Apple Park sits low in the distance – a ring tossed in a sea of technology. But unplug.
How fortunate for the three million people of Silicon Valley to be so near to wine country. Those familiar deep green hills to the west are so close but so untraveled, and continue to be one of the most over-looked wine appellations of the world. Those who are aware of Santa Cruz Mountain wines have fully engaged palates. They know and appreciate good wines. They are lovers of coastal influences, acid-loving freaks, novice geologists constantly looking down at the soil and rocks to find the connection to the place.
What makes the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA particularly special for wine are many things: the soil, the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, elevation, fog, plate tectonics, history, talented winemakers, just to name a few. All these influences shape the region, giving it its stamp of uniqueness among earth’s notable wine regions.
The growing area encompasses more than 850 square miles from the San Francisco Peninsula to Gilroy, and Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Bay. And within and between these areas are conifer forests, bodies of water, elevation differences, surf and sand, and majestic first-growth Redwoods that create distinct microclimates, giving wines their identity. The vineyards range from small 1-2 acre parcels scattered throughout the mountains like rare natural wonders to massive estates that stretch out as far as the eye can see. Wines express themselves differently from plots that are only a hundred feet from one another. Yet, there is a commonality discovered here: the persistence of liquid energy in the glass. It’s mountain wine.
Mindego Ridge is a 10-acre family vineyard owned by Dave and Stacey Gollnick, situated in the Skyline/Woodside area in San Mateo County. Small wineries like theirs are planted on tiny plots and expositions that literally eke out just enough sun for ripeness in between cascading fog. The wines are fresh, energetic. Gollnick’s land is perched on a shale-laced mountain slope of Mindego Hill. This area is from the Purisma Formation, ranging in age from the latest Miocene to the late Pliocene (7-3 million years ago). This tells a little about the soils – fractured shale subsoil with 12-18” of silty clay loam on top – typical of what you find near the San Andrea’s fault. Faults indirectly help form sites with exposures and microclimates ideal for grape growing and influences the way vineyards are planted. Winemakers believe that there is a direct effect on their wines. The complexity and diversity of soils caused by the San Andreas Fault impart a broader palette of flavors that can be distinguishable from one bottle to the next depending on what plot the fruit came from.
A stone’s throw from the famous fault, located 40 miles south of San Francisco, eight miles east of the Pacific, rugged hillsides and lush Redwoods surround, the elevation is between 675-950 feet, and marine influence defines the cool climate since it’s bordered by two bodies of water. It’s a place you’d want to wear layers because of the large swings between warm days and cool nights. This diurnal shift contributes to intense varietal character. All their grapes are 100% estate-grown – just over 8.5 acres of Pinot Noir and 1.3 acres of Chardonnay.
Mindego Ridge Pinot Noir 2016
2016 was a great growing season. A cool summer allowed the fruit to hang for a long time, which allowed the grapes to develop ripeness and remarkable acidity. As a result, this wine turned out absolutely delicious. Winemaker Ehren Jordan made this wine using minimal intervention. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, it’s pure energy. A super-focused wine, intensely flavored, medium body (of a ballet dancer) with an almost indescribable gossamer gracefulness. Beguiling textures that melt and dance upon the palate with flavors throughout the performance – blackberry, plums, cherries, herbs, underbrush, mineral, earth. Stunning from beginning to end. (Encore!)