviewed at this tasting:

2010 Vintage

Kings Mountain Vineyards 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:    Forest floor aromas rise from the glass with this alluring, well structured Pinot Noir.  On the palate, black cherry, and raspberry fruit intermingle with exotic spices and a splash of cherry cola. Wonderfully integrated oak brings the wine to a glorious finale.    SRP:  $60

Muns Vineyard 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  The enticing fragrance of rose petals joins earthy, spicy elements rising from the glass.  At the core, the essence of cloves and cardamom spice interplay delectably with juicy black cherry and wild berry fruit. A well-balanced, smoothly textured wine with bright acidity throughout.  SRP: $40

Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards 2010 Regan Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:   Scents of minerality and baked cherry cobbler warmly welcome you into the glass.  Sweet black cherry and raspberry fruit takes center stage, highlighted with exotic spices weaving from start to finish.  The mouthfeel is rich and velvety smooth and the underlying nuances of sweet oak add further complexity.  SRP:  $50

Storrs Winery 2010 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Expressive aromas of stone fruit entice the senses with this demonstrative, smartly balanced wine.  Here is a densely fruited, powerful Pinot Noir resplendent in ripe black cherry, fresh strawberry, juicy plums and hints of licorice and savory spice.  Good depth and plenty of grip through the intense, captivating finish.  SRP:  ~$36

Silver Mountain Vineyards and Winery 2010 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  The seductive aroma of this estate Pinot Noir seizes your attention and takes you for a delicious, long lasting ride.  Elegant and sassy with tasty flavors of red and black cherry and raspberry fruit, a touch of herbs and a trace of ground anise seed flourishing on the palate.  Balanced and pure through the satisfying finish.  SRP:  ~$38

2011 Vintage

Big Basin Vineyards 2011 Woodruff Family Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  This sensuous PN opens with inviting floral aromas that leads to forest floor, dried earth and mushroom notes on entry.  It blossoms beautifully on the palate with bright cherry, raspberry and a splash of cola framed by savory spice.  Intensely flavored yet lithe and light on its feet; delicious.  SRP:  ~$40

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard 2011 Branciforte Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Aromas replete with spiced cherries and earth nuances waft from the glass.  The brightness of black and red fruit layered with savory spice, fragrant herbs and forest floor notes creates a cornucopia of flavors on the palate.  The meticulous balance of flavors persists through the finish; a stylish wine.  SRP:  $39

Kings Mountain Vineyards 2011 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California: Gorgeous perfumed aromas will have you swooning.  Fanciful, bright and alluring, the raspberry, strawberry, cherry cola and anise flavors fill the palate and a touch of earthiness weaves throughout.  Irresistible in its delicateness, this Pinot Noir speaks softly but carries itself with strength, embracing the palate and finishing with a delightful lift.  SRP:  ~$60

Storrs Winery 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Lovely perfumed floral aromas with send you into dreamland.  This elegant Pinot Noir unfolds elegantly from the first sip with vivid flavors of strawberry and pomegranate intermingling with dried cherry and licorice accents. Precise integration of oak adds further dimension.  Impeccably balanced with graceful tannins and a finish that is oh so bright.  SRP:  ~$36

Silver Mountain Vineyards and Winery 2011 Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Stunning forest floor and fresh cherry aromas waft from the glass and hold your attention upon entry.  Allspice, nutmeg and a hint of cinnamon join succulent black cherry, raspberry and earth components that meld seamlessly on the palate.  This Pinot Noir is lively, well focused and structured with silky tannins and a finish that persists memorably.  ~$38

Silvertip Vineyards 2011 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Here is a smoothly textured, fruit forward, tasty Pinot Noir.  Juicy raspberry and wild berry aromas and flavors burst forward, flooding the senses.  The vivid, palate pleasing fruit is accented with earth nuances, exotic tea spices and a kiss of oak on the lingering finish.  Beautifully balanced and vibrant; a delectable quaff.  SRP:  ~$32

Clos LaChance Winery 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California: This full bodied Pinot Noir showcases big brooding aromas of concentrated dark fruit with a dusting of fresh herbs.  Blossoming on the palate are bright and tasty sweet black cherries, strawberries and ripe plums interlacing with chopped herbs and anise spice.  The dense fruit is offset energetically with zesty acidity; a flavor packed Pinot Noir.   SRP:  $32

Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards 2011 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:   The expressive aromatics of red cherries and toasted oak notes grab your attention. Precisely balanced and flavorful, this wine displays a smooth backbone of tannins.  There is a brilliant vibe on the palate, with layers of red and black cherries, pomegranate, raspberry and cherry cordial joining savory spice, licorice and hints of earth; nicely crafted.  SRP:  $35

2012 Vintage

Mount Eden Vineyards 2012 Estate Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:    Wow a beautiful melding of Old World earthiness and New World juicy fruit.  The earthy, spicy components up front simply captivate the senses.  Chock full of raspberry, strawberry and red cherry fruit with subtle hints of toasty oak, mushroom and savory spice, this PN is refined from entry through the rewarding, lengthy finish.    SRP:  ~$70

House Family Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Cherry and baking spice aromas arouse the senses with this elegantly structured wine.  On the palate, flavors of black cherry, red currant, cranberry sauce, wild mushrooms and a sprinkling of fresh herbs seductively unfold and caress the palate. An artfully balanced, polished Pinot Noir.  SRP:  ~$54

Roudon-Smith Winery 2012 Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains California:  The dazzling perfumed aroma clearly proclaims Pinot Noir in the glass.  Hints of violets converge with cherry, raspberry and strawberry flavors heightened with spice and earthiness, all swirling delectably on the palate. This wine leaves a brilliant impression throughout with racy acidity playing off the pretty layers of fruit; luscious. SRP:  ~$30

Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery 2012 Lester Vineyard Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Abundantly fruity with fragrant, inviting aromatics.  Gliding across the palate are scrumptious flavors of fresh picked wild berries and cherries and a splash of cranberry soda interweaving with hints of earth and nicely integrated oak tones. Balanced and fresh through the elegant, lively finish; simply irresistible.  SRP:  $40

Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery 2012 Trout Gulch Pinot Noir; Santa Cruz Mountains, California:  Here is a deep and concentrated wine displaying a more powerful side of Pinot Noir.  Intensely structured and chewy with black cherry, raspberry, licorice and forest floor notes weaving together in a tightly knit fashion.  Full bodied with lively acidity keeping it in perfect balance.  Finishes with creamy, spiced oak notes.   SRP:  $35

And that’s not all . . . there are many more notable Pinot Noirs from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, and the region is producing high quality Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and other varieties in addition to stunning Pinot Noir.  Wines that can hold their own among those crafted from many top regions around the globe.  Check out the association’s website at, and plan a visit soon; you’ll surely discover wines that will rock your palate, too.