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Pinot Paradise Tasting: March 17th-18th, Campbell, CA

PinotParadisewebcopy.gifWith an increasingly visible presence in the wine press, the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA might be in danger of actually losing its title as Northern California's most underrated wine appellation. It still isn't highly recognized among most wine lovers, so from my perspective it can still claim the underdog title, at least for a couple more years.

The Santa Cruz Mountain AVA has been producing wine ever since some of the earliest farming pioneers into Silicon Valley sought refuge from the heat of the valley and discovered cooler climes that were perfect for grapes. Several historic wineries still have buildings and facilities that date back to the turn of the 20th century.

In more modern times the Santa Cruz Mountains have been the home to several iconic California wineries, perhaps most notably, Ridge Vineyards. But in the recent decade, Ridge and a few of the other early pioneers of the area have been joined by dozens of new wineries, many of whom came seeking out what they saw was one of the best places for growing Pinot Noir.

In the past 15 years Pinot Noir acreage in the Santa Cruz Mountains has been growing steadily as many producers realized the climate was generally better suited to this variety than the Merlots and Cabernets that many had been trying to grow with only marginal success through the late 80's and early 90's. While the area has yet to produce more than one or two superstar successes with Pinot (i.e. wines that score in the 91 to 97 point range for major critics) the quality of the wines continues to rise, and it is only a matter of time before we will see more high scores.

Which is why it might be a good idea for us all to get a bit more familiar with Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir, a task made easy by the upcoming Pinot Paradise celebration.

The event takes place over two days. On Saturday March 18th, wine lovers are treated to a region-wide open house -- a progressive tasting where ticket holders can visit as many or as few wineries as they like to taste barrel samples and some library wines. Then on Sunday morning, technical seminars (see this MS Word document for details) about the region's climate, winegrowing, and history will be held at Villa Ragusa in Campbell, followed by a large public wine tasting with wines on offer from more than 30 wineries as well as nibbles from local restaurants.

Pinot Paradise Celebration of Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

Saturday March 17th - Pathway to Paradise Self Guided Tour 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Various Wineries.

Sunday March 18th -- Seminars & Grand Cruz Tasting 10:0 AM - 5:00 PM
Villa Regusa
35 South Second Street
Campbell, CA 95008

Tickets are priced at $25 for the self guided Pathway to Paradise tasting, $65 for the technical seminars, and $65 for the Grand Cruz tasting. A combination ticket good for all three events is available for $125 per person. Tickets are available for purchase online. This event will likely sell out, so advance purchase is recommended.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.