“I plan to focus on Bordeaux varietals in the future,” says proactive winemaker Andre Beauregard. “I really enjoy tasting them and seeing the wine evolve over time in the glass.” Let me second that. Having enjoyed Beauregard’s 2013 releases, including an endlessly likable Syrah ($21) and a notable Cabernet Franc ($24), I have become a very interested fan of the young, forward-looking West Cliff Wines with the appealing red and yellow lighthouse on the label. Made in what the winemaker calls a “very Old World” style, the 92-percent-Cab-Franc, 8-percent-Merlot blend developed its nuance thanks to 21 months in the barrel. Native yeast fermentation and the winemaker’s devotion to “the minimal manipulation philosophy of winemaking,” have done the rest. Made from Santa Clara Valley grapes, the result is a lilting creation, with a central core of bay, cedar, and raspberry, and a gorgeous nose of rose, violets and some mysterious spice. The 14.1 percent alcohol carries the well-balanced tannins and fruit.
Beauregard’s new releases represent a collaboration with vintner colleagues, winemaker Olivia Teutschel and Bobby Graviano of Bargetto Winery. “They are young winemakers like myself,” Beauregard tells me, “very knowledgeable and passionate. They were nice enough to do some blend trials with me to see what we all felt was a good amount of Merlot to blend into the Cab Franc, to brighten it up and add some fruit.”
“We had fun with these wines,” he says. The winemaker also admits that during the winemaking process he’s had to learn patience. “I’ve learned to take time, and to let the wines have the time they need to develop the complexity and elegance that I appreciate,” he says.
Longtime wine buyer at Shopper’s Corner, Beauregard has tuned his palate by sampling broadly from the world’s most prestigious winegrowing areas. He’s also grown up surrounded by every phase of winemaking, thanks to his grandfather and father whose vineyards fuel many of the top Santa Cruz Mountains labels, and to a brother with his own thriving Beauregard Vineyards label. If the 2013 Cabernet Franc from West Cliff Wines is any indication, I’d say that Bordeaux-style wines would be a terrific focus for his evolving ideas and skills.
Any minute now, a new chocolate café from award-winning chocolatier Jennifer Ashby will open in the cozy nook at 1001 Center St., next to the Food Lounge and formerly occupied by Mutari. The in-progress Ashby’s Chocolate Cafe was just being detailed by designer/painter Scott Riddle when I stuck my head in last week. Riddle, who created the cacao tree mural for the cafe’s new front counter, confesses that he’s “a chocolate snob,” who believes that Ashby’s chocolate drinks compare favorably with anything he’s had in Paris and Tokyo. That got my attention. Ashby says that she plans to cut back opening hours at her Scotts Valley location of Ashby Confections retail store while she gets the new shop fine tuned.
“We’ll have espresso drinks, and many different mochas. More European-style hot chocolates as well as traditional South American drinks,” she says. And, she says she’ll also be serving organic CaCoCo products, “and of course a smattering of our truffles and salted caramels,” she adds. The new Center Street location is more of a cafe than a shop. “A small cafe and a retail outlet for our line of chocolates,” she explains. For now, Ashby’s Chocolate Cafe will tempt patrons with its colorful new cafe at the very front of the Art Center building. “Our patrons can sit in the Food Lounge when there are no other events,” Ashby says. “And eventually we’ll have outdoor seating in front and also on the side patio.” The cafe should be open by the time you read this.