July 10, 2018 – Pamela and Steve Storrs have labored long and hard to bring their dream of an organically-farmed vineyard and eco-friendly winery in bucolic Corralitos to fruition. Longtime winemakers, grape growers, land stewards and sheep herders, the couple met at UC Davis and worked at Domaine Chandon, Almaden and Felton-Empire (which later became Hallcrest) before striking out on their own and starting their brand in Santa Cruz in 1988.
Relying on great Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards, like Christie, for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus Nora’s Vineyard and Wildcat Ridge for Pinot Noir, the couple also secured award-winning Zinfandel and Petite Sirah from Lion Oaks Ranch and Rusty Ridge, both in Santa Clara. Pam is especially proud to have scored Double Gold and Best Red of Region for their 2015 Saveria Vineyard Petite Sirah, another Corralitos vineyard, at the California State Fair this year.
The Storrs brand thrived, quickly growing to 10,000 cases per year, out of a tiny winery and tasting room in Santa Cruz at the Old Sash Mill. It seems almost miraculous that they managed to produce so much wine in a space that’s barely large enough to turn a forklift around in. Space. They needed space.
The couple had always dreamed of owning land, and in 2001 purchased a 56-acre parcel that was primarily an abandoned apple orchard in the Pleasant Valley district of Corralitos. A few of the old apple trees, dating back to the 19thcentury, still remain, including a rare winter banana apple. “Aromatic and short-lived,” says Pam. “They get mealy really fast,” says Steve. That’s ok, they were in it to farm grapes.
Over the next seven years, they carefully prepared the land, which is a riparian corridor with seasonal springs, removing dead pines, working to restore the stream, adding nutrients back to the soil via years of cover cropping and eventually planting an organically-farmed vineyard in 2007. Fittingly, they named their new estate Hidden Springs.
Here, there are two clones of Chardonnay–Clones 4 and 17 (also called the Robert Young selection), along with five clones of Pinot Noir, including the Dijon clones 115, 667, 828 as well as Clone 2A and Pommard. The vineyard benefits from the inputs of a flock of Olde English Babydoll sheep that graze during the winter months to promote a more balanced, self-sustaining system.
Anyone familiar with the Storrs Pleasant Valley winery project knows it has been a long time coming. We can attest to the patience and fortitude of Pam and Steve in overcoming all the speed bumps and obstacles tossed in their way. Building a new eco-green barn and winery proved not just arduous, but torturous at times. Things like this should not happen in a Valley named Pleasant.
“If you asked me back when we started construction back in 2011, when I thought we’d have the tasting room open, I’d have said 2014,” says Pam. But all is on track now.
One look at the towering grey-blue barn—which serves as winery, barrel cellar and tasting room—and you know this is something special. Located on the site of a former quarry just off Pleasant Valley Road, the 6,800 square foot structure was built with 2-foot thick walls made of soy-based foam insulation, held in place with steel rebar and covered in concrete.
It has ceilings so high it feels cathedral-like. Your neck strains to see the sconces Steve fashioned from metal found at a former vineyard property. Doors salvaged from that same property frame the upstairs offices, while other vintage treasures appear throughout. Steve also managed to score a rare 1945 Willys Overland convertible from the same spot. A piece of stained glass from an old church found at an antique shop decades ago adds charm, as does a table milled from pines culled from their estate property.
Light streams from the windows that face west, filling the new tasting room with its tile floors and Caesarstone tasting bar, with natural warmth. A patio along a border of eucalyptus trees will eventually be filled with tables, chairs and a fountain.
They plan to open the new tasting room on a regular basis in August. For now, though, they are focused on the Taste of Community benefit this Saturday, July 14. It seems fitting that the two have been hard at work to make this particular event their premiere for the venue. They hope to shine a spotlight on all the ag workers behind this paradise of wine and food in our collective backyards. Raising funds for the Pajaro Valley Community Trust is very important to them, which is why the winemaking couple decided to go all out.
“We’re creating something really special with this event,” says Pam. “Coordinating all the chefs and farms is a big effort, but we feel really strongly about supporting the workers who pick our fruit and harvest our crops. They depend on the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust for their health care.”
The first of what they hope will be many such “Farm to Vineyard” events, will be held this Saturday, July 14, from 1—4pm.
The celebration includes local farms and chefs, pairing their creations with Storrs wines. Pam envisions this is as a learning experience and a chance to connect guests with farmers and culinary artists, as they take in the new picnic grounds overlooking their estate vineyard and the neighboring ones as well.
Pam is really excited to use the organically-farmed site as a teaching opportunity for home gardeners and small scale farmers—they plan to have a vegetable garden at some point. They already have helpful signage explaining the habitat and wildlife that make this place their home.
The Storrs plan to retain the Old Sash Mill tasting room in Santa Cruz, and will be moving winery production equipment, barrels and some case goods to the Hidden Springs facility prior to harvest this year. This will give them room to finally expand that tiny spot.
Given enough time, you eventually have enough space. It just doesn’t work the other way around.
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.