Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Silver Mountain, Bargetto, & Vine Hill

Ever since finding out Silver Mountain Vineyards was off of summit road a couple of weeks back I have wanted to try it out. We were lucky, it was the third weekend of the month, which allowed us to add Vine Hill to the the list. I brought along the addresses of Bargetto and Pelican Ranch, two other wineries we have yet to visit, just in case Sue and I were in the mood for more.

This way to Silver Mountain Vineyards

Silver Mountain Vineyards

We arrived at their closed gate a little after noon. Fog was everywhere and the temperature was in the low 50s, far from ideal wine tasting weather. We called the number on the call box, they opened the gate, and said they would be at the tasting room in 5 minutes.

The tasting room was all fogged in

After looking around the fogged in event area, Jerold O'Brien, the founder and winemaker, greeted us at the door. I asked about the strange weather and how it was affecting the vineyard. He told us the weather supported the growth of powdery mildew and they would be spraying that day with a common fungicide approved for organic crops to prevent it.

He said he worked with a team on the wine, but the buck stopped with him when it came to things, referring to the sign on Harry S. Truman's desk.

Jerold believes the winery is the most sustainable wineries he knows of. He took us out back and showed us the operation. The operation included the impressive Triple Green, a 6000 square foot roof covered in solar panels. It's called the Triple Green, because it does three things: 1)Provides a massive amount of shade, reducing refrigeration requirements and wear and tear on equipment. 2)Provides 46 kilowatts via the 263 solar panels. 3)Collects rain water for operations and domestic use. Jerold also told us about how the winery had been practicing organic farming methods since before he knew it was called organic farming.

Silver Mountain focuses on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Alloy, their Bordeaux blend.

Jerold O'Brien pours us a taste

First we tried 3 of the Pinots. I liked both the Miller and the Muns, which Sue thought smelled like a Hawaiian lei. The Tondre didn't work for me, which was perplexing since I really like other wines made from these grapes. I was even more perplexed when Jerold told us that they made the Tondre Pinot for Tondre Wines, a bottle I knew I enjoyed just a couple of weeks back. I wish I would have asked him what was difference between the wines. We also tried the delicious Alloys and their Chardonnay.

We tasted and talked to Jerold for close to two hours. He was incredibly friendly with a vast knowledge base and a willingness to share it. I don't think we've ever stayed so long at a tasting, nor talked about so many different subjects. It was truly a pleasure.

After picking up a couple of our favorites and a couple we hadn't even tried, we headed to Vine Hill.

Winery Details

Bargetto Winery

The GPS went crazy on the way to Vine Hill. For some reason it thought we were in the middle of a forest, without any roads visible on the display. I knew we were heading south on Soquel, but wasn't certain which road we were supposed to turn on. Thankfully, it corrected itself when the address for Bargetto was entered, so we headed there instead.

Bargetto's tasting room

Bargetto had a nicely decorated, good sized tasting room. I wasn't sure we'd enjoy it, because an unruly group of birthday celebrating ladies were causing quite a racket. I'm all for people having a good time, but these ladies were out of control and ruining the tasting experience for everyone in the place. Thankfully they left five minutes after we arrived. Tasting rooms should have plans to take care of these problems or risk loosing customers.

Sue and I enjoy our tasting

Sue and I chose to taste the premium wines for $10 for five wines. Skip and Carl kept the wine flowing as they joked around with each other and us tasters. These guys were really fun. Carl poured more than five tastings, always wanting us to comment before he revealed the wine. A wedding was going on out back and my wife would sneak a peek in between tastes. She wished the bride a sweater every time she saw the cold bride to be.

The wine tasted very good, but was expensive. It ranged in price from $40 to $60. This was probably our fault, since we decided to go with the premium wines. The non premium tasting was $5 and the most expensive wine on that list was $28. We'll have to check that tasting out, if we're ever back.

We picked up a couple of our favorites, the reserve Merlot and the La Vita, thinking we were already invested $10 in a couple of bottles. After signing, I was shocked to discover that they didn't refund the tasting fee with the purchase. How lame! This policy will make me think hard before I head back.

Disappointed, we headed out in search of the elusive Vine Hill Winery.

Winery Details

Vine Hill Winery

The GPS regained its sense, and guided us up a winding, often one lane road to Vine Hill.

The Vine Hill tasting room

They were pouring fours wines paired with el Salchichero salami for $5. The wine was good and the salami was delicious.

Our pourer told us they were known for their cheese parings on passport days. I asked if they got many visitors, being so far out and only open one weekend a month. She said that they usually got a good flow of people. When we entered she said she didn't recognize me, making me think that they mostly saw club members. She also mentioned that they would be opening a tasting room at Surf City Vintners end of September or sometime in October. This will definitely make them more accessible.

Sue enjoys the view from atop the hill

After finishing our tasting, we headed outside to check out the grounds. Outside was a nice area for a picnic. Up the hill a little further was an even nicer picnic area with a lovely view. I'm sure it's even nicer when fog isn't preventing viewing of the ocean.

The view from atop the hill

On the way out, we chatted a bit with Nick Guerrero, the wine maker. He told us about Pinot clones, saying there are more than a thousand, but under fifty of them are really used. He explained how different clones were known for different qualities. It was interesting and always fun to learn a bit.

Dana Sharma, a fellow taster and owner of Wine d'Tours, gave us her business card and told us to look out for a groupon coming the next week.

Winery Details


Winery of the Day: I have to give the nod to Silver Mountain Vineyards; it's hard to imagine beating the experience we had.