Santa Cruz Mountains wine country


Written by:

Joe Becerra

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The Santa Cruz Mountains wine country is perhaps the most diverse of all the California wine appellations. This wine country stretches from Half Moon Bay in the north all the way to Watsonville in the South. It spans three counties: San Mateo, Santa Clara and Monterey. Visiting the Santa Cruz Mountains wine country is fun, interesting and adventurous. It will take you from breathtaking mountain tops to vineyards at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Here is an overnight trip that we took last week. We began at the La Nebbia Winery in Half Moon Bay and traveled to the area of Corralitos, high on a Santa Cruz Mountain top, to visit the Windy Oaks Winery. The distance from one to the other is 70 miles, all in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

Day One Adventures: The Highway 1 Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Country Trail

Our first stop was at La Nebbia Winery on Highway 92, a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, and very close to the main drag in Half Moon Bay. La Nebbia is one of the few wineries that offer “bottle your own” events throughout the year. They also have a Bocce Court for your enjoyment. Check the La Nebbia Website for the remaining seven Saturdays for “Bottle and Cork Day.”

The town of Half Moon Bay is a nice stop for lunch or a quick look at some boutique shops. If you go, don’t miss the Half Moon Bay Wine and Cheese Shop, 421 Main Street. We like It’s Italia for lunch on the corner of Main and Mill Streets.

We then headed south on Highway 1. There are many beautiful and scenic beaches along the way and two tiny towns where you can stop for lunch. In Pescadero, there is the historic Duarte’s Tavern. It is a popular spot for lunch and dinner and a nice place to tack onto a trip. The tiny town of Davenport has two cafes where you can get a satisfying meal while enjoying a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Along HWY 1 Pigeon Pt. Lighthouse
Along HWY 1 Pigeon Pt. Lighthouse

Beauregard Vineyards
This was our second winery stop. About 1.5 miles south of Davenport, take a left turn and drive up Bonny Doon Road for almost 4 miles. The Beauregard tasting room will be on your right at Pine Flat Road. The Beauregard Family has been growing grapes since 1949 and recently began making their own label of wines. We liked the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines that we tasted. They are pricey but well made and delicious. There is a nice picnic area situated among the Redwoods and overlooking their vineyards. It is a very inviting spot.

Surf City Vintners
Next we headed back to Highway 1 from Beauregard and turned south and drove into Santa Cruz to the Swift Street Courtyard. Here is a cool warehouse area with several tasting rooms anchored by the famed Bonny Doon Winery. Bonny Doon has a spectacular tasting room and restaurant. The wineries in this location call themselves the Surf City Vintners. One can spend an entire day wine tasting in this location. Check this page for a complete list of wineries located in the Swift Street Courtyard.

Surf city vintners image
Surf City Vintners

We stayed overnight in Santa Cruz at the Paradox Hotel on Ocean Avenue and ate dinner in their fine Solaire Restaurant.

Day Two Adventures: Corralitos Wine Trail

We decided to head south of Santa Cruz and take in two wineries that we had heard rave reviews about. You need a good map or GPS system; otherwise expect to get lost. That’s not a bad thing because the countryside is so pretty. You are in and out of the Redwoods on this trip. Watch out for cyclists; there are plenty of them on these windy roads.

Windy Oaks Estate Winery
It’s all about Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at Windy Oaks Estate Winery, plus the views are incredible. From the very top of the vineyards facing west one can see the entire Monterey Bay area. If you visit this winery, be sure to take a picnic lunch with you and head up to the top of the vineyards. There are not too many places like this in wine country anywhere. We tasted through a series of six different Pinot Noir wines. They were all quite outstanding. These Pinot Noir wines reflect the terroir of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. These Pinot Noir wines are Burgundian in character and moderate and fruity in style.

Windy oaks winery pinot noir
Windy Oaks Pinot Noir lineup

Alfaro Family Vineyards and Winery
Alfaro winery ended up being our favorite winery on this trip for several reasons. Number one, the tasting room staff was friendly and cordial. They served cheese and fruit along with crunchy crackers. The wines were all delicious and well made and priced reasonably. The owner and winemaker Richard Alfaro was in the tasting room and was delighted that he could pour wine and talk to the visitors. There was nothing pretentious or snobby about this tasting room. The vines are farmed organically and the vineyard views are very pretty. This is another nice spot for a picnic lunch. Put this winery on your radar. It is a winner in our estimation. Alfaro Winery is in the town of Soquel, just south of Santa Cruz.

image of Richard Alfaro
Winemaker Richard Alfaro

Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Country Map – Trip Route

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  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.