My introduction to the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA was a knockout. This wine region encompasses 480,000 acres and sprawls from San Francisco to the Silicon Valley in California. It was recognized as an American Viticultural Area in 1981, but its role in California winemaking stretches back more than 100 years.
Wines for the region were the topic of a recent Twitter tasting on #winechat. The winegrowers association was unable to provide me samples, so that left me scrambling to find a Santa Cruz Mountains wine so I could participate in the event.
Austin Beeman, wine manager for the Walt Churchill’s Market Briarfield location, responded to my SOS. He recommended this 2010 Domaine Eden Pinot Noir. It is simply spectacular.
The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA has more than 70 wineries and vineyards. It has diverse microclimates ranging from warm on the eastern side where Zinfandel, Cabernet, and Merlot predominate. On the western coastal side and ridge tops, cooling ocean breezes and fog make it ideal for cooler climate varietals such as Pinot Noir.
The Domaine Eden Pinot, which is produced by the Mount Eden Vineyards, comes from a mountaintop estate. 2010 was a cool year in Northern California and grapes for this vintage ripened slowly under late September skies.
Fermentation is natural with no added yeast or cultures. The wine aged for 12 months in French barrels.
In the glass it is light ruby with an aroma of earthiness. The body is light to medium. The first sip was a revelation with blackberry, blueberry and forest floor flavors. There is a gentle acidity that gives it a racy texture – dancing on your tongue. The finish of moist berries is a nice exclamation point.
Before my first glass was done, there was no question this was one of the best Pinot Noirs I’ve tasted all year. The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is also squarely on my radar screen as a wine region where the mountainous terroir and skillful winemaking combine to make magical wines.