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Viticulture Association of the Santa Cruz Mountains

  The Vineyards

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Backgrounder               Pinot Noir


                                                                                                                                                                                       Muns Vineyard

Breathtaking vistas. Ocean and valley views. Lush forests. Majestic first-growth redwoods. Misty fog. Ocean breezes. Surf and sand. And mountain vineyards. This is the Santa Cruz Mountains. This mountain terroir is where we grow the grapes that produce our acclaimed wines.

The Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation

The Santa Cruz Mountains viticultural appellation was federally recognized in 1981, one of the first American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) to be defined by geophysical and climatic factors. The appellation encompasses the Santa Cruz Mountains range, from Half Moon Bay in the north to Mount Madonna in the south, and is defined primarily by elevation – down to 800 feet in the east (the valley side) and 400 feet in the west (the coastal side). Some ridge top vineyards are as high as 2600’.

The Santa Cruz Mountains appellation is characterized by many small, family-owned vineyards. Because of the generally small acreage they can be tended with great care. Most growers and vineyard workers personally know each vine! There is little mechanized farming, other than small tractors and ATVs for plowing and routine maintenance; harvesting is all done by hand, which protects the grapes from bruising and the plants from damage. This personal attention to the vines follows through in personal attention to winemaking, all of which creates better quality wines. 

The small, artisan wineries are tucked in among the trees along beautiful mountain roads, or perched atop the ridges with sweeping views into the valleys or along the coast. Visitors can meet with and talk with the winemakers and enjoy exploring the mountain and coastal ambience and little towns. And, given our proximity to the coast, visitors can come and taste our wines, then enjoy a sunset walk on the beach! 

The Santa Cruz Mountains has played a pivotal role in the history of winemaking in California, with roots going back over 100 years. Celebrated wines have been made in the Santa Cruz Mountains by Martin Ray following Prohibition and others since. Martin Ray’s original property is now farmed by Mt. Eden Vineyards, Peter Martin Ray Vineyards, and The Mountain Winery, which has recently replanted. Wineries such as Ridge, Mt. Eden and David Bruce have all played a pivotal role in establishing the legacy of exceptional wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains, a legacy that continues today with the growth of many new vineyards and wineries in the appellation.  

The appellation now is on the cusp of significant growth and change. Since the start of the 21st century the number of wineries has grown from about 40 to now over 60. And, changes in viticultural and winemaking practices (new trellising and improved canopy management, new clones, sustainable agricultural practices) are producing improved, more reliable and consistent quality wines throughout the appellation. The wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains possess a complex character backed with rich fruit flavors, depth and balance. These memorable qualities reflect our unique mountain terroir. And, delicious to drink now, they age extremely well. 

The Vineyards

Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards, whether looking west into the Pacific Ocean or Monterey Bay, or east into the Santa Clara (Silicon) Valley, or tucked into the hillsides, benefit from their proximity to the ocean. This marine influence gives us not only fabulous views, but also moderates the climate and sends coastal fog across the mountains with its cooling temperatures. Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards are distinguished from most California vineyards by being so close to the ocean and the benefits it brings to producing quality winegrapes – while also benefiting from the mountain elevation.  

There are over 200 vineyards* in the appellation, ranging from very small plantings under one acre to the largest at 64 acres. Only about 40 of these are larger than 10 acres, and 14 larger than 20. The largest vineyards are Jimsomare on Montebello Ridge in Cupertino (64 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Zinfandel); Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino (55.9 acres, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot); and Mt. Eden Vineyards in Saratoga (43 acres of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). 

Total acreage* is a little over 1100 acres, with about one quarter of that planted in Pinot Noir (229 acres); one quarter in Cabernet (249 acres); a little more than one quarter in Chardonnay (298 acres); and the rest in other varieties, most notably Merlot (at 94 acres) and Zinfandel (40 acres). There are upwards of 75 Pinot vineyards and all are very small –almost all under 15 acres. Most of the Pinot acreage (app. 70%) is planted in Santa Cruz County or on the mountain ridges above Monterey Bay. 

Family-owned vineyards and artisan wineries.  Personal attention to the vines and the wine. Low impact farming.  Attention to detail, patience, respect, the quality that time lends. The best winegrapes and the best wine result from this kind of dedication and artistry. These are Santa Cruz Mountains winegrapes. This is Santa Cruz Mountain wine. 

*Figures based on latest vineyard inventory conducted in 2003.

Click here for a printable PDF of the description above.

List of Vineyards of the Santa Cruz Mountains

Click here for a list of vineyards in the appellation (or the 'Vineyards List' button above).  Association members, please send information about your vineyard to the webmaster for inclusion on this page.


                                                                                                                         Windy Oaks Estate

 

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Last modified: 11-May-15 10:25 -0500