Saturday, April 25, 2015

Best Santa Cruz Mountains Value Pinots (Under $30) - Planning

We are blessed with an abundance of great Pinot Noirs in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A lot of these Pinots are $30 and up. I decided to try and find the best Pinots under $30. I knew of a couple, but would love to find more.

I went through all the wineries on the Santa Cruz Mountains Winery Association website and searched their websites for wines that were less than $30. This dollar amount could be due to club or case discount, if I could easily figure these out. After scanning the websites for hours I came to the conclusion that it might be easier just to ask the wineries.

So I started sending out this email:


I am a local Santa Cruz Mountains wine enthusiast. I have visited most of the Santa Cruz Mountains wineries and am a club member of many.

I like to put together blind tastings to enjoy with my friends. I typically blog our findings.

I want to put together a blind tastings of reasonably priced Santa Cruz Mountains Pinots. The Pinot must be from the Santa Cruz Mountains region and must be available for under $30 before tax. The under $30 price can be reached via club membership and/or case discount; it can also be reached via a reseller.

Do you have any wines that meet these requirements? Please note that I’m not asking for you to send me the wines, just looking for a list. I tried to figure out this list myself via and navigating everyone’s website, but in the end I thought it more fair just to ask; so as not to miss any.

If you do have any, please reply with the name of the wine and how the <$30 price was reached.

Rod Magnuson
Accidental Wine Snob

After reviewing the list, I realized some of the wineries I was familiar with were not in the Santa Cruz Mountains Winery Association. I added everyone to the list I knew or could find by scouring google maps for wineries.

Sue guessed we would get 30 and could name the tasting 30 under $30. I guessed we would get closer to 15.

As the list of wines grew, I realized that this was going to be a major undertaking and I had to start making some tough decisions if i was ever going to complete it. I decided the following:

  • Wines had to be below $30. Some wines were really close to $30.
  • Only one vintage of a wine. A number of wineries had different vintages of their wine. I chose to only allow one, preferring 09 - 12.
  • Only one wine per winery. Some wineries had more than one qualifying wine. I chose to only allow one, asking the winery which they would prefer.

I attempted to contact 84 wineries via form submissions and email.

I received a lot of encouragement and informative replies.

Judy Schultze from Windy Oaks provided me with this insight on price:

"A few of the reasons it’s under $30/bottle:
  • Not aged as long as our other pinots (but still ~16-17 months)
  • Not a block designate
  • No single fermentation (but still total fermentation time of 30-40 days)
  • Not as much new French oak as our other pinots"


Here's the list of wineries I attempted to contact. Am I missing anyone?

Ahlgren Vineyard
Alfaro Family Vineyards &*
Beauregard VineyardsWeb Site Form*
Big Basin*
Black Ridge
Bonny Doon*
Bottle Jack*
Bruzzone Family*
Burrell School Vineyards &*
Byington Vineyard &*
Clos de la*
Clos LaChance*
Clos Tita Winery*
Cooper-Garrod Estate*
Dancing Creek*
David Bruce
Fellom Ranch*
Four Gates
Heart O' the
House Family VineyardsWeb Site Form*
Hunter Hill Vineyard &*
J. Lohr Vineyards &
Kathryn Kennedy*
Kings Mountain*
La Honda*
La Nebbia
La Rusticana*
Left Bend*
Loma Prieta*
McCarthy Family Estate VineyardsForm Submission Failed*
Michael Martella*
Mount Eden*
Myka CellarsWeb Site Form
Pelican Ranch WineryWeb Site Form
Perrucci Family VineyardWeb Site Form
Picchetti WineryWeb Site Form
Pleasant Valley
P M*
Radonich Brothers*
Regale Winery and
River Run VintnersWeb Site Form
Russian Ridge WineryWeb Site Form*
Salamandre Wine
Sante Arcangeli Family*
Savannah-Chanelle VineyardsWeb Site Form**
Silver Mountain*
Silvertip VineyardsWeb Site Form*
Soquel VineyardsWeb Site Form
Storrs WineryWeb Site Form*
Testarossa WineryWeb Site Form
The Mountain*
Thomas Fogarty Winery &*
Trout Gulch VineyardsWeb Site Form
Villa del Monte*
Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards &*
Wrights Station Vineyard &*

Wines Under $30

Here are the wines I have so far on the list. If you see more than one from a winery, it just means I haven't made the call on which one to taste yet.

