Recently, in addition to private tastings, I've been approached by several philanthropists to take part in auctions where they donate a wine experience that includes me guiding a tasting of a flight of specific wines. The themes vary, from verticals of Bordeaux to something as specific as remote Californian AVAs.
I love preparing for these classes, well, actually I enjoy prepping for all of my classes because it gives me the opportunity to brush up on my knowledge and explore some new terrains. Nothing replaces first hand experiences so I threw Theo into the car and headed to the Santa Cruz mountains to visit a couple of their prominent wineries. It's funny, I've driven through and flown above this AVA, but never really grasped this wine growing region. I've tasted at Testarossa, David Bruce, and Bonny Doon but it's not until you really settle in and absorb the slopes, the sun, and the fog, that you start to understand what makes these wines so special.
I started outside of Morgan Hill in a town called San Martin, the home of Clos La Chance winery. The estate is epic. Primarily used as a place for weddings and other large events the winery is grand and landscaped to the nines. A golf course lines one side while acres of vineyards cover the sun saturated rolling foot hills. Primarily known for their Cabernet and Chardonnay, I fell in love with their Pinot and their botrytisised Chenin Blanc, Nectar. These two made the cut and were phenomenal additions to the line up.
I hurriedly drove to my next and final stop, Mount Eden Vineyardsabove Saratoga. And when I say above Saratoga, I mean ABOVE Saratoga (2,000 feet above the Santa Clara Valley). I knew I wasn't going to be tasting there (I figured out why once I made the journey), but the drive was not what I had prepared for. Thanks to my CRV we made it up what felt like sides of a cliff to the home of Jeffrey and Ellie Patterson, where Ellie met me with her dog. We walked the vineyards while she pointed out landmarks, delved deep into the history and future of Mount Eden Vineyards, and allowed me to shoot numerous photos of the property, which is all hand harvested, dry farmed, and nearly 100% organic. Their Mount Eden Saratoga Cuvee Cabernet would make a welcome addition to the flight. I left just as the dense fog started to roll in and blanket the vines for the night.
A few weeks later the tasting event took place in Menlo Park at the home of the doctors that donated the experience to the auction. She had chef Allison come in and together we collaborated on a menu that she did an exemplary job of designing and executing. Here's a peep at the line up with pictures to follow.
Exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains
May 22, 2011
2007 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
2007 Clos la Chance Santa Cruz MountainPinot Noir
2006 Mount Eden SaratogaCuvee Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 David Bruce Petite Syrah
2007 Katherine Kennedy Lateral Bordeaux Blend
2007 Clos la Chance "Nectar"
And a thoughtful note from the host!
"We really enjoyed ourselves and had the sense that our guests did as well. We were impressed with your wine choices and your presentation."