As wineries in our coastal mountains prepare for harvest 2019, some are getting ready to bottle prior vintages. It’s a great time to barrel taste the future and put your orders in! Get your tickets to the first Annual Barrels of Corralitos event and for one price you get to taste not only current vintage wines, but ones that haven’t yet been bottled.
Six wineries along the Corralitos Wine Trail are getting ready to welcome you on Sunday, September 1, to their special spots, where you’ll get to see the vineyards at their busiest, ripening those grapes to perfection in the late summer sun.
At each of the six stops, you’ll enjoy tasting flights, barrel samples and special pricing on futures, with live music and food for purchase at some locations.
Your $75 ticket includes tastings at all six participating wineries and a commemorative glass. Please note that this is an adult only event and there is no shade or water available in the parking areas, so please leave your pets comfortably at home.
Here’s what you can look forward to at each stop.
Alfaro Family Vineyards Everyone loves hanging out with Richard Alfaro and family, because you instantly feel like part of the clan when you arrive. They will be sampling these wines out of barrel:
- 2018 Trout Gulch Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir
- 2018 Bates Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
Both are priced at $45 each. Futures (3 bottle minimum purchase) are 20% off for non-members, and 30% off for Alfaro Wine Club members.
Richard and Mary Kay will also be pouring these current releases:
- 2017 Mary Katherine Vineyard Estate Chardonnay
- 2018 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir
- 2017 Heirloom Clone Estate Pinot Noir
Wood fired pizza will be available for purchase. For your listening pleasure, enjoy the sounds of a Brazilian guitar/flute duo playing from 11:30am to 3:30pm.
El Vaquero Winery The Prikazky family welcomes you to their dream spot in the hills of Corralitos. Although they’re not officially open yet (projected for late Fall), they’re welcoming you to taste the following barrel samples:
- 2018 Pinot Noir (Single Swan Clone) – Gali Vineyard, Corralitos – $50 per bottle, list price
- 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon – Church Creek Vineyards, Santa Clara Valley – $38 per bottle, list price
Futures prices are: 3, 6 and 12 bottles, at 10, 15 and 25% discount off list respectively.
Additionally, they will be tasting:
- 2015 Chardonnay (Bruzzone Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains)
- 2014 El Vaquero Estate Vineyard (Corralitos, Santa Cruz Mountains)
- 2014 Cabernet Franc (Church Creek Vineyards, Santa Clara Valley)
- 2013 Petite Sirah (Granite Hill Vineyard, El Dorado)
Current releases will be offered at 10% discount on cases, with 20% discount for all wine purchases for wine club members.
For music, El Vaquero Winery will be featuring Ted Welty of local Santa Cruz bands Spun and Locomotive Breath, playing solo acoustic, and small bites will be offered.
Never heard of these folks? No worries. They’ve been deep background for some time. Bob and Dean got into winemaking after taking a class at Cabrillo. Their Pinot Noir vineyard was planted in 2011, overlooking the Monterey Bay, with four blocks containing 2A, 115, Calera, and Swan clones. Their first harvest was 2013, which marked their first commercial vintage. Daughter, Alex, took over as winemaker in 2015.
Lester Estate Wines Patti Lester and family welcome you to their beautiful 210-acre Deer Park Ranch, where two herds of deer have roamed for decades. Of course, the vineyard is fenced! A new deck area, offering views of the vineyards, backs up to a hillside where you might catch a glimpse of a coyote furtively sneaking about in the eucalyptus grove, or perhaps a flock of turkeys.
For the Barrel Tasting event, they’ll be pouring a 2018 Lester Estate Wines Reserve Pinot Noir, which will be selling for $75.
They’ll also offer a tasting flight of some of their current releases:
- 2018 rosé of Syrah
- 2018 Lester Estate Wines Chardonnay
- 2016 “Domingo” Pinot Noir
For food, they are offering a Picnic Pail Experience, which should be reserved in advance. It’s intended for two to eight guests, at $120 per couple. This includes a tasting of five current release wines, plus a full glass of your favorite wine while you enjoy a gourmet picnic basket, with salami, cheese, pate, fruit and baguette.
Nicholson Vineyards This bucolic spot awaits your visit to try a selection of their offerings. For barrel tasting, they’ll offer the 2018 Estate Pinot Noir, Brooks Block. Regular price when released will be $38, with futures priced at $32.30 (15% discount).
