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It’s Back! Vintners Festival Returns With a Glimpse of the Harvest

October 12, 2021 – For those who didn’t get the memo, the popular Passport program which took place quarterly in the Santa Cruz Mountains since the 1990s, is no more. The Vintners’ Festival, which pre-dated Passport and was the original event developed to welcome visitors to wineries that were largely not open to the public during the 1980s, has replaced it. 

Nicholson Vineyards in Corralitos is participating in the Vintner’s Festival

This new version of Vintner’s Festival offers two opportunities for wine discovery, one in the spring and one in the fall. Rolled out earlier this year, it was a big hit with wineries and visitors alike, as it required advance reservations for seatings at each place visited, with a maximum number of stops per day.  Encouraged by the response, the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association is repeating Vintners Festival the weekend of October 23 and 24.  

Participating in this round are over two dozen Santa Cruz Mountains wineries, including some that aren’t typically open to the public. Reservations are required, and tickets cost $45 per person for a single day or $80 for both days. Tickets will allow guests to visit up to four wineries per day, although a maximum of three visits is recommended. Groups of up to 6 can be accommodated at most wineries, while others limit guests to parties of four or even two. Reservations must be made for the entire party at the same time using the handy tool on the WSCM site. Allow one hour per visit. Some wineries will be open one day, while others will be open both days of the weekend. Please see the website for details and to make reservations. 

Fall is always an exciting time to be at a winery, as the aromas and activity of harvest are unlike anything else: it’s like dropping into the kitchen of your favorite restaurant while they’re making dinner. Some wineries will still be actively punching down fermenting grapes, especially those in the coastal areas, where harvest is running up to three weeks behind this year. 

In downtown Los Gatos, Gali Vineyards will be participating both days, pouring four of their estate grown wines from their vineyard in Watsonville. Left Bend recently relocated from downtown Los Gatos to Redwood Hill Vineyard in Watsonville, near Mount Madonna, where winegrower Richard Hanke will be open both days, accepting appointments for groups no larger than two. 

Also in Watsonville, Integrity will be open both days, and in Scotts Valley, visit Kissed by an Angel both days. 

Lester Family Vineyards will be open to festival goers on Saturday, October 23

In the Summit area, participating wineries open both Saturday and Sunday include Burrell School, Muns Vineyard, Silver Mountain, Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery and Villa Del Monte. 

Kings Mountain Vineyards from Woodside will be pouring at Vino Cruz in Soquel on Saturday, October 23, only. They will pour several vintages of their two Pinot Noirs, one made from the Martini clone and the other from Martini and 667, called “Bacchus.” If you ever doubted the difference between clones of Pinot grown in the same vineyard, doubt no more. 

New to the program, Sandar & Hem will be pouring at Cantine Wine Bar in Aptos both days, as will Aptos Vineyard, the newly reinvented brand, for whom John Benedetti is making wine. 

Also in Aptos, Sante Arcangeli will be open both days for Vintner’s Festival, accepting reservations for parties of up to two. 

Storrs Winery will be open at the Old Sash Mill on Saturday, October 23, pouring wines on the outdoor crush pad. Of all the wineries participating in Vintner’s Festival this year, Storrs is the winner of the longevity prize on the Santa Cruz side of the AVA. No other winery has been open to the public as long as this gem, started by Pamela and Steven Storrs in Santa Cruz in 1988. But if you include the eastern side of the AVA, Woodside Vineyards takes the prize, founded in 1963. Cooper Garrod planted its first vineyard in 1972 and Fogarty opened in 1981. We’ve got some deep winemaking history here. 

In Corralitos, Lester Family and Nicholson will be open Saturday only, while Windy Oaks will be open both days pouring 2018 One-Acre Estate Chardonnay, 2019 Estate Pinot Noir, Cuvée 2019 Estate Pinot Noir and Wild Yeast 2018 Estate Syrah.

Big Basin Vineyards will be pouring at their Boulder Creek winery location off China Grade both days. October is a great time to appreciate the fall colors as you drive through the quaint town of Boulder Creek and down Highway 236, admiring the brilliance of the maples on the golf course that were spared the ravages of the 2020 CZU fire. Guaranteed, your trip down Memory Lane to the winery will be one you won’t forget. Watch out for wild turkeys, as they seem to like congregating there. We’re not that far away from Thanksgiving, so Vintner’s Festival presents a great opportunity to buy some special local wines for your feast this year. 

For more information, contact Wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains at (831) 685-8463 or visit winesofthesantacruzmountains.com.

About the author

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Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.