And More West Side Food and Fun
By Mary Lindsay
Why come to Santa Cruz? There is the beach, of course. And there is also a thriving food and wine culture supporting locally-sourced fare, with a couple of dozen wineries and excellent restaurants in town and the surrounding area. There are also scenic drives; fun activities nearby for the family; and for family members of the furry kind, Surf City Vintners tasting rooms are dog friendly.
Urban Wine Tasting in Santa Cruz
On the western edge of Santa Cruz as you head north on Hwy.1 towards Davenport you will discover a trendy little pocket of shops, eateries and, best of all, the Surf City Vintners group of micro-boutique wineries. These ten family-owned wineries in renovated warehouse spaces make the Westside a mecca for wine tasting. Enjoy a hip urban wine experience!
Spend an afternoon strolling between the winery tasting rooms just a couple of blocks from each other on Ingalls and Swift Streets, and Storrs Winery is nearby, just off of the Hwy. 17/Mission Street interchange, in the Old Sash Mill.
Here you can see the winemaking process in action. At harvest, bins of winegrapes are unloaded right in front of you. At several tasting rooms the wine production, with fermentation tanks and barrels, is in the same space as the tasting room. Inhale the heady aroma of wine as it is made. Talk with the winemakers, who are usually there and happy to share their stories, as well as their wines.
Coming into Santa Cruz just off of Hwy. 17 or Hwy. 1 you will find Storrs Winery in the Old Sash Mill off of River Street. Steve and Pamela started their winery in 1998, and specialize in Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay, as well as Zinfandel and a wide variety of red and white wines. A trip here is an exploration in different wine varieties.
Odonata and Baked Goods on Mission Street
Heading north, further on up Mission Street, you will come to the rest of the Surf City Vintners. On Mission St. is Odonata, where winemaker Denis Hoey specializes in handcrafting small lots of wine from unique vineyards. The Odonata, or dragonfly theme, extends to the name of his Rhone white blend, River Skimmer. You will also find some hearty reds, like Syrah, Sangiovese, and Malbec. While there, stop into Companion Bakeshop for fresh-baked bread and pastries (open only until mid-afternoon).
Onward to the Swift Street Courtyard
From Odonata, cross the railroad tracks and you will find several wineries in two warehouse buildings at the corner of Swift and Ingalls Streets, known as the Swift Street Courtyard.
Silver Mountain is known for its organically-grown estate wines from its vineyard high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where Jerold O’Brien has been farming and making wine for more than 30 years. At his Surf City tasting room and gallery you can taste Chardonnay; several Pinot Noirs; and Silver Mountain’s famous “Alloy,” a Bordeaux blend.
Across the way, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard/Quinta Cruz, winemaker Jeff Emery makes a wide variety of wines that you can enjoy, including Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir. You can also find some of the more unusual Iberian varieties here under Jeff’s Quinta Cruz label, including Durif, Malbec, and Grenache. If you are lucky you might have the opportunity to taste a 30-year old library wine from Jeff Emery’s earlier winemaking years.
Enjoy the artwork adorning the gallery walls next door at Sones Cellars, where Michael and Lois Sones focus on Zinfandels and Petite Sirah, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and a lovely white wine blend, Cancion del Mar, and Pinot Noir.
At Vino Tabi (which means ‘wine journey’ in Japanese) you can taste a selection of white wines including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc; and red wines including Pinot Noir and Syrah, many from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Vino Tabi is a custom crush facility, and you can take classes here and make your own wine.
At the end of the building, MJA Vineyards tastes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sit outside on the ‘lanai’ and enjoy the hospitality of owner Marin Arturkovich. MJA is also the home of the “best coffee in America,” according to Forbes Magazine in 2001, grown by Marin (a surfer) at his Kona plantation and sold at the tasting room.
Cross the Street to find Rexford Winery and Sparklings at Equinox
Rexford Winery (across the street) is the passionate second career for UCSC astronomy and astrophysics professor Joe Miller, who has also taught UCSC extension courses on enology and wine appreciation for many years. The tasting room is inside the wine production facility, surrounded by barrels and tanks. You will find Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir and Merlot, and Zinfandel.
A huge bonus and not to be missed is the sparkling wine at Equinox Champagne Cellar on Swift Street, where winemaker Barry Jackson also makes still red wine under the Bartolo label, including Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and several red blends.
For special events, winemaker Gerry Turgeon will pour his Trout Gulch wines at Equinox, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, and more.