Additionally, you’ll be able to try:
- 2016 Estate Chardonnay (Pre-release wine – scheduled to be released at their harvest event on 8/27). Price will be $31.
- 2017 Estate Pinot Noir, 3 Sisters (Pre-release – to be released at harvest event on 8/27). Price, $38
- 2016 Terra Cotta Red — 50% each Sangiovese and Syrah, a popular blend, just $33.
Enjoy music by Wild and Blue and food for purchase from My Mom’s Mole.
Storrs Pamela and Steve Storrs welcome you to their tasting barn on Pleasant Valley Road to try a barrel sample of their 2018 estate Pinot Noir from the Hidden Springs Vineyard. While they’re not selling futures, they will offer attendees the chance to sign up for invitations to the pre-release tasting, when the wine is ready to be bottled.
Additionally, they’ll offer a wine flight focusing on their two award-winning Chardonnays, and their popular Pinot Noir:
- 2018 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay – Best of Region, 2019 State Fair (tied with 2017 Wildcat Ridge); Gold medal, SF Chronicle
- 2017 Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay – Best of Class at 2019 Sunset Wine Competition; Best of Region, 2019 State Fair
- 2014 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
An acoustic guitarist will provide a melodic backdrop to the tasting, and you’ll be able to purchase Corralitos Sausage Company sandwiches.
Windy Oaks Jim Schultze has been experimenting for some time with how to limit the number of sprays in the vineyard. In 2016, Windy Oaks began an experiment to that reduced vineyard sprays through the judicious use of heat. Part of the vineyard received periodic heat treatments and reduced sprays. The wine produced from these sections showed great phenolics and flavor depth, and are now part of the Windy Oaks lineup of estate Pinot Noirs. The heat treatment process is now a standard element of Windy Oaks vineyard management.
During the Barrels of Corralitos, you’ll be able to taste the results, as they’ll be sampling the 2017 Special Vineyard Treatment Estate pinot noir from a single acre block. Futures will be offered at $60/bottle. Upon release in November, it will be $78/bottle. Judy says this is one of their “Special Releases,” of which only only 3 barrels (~75 cases), were produced.
In addition, they’ll be sharing some new releases, including:
- ‘OId Vine’ Pinot Blanc—from more than 50-year old vines, crisp, dry, layered, barrel fermented and barrel aged for 19 months, 47 cases
- 2017 Estate Cuvée Pinot Noir, a blend of five pinot clones. Judy tells us that this is one of their most popular pinots, going back nearly 20 years. It was the second one they produced, and they now make a whopping 15 estate Pinots!
Additionally at Windy Oaks, enjoy:
- Bill the Oysterman shucking oysters, no minimum
- Live music from local entertainer Sarah Fischer, singing her original songs, accompanied on guitar by Nick DiSalvo
- Live painting demonstration by local artist Luz Donohue, who, over the course of the afternoon, with be illustrating her live art techniques
The Fine Print On Barrel Tasting
Your ticket includes admission/tastings at each participating winery, entertainment at select wineries, and a souvenir wine glass. When you purchase your ticket, you’ll select a “Check-In” winery based on where you want to start. This is where you’ll receive your wine glass, map and wristband. After that, you’re free to explore any of the 6 participating wineries along the Corralitos Wine Trail. Each winery has a limited number of tickets to start at so that guests can be spread out along the trail. Your first choice may not be available, so be prepared to choose an alternate starting point. Tickets can be purchased at www.scmwa.comand are non-refundable.
In Other Wine News…
Lester Safari Experience Sold Out for 2019
Unless you already purchased tickets for what has turned out to be the highlight of the season, you’re out of luck, as the amazing, and limited, Safari Experience at Deer Park Ranch is sold out for the year. Safari Leader, Frank Cates, told us that they will only be doing this culinary extravaganza in the “Ranch Rover” for club members going forward. So, you’ve been duly forewarned. The day we climbed into the nicely restored 1981 Range Rover Defender for our nearly three hour excursion throughout the property, visiting two amazingly different view spots and eating a gourmet spread prepared by Cates himself, three of the parties on the tour signed up for the wine club. Just sayin….
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.