WineryWineRetailBest Price
Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery2013 Alfaro "A" Estate$25.00?
Bargetto Winery2013 Pommard Clone Pinot Noir, Regan Estate Vineyards$35.00$28.00
2013 Pinot Noir, Regan Estate Vineyards$28.00$22.40
Burrell School Vineyards & Winery2010 Estate Pinot Noir$39.00$29.00
Byington Vineyard & Winery2012 Pinot Noir, Estate$39.00$29.25
Clos Tita WineryPinot Noir Cuvee$26.00
Dancing Creek Winery2010 Santa Cruz Mountains Legato, Pinot Noir$28.00$28.00
Domenico Winery2009 Santa Cruz Pinot Noir$35.00$28.00
Ghostwriter2013 Ghostwriter??
Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery2012 Estate Pinot Noir$40.00?
La Honda Winery2013 SEQUENCE, Pinot Noir$28.00$28.00
McHenry Vineyard2012 "Swan Clone - Estate" Pinot Noir$38.00$28.99
2012 Estate Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir$34.00$25.99
Muns Vineyard2010 Estate Pinot Noir$40.00$28.00
Nicholson Vineyards2012 Pinot Noir, Cuvee$30.00$25.50
Pelican Ranch Winery2011 Santa Cruz Mts., Meadowridge Vineyard$35.00$29.75
2010 Santa Cruz Mts., Amaya Ridge Vineyard$35.00$29.75
Perrucci Family Vineyard2012 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir$34.00$23.80
Radonich Brothers Vineyards2012 Estate$27.99$27.99
Rexford Winery2011 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains$25.00$20.00
River Run Vintners2013 Pinot Noir$25.00$20.00
Roudon-Smith Winery2012 Santa Cruz Mountains Private Reserve Pinot Noir$30.00$26.40
Russian Ridge Winery2012 Russian Ridge Pinot Noir$30.00$25.50
Salamandre Wine Cellars???
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard2010 Pinot Noir Bailey’s Branciforte Ridge Vineyard$32.00$29.00
Sante Arcangeli Family Wines2013 Pinot Noir, Split Rail Vineyard, Corralitos$36.00$28.80
Sarah's Vineyard2013 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards2012 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir$36.00$28.80
Ser2012 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir$33.00$28.00
Silvertip Vineyards2012 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, Estate$32.00$24.00
Soquel Vineyards2013 Estate Pinot Noir$33.00$29.70
Storrs Winery2012 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir$36.00$28.80
Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards2012 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir$35.00$29.75
Trout Gulch Vineyards2012 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir$28.00$28.00
Villa del Monte Winery2013 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains$34.00$28.90
2013 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains Regan Vineyards Martini Clone$32.00$27.20
2013 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains Regan Pommard Clone$32.00$27.20
2012 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains Regan Vineyard$32.00$27.20
Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery2013 Terra Narro Estate Pinot Noir$29.00$23.00

Tasting Plan

  1. I acquire all of the wines.
  2. I randomly divide them into tastings of 6 to 8 wines.
  3. We will host as many tasting that are necessary in which 6 to 12 of my wine enthusiast (no wine professionals here) friends will blind taste them, rating them from 1 to 5, decimals allowed. I will blog on each of these.
  4. I hopefully have a final tasting of the winners or the highest rated.

I'm guessing this is going to take months, if not the whole summer. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it. :)

I'll try to keep this up to date as I get more replies.