The Surf City Vintners tasting rooms are open weekends, and some are open during the week. For tasting room hours, directions and more information, see the website at www.surfcityvintners.com
More Swift Street Courtyard Fun, Lunch and Shopping
In the Swift Street Courtyard you can bask in the sun at the courtyard café at Kelly’s Bakery, and enjoy a sandwich or scrumptious dessert. The patio is dog-friendly, so bring your furry friend.
Be sure to stop into el Salchichero next door, a charcuterie that serves up locally sourced, humanely treated, organically fed meats. Take home a jar of their fantastic barbecue sauce!
Explore the little shops, including soaps and gifts at Scentsations; boutique clothing at Cameron Marks and The Vintage Store. For “yarnies” there is The Swift Stitch; and Le Salon Cruz for a beauty break.
At the other end of the building, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing serves up a dozen different organic micro-brewed beers and ales. (Link to our story)
Beaches, Cafés, Galleries, and more…
Around the corner from the Equinox tasting room is Café Iveta on Delaware St., perfect for a lovely lunch, especially if it is nice out and you can sit outdoors. It is only a couple of blocks from, and on the way to, Natural Bridges State Beach and park. Find fresh-baked pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches. You can also purchase the packaged scone, muffin and cupcake mixes that Iveta produces here (and that are distributed to shops throughout the area), including gluten-free options. They also sell their own brand of organic jams, curds and English clotted cream.
One street away is the Frans Lanting Gallery, with an exhibit of stunning wildlife photographs from around the world. Saturday mornings, year round, the Westside Farmers Market sets up at 2801 Mission St. (at Western Dr.), only a couple of blocks away, where dozens of local farmers offer fresh, mostly organic, produce.
Create a picnic from the gourmet cheeses and takeout bar at the New Leaf market and head down the street to the Natural Bridges State Beach, less than half a mile away. At UCSC’s Seymour Marine Discovery Center on the other side of the park you can view the science exhibits and aquarium, and hold in your hand sea creatures from the seawater table. The Center is the University’s laboratory for ocean field research, and is open to the public. Then you can bike or walk along West Cliff Drive and it is only 1.5 miles to the roller coaster and rides at the Boardwalk, past Lighthouse Point where you can take in the Surfer Museum and watch the surfers at Steamer’s Lane.
Time for Dinner
Spend a delightful afternoon at the Surf City Vintners at their Westside enclave, then dine at any one of a number of excellent Santa Cruz restaurants.
West End Tap & Kitchen
Closest to the Surf City Vintners, next to several of the tasting rooms at 334D Ingalls St., is West End Tap & Kitchen, serving lunch and dinner. This neighborhood pub features its own West End beers and ales, as well as those from other local microbreweries; and the menu is based on fresh local ingredients. You can wine taste with the Surf City Vintners for the afternoon, then stroll across to West End Tap for dinner.
Try the duck fat popcorn with smoked paprika for a snack; the smoked salmon with tarragon aioli for an appetizer; and consider Mary’s Heritage Chicken with English pea, mint and ricotta puree ($16) or the stout braised Angus short rib with mascarpone polenta ($17) for your entrée. Vegetarian options are available. The house-made ice cream and other dessert selections are totally yummy.
Also close by is Ristorante Avanti, at 1917 Mission Street, only a few blocks from the Surf City Vintners and open for lunch and dinner (reservations recommended). The emphasis is on fresh local ingredients. Check out the cocktail menu. For dinner, try the basil burrata or Rodoni Farm roasted artichokes as an appetizer; the Windmill Farm dinosaur kale salad; and for your entrée, the chicken from Fogline Farm in Soquel, or any of the delicious pasta choices. Vegetarian options are available.
In addition to these neighborhood restaurants, there are many excellent restaurants in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area including Soquel, Aptos and Capitola. Ask your tasting room hosts for recommendations, or visit www.santacruz.org (the Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council).
Dare to Pair, A Food & Wine Pairing Challenge
A great time to visit the area is on May 18 when the Surf City Vintners partner with Cabrillo College Culinary students to host Dare to Pair, A Food & Wine Paring Challenge. Each participating winery will pair their wine with a dish created by a Cabrillo College culinary student. Walk from winery to winery then vote on your favorite.
Or visit the day after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2014, for the Art, Wine & Gift Bazaar. Visit www.surfcityvintners.com for information on these events and all the wineries.