Santa Cruz and Beauregard Vineyards

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the April 13th, 2007

Santa Cruz is a beautiful place. I don’t really consider it a city as much I consider it a town. It just has that feel, a town-feel. It isn’t huge but it is a nice size. Most importantly tough it’s the vibe. This town feels like a day at the beach everyday. And they do have a beach. This was my first California experience. We flew into San Francisco, hopped in a rental and headed south to Santa Cruz to stay with my wife’s aunt and uncle who have lived there for forty or so years. We flew in at night so my orientation was all off. I thought I saw downtown San Fran in the distance but couldn’t grasp it all. Even on the way down when we drove through Silicon Valley I couldn’t really get a feel for it. But the next day it all came into focus.
The beaches are so tranquil and the coast is almost untouched. The pacific has a power to it that I am not used to on the east coast. The waves are larger and the mountains sometimes got right into the ocean. The outcroppings of rocks on the shore are magnificent and sitting on the wharf gazing back at the downtown Santa Cruz area with it’s amusement park and bustling surf culture I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite movies. “The Lost Boys.” I found out before departing NYC that this movie was filmed in Santa Cruz and it was so cool to sit on the wharf in a tasting room of a local producer sipping the fruits of their labor with my wife and her family while gazing at the boardwalk from afar imagining the frog brothers running around saving the world from vampires. I actually cheezed out and asked the couple of locals tasting with us about the movie and they actually were excited to tell me the location of the caves where the vampires lived. Past the boardwalk to the south there is a cliff with a set of caves and that is where Keifer and company dozed until the sun went down. “Cry, little sister.” (Singing in with a reminiscent gaze toward the past)…
Oh yeah, the wine. In Santa Cruz there is a wharf that has old school restaurants and shops lining it. The city owns the wharf and if you want a space on it you pay the city as a landlord. Beauregard Vineyards is one of the city’s wharf tenants. We went to their tasting room on a recommendation from my wife’s aunt who knew of the second generation viticulturist Emmett Beauregard – he kept the family wine trade alive after his father Amos’ death in the 1970’s on a purely recreational basis – and was acquainted with Jim Beauregard who took the reins of the third generation. Jim was a very important factor in Santa Cruz wine culture. He is known for being responsible for legally establishing a state recognized viticulture appellation; the Ben Lomond Growing Appellation in the Santa Cruz AVA (American Viticulture Area). I don’t know much about getting something like that established but I am now in the throws of applying for a wine retail license here in the city and just that is tough. I can only imagine what he must have endured to license an entire geographical area. Wow.
Jim’s son Ryan came of age and decided to work with his father in the vineyards, which at the time were mainly source grapes for other producers. His passion went even further and in 1999 he along with his father established Beauregard vineyards. They own sixty acres under vine from different areas in the region and from the taste of their wine are very serious about what they do. Their tasting room is brand-spankin’-new and still under construction. The tasting counter is fully functional while Ryan himself builds a tasting area that will have tables and amazing views of the boardwalk and coast. I think it was seven or so bucks to taste nine or so wines. We had just come from the Bonny Doon winery, which I heard had gained a lot recognition in the past and I was not impressed at all. They actually had one good wine out of the many that we tasted but I will talk about that in the next post. So coming here on a recommendation was a bit refreshing and auspicious.
We tasted through all of the wines and it was apparent from the start that these guys were getting something right. The chardonnays that we tasted were great. One of them had a good bit of oak on it but it was restrained and did not overwhelm the palate. The other was just great. I fell in love with it immediately. It is the 2005 Trout Gulch Vineyards Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains and it is soooo balanced. This is what an American chardonnay should taste like. It had an initial oak palate that gave way in seconds to a subtle yet crisp green apple minerality that I love so much in a well-done chardonnay. It was so balanced and enjoyable I just stood there with my wife contently sipping and staring out at the scenery. It all fit so well. The characteristics of the wine fit the environment. Here we were out on a wharf half a mile out to sea and I could just see us slurping a bottle or two of Trout Gulch and hammering up and munchin’ down on some California crabs. OOOHH WEEE! Can you tell that I liked it? I bought a bottle and I can’t wait to share it with my friends here in NYC.
It didn’t stop there. Beauregard really has it together. We tasted a great pinot noir from the same Trout Gulch vineyard as the chardonnay that was so wonderfully balanced with that signature pinot bright berry nose and a depth not often found in American pinot noir. We sampled two syrahs from different vineyards both were well done wines one being characteristically toasty with pepper and some kind of herb. It had a depth to it but it was lean and mean with good acidity. The other being really deep and rich with dark fruit on the nose and palate; also well balanced. And lastly I would like to mention the zinfandel. I am not a real big fan of zinfandel. I like primitivo from Italy because it is more approachable and smooth. Zin tends to get quite sugary and intense for me so much that I can’t eat with it or even just sit and sip. There were two zins though that I tried on this trip that I liked and one of them was here. Interestingly enough they named it, “zinfandel – primitivo clone”. So these guys know the story and the debate over the relationship between the two and I don’t know if it was intentional or not but the wine, which was definitely a zin with intense flavors, vibrant depth and a minty nose and palate, showed a fruity, jamminess and salinity that I have found in some primitivos from Salento in Apulia. It was also unfiltered and unfined allowing all the good elements of zin to live in the glass.
While we were tasting, Ryan Beauregard dropped in but not to taste. He and a colleague were in the middle of constructing the rest of the tasting room. They weren’t over seeing the work they were doing the work. They were building the tasting room with their own hands and that kind of dedication came through in their wines. Thank you Ryan and family for a wonderful; introduction to your wines and I hope that some day I can find you guys on the shelves of New York wine stores. Cheers.

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