Sitting across the table from Jeff Emery in his winery-tasting room and chatting about his wines is a bit like sitting with a rock star. Only without any pretense or pretension. Jeff has an easy going, humble quality to him. And after making wines in the Santa Cruz region for almost 40 years, he's a wealth of wine wisdom and makes "wines for the table, and wines for the cellar.”
It all started in '75. Ken Burnap was the founding father of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard (SCMV) when the vineyard was located on Jarvis Road. Jeff was hired on by Ken in '79 for cellar work and vineyard tending. This wine making and vineyard mentorship was the bridge to Jeff taking over the business from Ken in '04. Fast forward, and in '08 Jeff's tasting room and winery opened in the Swift Street Courtyard on the Westside, just blocks from the beach. Cole Thomas is assistant winemaker.
Now SCMV sources grapes from California wine growers in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Clement Hills, and Santa Lucia Highlands AVAs, among others. I asked him about the demographics of his wine tasters. For years the winery was selling to tasters with a long history of purchasing and enjoying wines. A challenge the wine region often faces is how to bring a new emerging audience to the local Bay Area wine business. SCMV noticed younger or new tasters often prefer to bring something new to the table vs. something known.
And as things often happen unexpectedly in life, Jeff had visited the Iberian Peninsula and fell in love with the wines. The trip sparked his own line of Spanish and Portuguese wines, Quinta Cruz. "The first solid set of releases on the Quinta Cruz brand was 2006." This was the gateway for a line of wines that especially caught the attention of new wine followers. It offered something fresh, unique, and not as traditional for California.
Whether you enjoy Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard's classic line of wines, their Quinta Cruz line of Iberian wines or both, SCMV wines are European style, food friendly wines. With lower oak and lower alcohol the wines are viewed "as a food, and go with food.” Wine alone can be a pleasure, but is often enhanced even more with food.
For the picture on right...
These bottles were brought out of the cellar during
a SCMV wine class I attended in 2012. Gorgeous!
The tasting room is open seven days a week. Food, more wineries, and shops are just steps away.
Another bonus: the tasting room is easy to find. Some people prefer to visit a tasting room in an urban area instead of driving the windy roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains to visit a winery. SCMV wines are sold wholesale in the greater Bay Area, New York, and Mid-Western states. Both brands can be found in restaurants, and tasting room as well.
People who live in the area often look to Northern California for wines, but the Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards and Quinta Cruz line of wines will likely persuade you to stay in the Bay Area and become a fan of SCMV wines. To top it off, Jeff makes grape and apple brandies for Osocalis' small local artisan distillery in Soquel.
For the wines...at the time of my tasting, 14 wines were available for purchase, with the tasting menu rotating and offering a handful of wines each day. From that selection, I'll highlight a few I enjoyed.
Note: SCMV shared a complimentary tasting with me, as
well as an industry discount on the wines I purchased.
each season—that's what keeps it fresh!” That's a good mantra for life..
Best to you on your California wine jaunt...
"for wine for the table &
wine for the cellar!"
For more Santa Cruz wineries..
Join me at California Wine