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[whitespace] Vintners' Fest 2001

A trip to the SC Mountains will be doubly rewarding the first two weeks in June

By Christina Waters

WINE LOVERS and scenery fans can get ready to add yet another commemorative tasting glass to their collections. Next weekend begins the two-weekend Vintners' Festival 2001, one of the least stressful ways to get acquainted with the best of our many Santa Cruz Mountain wineries. This year, the phrase "bigger and better" applies big-time. Thirty-five wineries and 27 locations on both sides of the redwood mountains will be open for you to tour, taste, munch and essentially have a great time at during some of the best weather our area has to offer.

On the first weekend (June 2-3), 14 wineries will be pouring at 11 locations in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. The second weekend (June 9-10), 25 wineries on this side of the hill will stock 20 locations. If you've never toured these artisanal facilities--some of them too small to be open to the public except during the festival weekends--you really haven't explored the heart of our prolific winegrowing region. Not only will you wander around some of the most gorgeous country roads left in the state, but each winery has planned something special.

At Cooper-Garrod Vineyards, for example, you can taste the 1996 Cabernet Franc, among others, but also view a plein-air exhibit by Saratoga artists. Enjoy live music from 1 to 3pm, as well as one of the best zinfandels around, at Savannah-Chanelle up on Congress Springs Road. Or bring a picnic and sample the view of the entire Monterey Bay far below the hilltop chateau at Byington Winery above Los Gatos.

On the second weekend, wineries on the western slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains are available for your delectation, including Hallcrest, Storrs, River Run, Bargetto Trout Gulch and Ahlgren. Some have grouped together at restaurants--Salamandre and Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard are pouring at Southern Exposure Bistro in Aptos. Ridge, Equinox and Bonny Doon Vineyards show their stuff in the spacious dining rooms of Restaurant Azur in Santa Cruz.

If you don't know where these estates are, you can pick up both your tasting glass and your detailed map of the participating sites at the first location you visit. The $20 donation gives you access to all the venues. The festival provides a terrific excuse to schmooze, meet winemakers, sample great appetizers and visit places you've just never gotten around to. For details, call the Santa Cruz Mountains Winergrowers Association at 479.9463 or go online to www.SCMWA.com. And when you make your festival plans, don't forget to select a designated driver. That way everybody lives to remember what a great time they had.

Ship to Shore

Chardonnay II: Not that second glass of white wine, silly. I'm talking about that gorgeous 70-foot yacht that will take you on a relaxing cruise around the Monterey Bay. On the public cruises, $45.68 per person gets you two exhilarating hours plus munchies and other amenities; you can also hire the entire yacht for parties, corporate team-building or qigong sessions. For example, the wines of Chateau Julien are featured this Friday (May 25) on the cruise that leaves at 6pm. Or sample the brunch cruise--with continental breakfast and champagne, Sunday (May 27) at 10:30am. The Chardonnay II leaves from the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, at the end of the docks--turn left at Aldo's and continue down under the overpass. Sing on for an unforgettable evening on Monterey Bay by calling 423.1213 (reservations are a must).

New in Town: Fans of the electrifying flavors of Thai cuisine will be happy to know that right across the street from the Santa Cruz County Building there's a new Thai restaurant--Jitlada (420.1688)--serving lunch and dinner as well as producing spicy curries, noodle specialties and all your favorite hot and sour soups (plus tons more traditional stuff) for carry-out. So after your day in court, head across the street for some Pad Thai and coconut ice cream.

Email me your hot food tips, new favorite restaurants, discoveries, gripes and sudden culinary insights. You tell me--I'll tell everybody: [email protected]

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From the May 23-20, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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