My Latest in Santa Cruz Mountains Winemaker Association “Meet the Winemaker” Series

Delighted to learn that Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrower Association‘s April 2018 “Meet the Winemaker” series features my profile of Silver Mountain Vineyards, a leader in sustainability.

Read more here.

Don’t forget:

April 21st is Santa Cruz Mountains Passport Celebration Day!

 Like discovering new wines? Like meeting artisan winemakers?

What are you waiting for?

Santa Cruz Mountains Passport Celebration Day is for you!

Learn more here.

Copyrighted 2018 L.M. Archer | binNotes. All Rights Reserved.

The Hedonistic Taster | № 37 | Silver Mountain Vineyards

The Hedonistic Taster | № 37 | Silver Mountain Vineyards

The Hedonistic Taster | № 37 | Silver Mountains Vineyards – Santa Cruz Mountains, CA.

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne + Champagne  ML


“Wine should not be regarded simply as a beverage, but as an art of living, a pleasure.” – Henri Jayer

Welcome to The Hedonistic Taster, an intimate showcase of artisan winemaker trade samples. The title “Hedonistic Taster” derives from the term ‘hedonistic tasting,’ coined by legendary Burgundian vigneron Henri Jayer.

These tasting notes focus upon Burgundy, bubbles and beyond, including emerging pinot noir and bubbles producers worldwide.

Today’s Tasting: Silver Mountain Vineyards – Santa Cruz Mountains, CA.

Jerold O’Brien is used to shaking things up on Silver Mountain Winery.

Nestled at 2,100 feet amidst a quietly spectacular redwood forest, Silver Mountain Vineyards sports vistas spanning Monterey Bay to San Francisco Bay.  The nonconformist and former air force pilot/silver speculator founded Silver Mountain Vineyards in 1979.

His winery sits atop the sandstone-laden San Andreas Fault, within view of the  North Pacific plate. O’Brien’s unfortunate proximity to both fault lines proved fateful when he lost the first winery and three years of production in the 1989 earthquake.

Rebuilding post-earthquake allowed O’Brien the opportunity to implement sustainable designs that support his tenant “to respect Mother Earth and set an example on how to save the planet.” Silver Mountain Vineyards now boasts one of the largest solar arrays in the Santa Cruz Mountains, an extensive rain water-collection system, shaded area to reduce storage, and an artificial cave for barrel storage. O’Brien contends it may be the most sustainable winery in the area.

O’Brien insists upon practicing organic farming, earning CCOF certification in 1991 for his efforts.

Today, Silver Mountain Vineyards produces award-winning estate and single-vineyard sourced, small-lot Burgundy-inspired wines – plus private, premium label winemaking for a few high-quality wine growers in the region.

Wine:  Silver Mountain Vineyards Tondrés Grapefield Chardonnay – Santa Lucia Highlands

Vintage: 2014

Alcohol:  13.5%

Suggested Retail: $34 (Link)

Link to Producer Specs


Robe:  Clear, gold robe.                                          

Nose:  Delicate melba toast, butterscotch aromas.

Palate: Medium body, lush, golden apple bouche.

Wine:  Silver Mountain Vineyards Tondrés Grapefield Pinot Noir – Santa Lucia Highlands

Vintage: 2010 

Alcohol:  14.1%

Suggested Retail: $44 (Link)

Link to Producer Specs


Robe:  Deep purple-raspberry robe.

Nose:  Bramble berry nose.

Palate: Light body, dark berry – raspberry, blackberry, blueberry bouche. Acids, tannins, finish +.

Wine: Silver Mountain Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2012

Alcohol:  13.3%

Suggested Retail: $44 (link)

Link to Producer Specs


Robe:  Deep garnet robe.

Nose:  Forest floor, dark berry, truffle, barnyard notes.

Palate: Black fruit, bramble, black cherry bouche. Light/medium body, acids, tannins, finish +.


Silver Mountain Vineyards 2010 Méthode Champenoise Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine.

Wine: Silver Mountain Vineyards 2010 Méthode Champenoise Pinot Noir Sparkling 

Vintage: 2010

Alcohol:  12.5%


Producer Specs: Once-in-a-decade wine, sourced from Mun’s Vineyard. The winemaker produces only enough to disgorge 20+ cases each year for 8 years, starting in 2015.


Robe:  Clear pêche robe, pinhead beading, diffuse mousse.

Nose:  Brioche, salmonberry, stone fruit on the nose.

Palate: Light body, bright acids, creamy bouche. Unicorn wine, representative of the Santa Cruz Mountains – complex, earthy, ethereal. A rare find, indeed.

More about Silver Mountain Vineyards here.

 402 Ingalls St, Ste. 29, Santa Cruz 95063
408-353-2278 (at the winery)
Friday 3:00-7:00 PM, and Saturday & Sunday, 12:00-5:00 PM.

More of The Hedonistic Taster here.

Always grateful to hear from you – please feel free to leave your comments below. Many thanks for your follows on social media – cheers!

Copyrighted 2018 L.M. Archer | binNotes. All Rights Reserved.

Affordable Burgundy + Beyond Takes a Knee

Greetings, Dear Readers:

I’m on hiatus this week spending some much-needed time with visiting family.

In the interim, my heart goes out my intrepid friends and colleagues in Napa and Sonoma enduring the wildfires. You will prevail. No doubt. #WineCountryStrong.

I leave you with a few images from two top-tier Reserve tastings I tippled through this past week, both showcasing stellar New World pinot noir and chardonnay.

Felton Road winemaker Blair Walter produces premium wines, including Burgundy- inspired Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Central Otago, NZ.

