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THURSDAY THORNS
03/28/2013
Thursday Thorns
Pinot Paydirt In The Santa Cruz Mountains

By Stephen Eliot

It is not among the more prestigious or glamorous events to be found on the calendar of wine events, and its attendees do not number in the thousands, but the annual Pinot Paradise tasting hosted by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association has become an afternoon I try not to miss.

This year’s version, the ninth annual, came and went without a great deal of fanfare this last Sunday, but as in the past, it was again a gentle reminder that the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation is and for a very long time has been home to some very good Pinot Noir. Starting with the first bottlings of the legendary Martin Ray and continuing with what is now more than forty years of success at the hands of Mount Eden Winery, Santa Cruz Pinot has proven itself and now seems poised to gather new admirers.

The fact that there are but a few dozen Pinot producers scattered over its considerable expanse at least helps explain its relative lack of acclaim, yet its better efforts can be comfortably compared to those from the more widely esteemed names of the day such as Anderson Valley, the Sonoma Coast and the Russian River Valley. As folks from Santa Barbara and Monterey already know, the Coastal vineyards north of San Francisco do not have a monopoly on fine Pinot Noir.

This year’s Pinot Paradise tasting only underscored that fact, and, even though a good many of the featured wines came from the difficult 2010 and 2011 vintages, I came away with the sense that the overall quality of Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot was on the rise. I recall five or six years back, that the wines were inconsistent and that far too many smacked of amateurism. Recent efforts, however, go a long way towards proving the old adage that practice does, in fact, makes perfect.

While we do not write reviews based on tastings we do at wineries or such events, I found plenty to like from old favorites and new names alike. Of particular note were new bottlings from Alfaro, Big Basin, Mount Eden and Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, and the House Family Winery and Silvertip Vineyards are newcomers to watch.

This year’s installment of what I expect will be many more may be over, but the Santa Cruz Mountains winegrowers have other event planned in addition to its Spring Pinot Paradise tasting. If you happen to be in the area, have a look at their website http://www.scmwa.com/

You just might be surprised at what you have been missing.


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