.Big Basin Vineyards’ Santa Cruz Debut

Plus, mini croissants at the Flower Bar and Passover and Easter dinners at Gayle’s Bakery

Hard to choose what was most impressive about last week’s opening of the new Big Basin Vineyards Tasting Room—the wines, the glamorous surroundings or the red-wine beef stew created by chef Brad Briske?

As inviting outdoors—on the spacious patio adorned with firepits and giant banana trees—as it is indoors, thanks to a sleek bar topped by a line-up of woven baskets all along the backbar and ample table seating along the polished concrete floors, the new BBV tasting headquarters offers a menu of sexy small plates to accompany a broad array of wines from winemaker Bradley Brown.

We began with a welcome glass of 2019 Wirz Vineyard Old Vine Riesling. Crisp and light, utterly refreshing, it was one of my favorites of the entire afternoon. Indoors, Melo and I were seated along with an engaging couple eager to sample the BBV wines. Out came long platters decorated with aged cheddar, a soft triple creme, an incredible housemade fig jam, apricots from B&R Farms and nuts glistening in sage-scented olive oil. With the savories came a beautifully balanced 2019 Old Corral Pinot Noir full of berries and a plum finish. The servers were flawless, removing and arriving plates like clockwork.

A 2016 Grizzly Grenache—our table’s favorite—was paired with an open-faced sandwich of whipped feta and smoked prosciutto. Tiny porcelain square dishes contained spicy coarse mustard and sensuous apricot preserves, apt toppings for the earthy prosciutto. Next, a trio of colorful dips involving tapenade and hummus with preserved Meyer lemon arrived with slices of Companion Bakeshop baguette and a remarkable variation on the Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. The GSM was deepened by a large 53% proportion of Mourvedre, a fortuitous decision that gave the wine distinctive complexity.

We all amused ourselves with a blind-tasting quiz while enjoying one of the BBV tasting room’s new signature dishes, a sensational red-wine beef stew made by Home chef Briske. Tender beef cheeks, tiny potatoes and complex herbs in an impossibly perfect broth, the exceptional dish arrived with a float of creme fraiche and some little garlic toasts. We cleaned our plates. The event ended with an extravagant square of dark chocolate infused with pistachios, dried strawberries, cardamom and rose petals. With it was served a Bordeaux blend named Altitude 2018 that knocked me out.

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Destined to be a magnet for visitors and locals alike, the new home of Brown’s celebrated Santa Cruz Mountains wines offers the ambience of a relaxing wine club within walking distance of downtown as well as Main Beach and the wharf. Easily one of the smoothest preview tastings I’ve ever attended, and it let me fall in love with Big Basin Vineyards wines all over again. BBV Tasting Room, 525 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Open Thursday and Monday, 2-7pm; Friday-Sunday, noon-8pm. Reservations strongly encouraged.

Flower Power

Stopped with poet SK for a West Coast Parisian-style morning of mini croissants and espresso at the Flower Bar, a chic cafe in the old Sentinel Printers space at 912 Cedar St. next to Gabriella Cafe. Excellent flavors, and service to match. Surrounded by a galaxy of fresh blooms for home or special occasions. My companion took his time with a perfect croissant ($5) and cafe Americano ($4), while I enjoyed two mini croissants ($2)—one studded with apples, the other swirled with raspberry puree. Textbook macchiato ($4.25). Open 9am-5pm daily. 7pm on weekends.

Gayle’s Holidays

Passover Dinner (available April 15) includes red wine braised beef brisket, potato latkes, lemon asparagus and honey glazed carrots. $60 serves 2-3. Easter Dinner (available April 16) of Niman Ranch Ham, au gratin potatoes, lemon asparagus and butterflake rolls. $55 (serves 2-3). Order quickly! gaylesbakery.com.

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