The first, a 20th Vintage Vertical Tasting of Central Otago’s Felton Road at San Francisco’s Farallon Restaurant featured winemaker Blair Walter, who teed up four different flights before lunch, then continued the barrage of brilliance throughout a gorgeous four-course luncheon.  In full disclosure, I arrived in time to taste through the final two flights of pinot noirs, (I missed the new releases and chardonnays) and had to depart after the second course. That said, genius attracts notice, however fleeting the encounter.

Generally speaking, the 2011-2015 pinot noirs from Cornish Point and Calvert vineyards sported clarion ruby robes, lean bodies, pristine fruited aromas, animated acids, keen minerality, and a lingering finish.

The final flight, however – 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010 pinot noirs –  proved heart-stopping in their grace, elegance, and finesse.  Bouquets varied from stewed red fruits in Block 2003, to barnyard notes in Block 3 2005, leather notes in  Block 3 2007, savory hints in Block 5 2009,  and sous bois in Block 5 2010. Burgundy-inspired indeed.

Noble of tannins, seamless in structure, haunting in finish, these Felton Road reserve pinot noirs merit inclusion among the pantheon of finest Burgundians in their quality, complexity, and age-worthiness.

More to follow about specific tasting notes, variations in soils, microclimates, farming, and production techniques of Felton Road.

Link to my two-part series in Palate Press on Central Otago wineries here:

Palate Press:  Taking it Slow in Central Otago – Part I

Palate Press: Taking it Slow in Central Otago – Part II

Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association hosts the 2017 Pinot Paradise Reserve Tasting held at Pasatiempo Golf Club’s Hollins House.

The second Reserve tasting, Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association’s annual Pinot Paradise at Pasatiempo Golf Club’s Hollins House, offered pours from local legends like Big Basin, Mt. Eden, King’s Estate, Mindego Ridge, and Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards.

A post-tasting Technical Session also featured Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards, Equinox & Barolo Winery, Silver Mountain Vineyards, Thomas Fogarty Winery, and Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards.

You’ll be hearing more about these local wineries in future posts, but the undisputed stand-out of the event was Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association show of support for Napa and Sonoma through #CAWineStrong.

Link to my exclusive interview with Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Winey here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please feel free to leave a comment below. You can also follow me on social media – links above. Cheers!

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.


red Thread™ Exclusive: Jeff Emery | Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

Today’s Exclusive Interview:

Jeff Emery | Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard  | Santa Cruz, CA.

Author’s Note:

This exclusive interview with Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard  also coincides with my new role as Santa Cruz Mountains news contributor for Wine and Vines Magazine. Serendipidity, indeed.

About Santa Cruz Mountains AVA

Approved in 1981, the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA claims fame as one of the nation’s first wine growing appellations defined by mountain topography. The region stretches as far north as Woodside and as far south as Watsonville, with elevations rising to 2700º.  Coastal fog rolls inland and upslope, breaking across the Santa Cruz mountain ranges in stealthy, opalescent waves that coddle the vines, while diurnal shifts ensure vivid acidity.

Soils in Santa Cruz Mountains AVA range from coastal sands to inland clay, loam, limestone, decomposed rock, and exotic mineral deposits like graphite, gypsum, talc, melanterite (a greenish-blue crystal), and cinnabar.

These various components, combined with a multitude of microclimates, allow for varietals like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon to thrive.

Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”- New Oxford American Dictionary

Serendipity. It’s a word used a lot when talking with Jeff Emery, proprietor of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard (SCMV). Recently, I met up with the rangy, bearded wine maker at his tasting room and winery in the Swift Street Complex on Santa Cruz’s Westside.

Multi-tasking adroitly between delivery folks, his assistant winemaker, and thirteen-year old daughter, Emery engaged in the interview with thoughtful authority. His low-key demeanor belies a multi-faceted career, equal parts wine maker, mentor, Santa Cruz Fungus Federation member, long-time folk music radio host and brandy blender. In short, Jeff Emery embodies the spirit of Santa Cruz  – authentic, diverse, and firmly rooted in community.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and continuity.)

r/T™:   The original owner of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Ken Burnap, proved instrumental in mentoring you in your wine making career. In turn, you’ve mentored many local rising winemaking stars like Denis Hoey of Odonata Wines and your own assistant Cole Thomas. How has the Santa Cruz winery scene changed since you started working with Ken in the 1970’s? What part does mentoring play?

Jeff Emery:  Mentoring young people has always been intentional for me, in large part because I came to this brand [Santa Cruz Mountain Winery] as a nineteen year old in the late 1970’s.

At the time, Ken did his own vine management, built a cement block storage house, and slept on a cot. The only other help he got was from a buddy named Bill Craig, also from Southern California. Then I came along as a third ‘part time’ position in 1979 [while a geology student at UC Santa Cruz.] 

I started [learning about wine] by going to all the Santa Cruz Mountain Vintner (now Santa Cruz Mountain Winemakers) Association meetings. It was when they were talking about starting a Santa Cruz Mountains appellation.

Two of the association members, David Bennion of Ridge [One of Ridge’s four owners at the time] and Ken Burnap [owner of Santa Cruz Mountain Winery] felt strongly that the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA [American Viticultural Area] needed to be based on unique, climactic geological issues, rather than broad, arbitrary boundaries. The appellation, approved in 1981,  follows their recommendations.

Fast forward to today, where I’ve gone from being the young guy in the 1970’s to  ‘the elder statesman’ in 2017.

So my mentoring comes from Ken’s approach with me to demystify wine. Ken was very generous with his cellar, and I feel it’s my karmic duty to pass this along – wine should be fun, part of the table –  it is a food, and a social ingredient.

As for mentoring Denis of Odonata – that was serendipity. I came to Santa Cruz Mountain Winery [initially]  because a friend’s wife went into labor; he was suppose to help bottle [at SCMV], but he couldn’t, so he gave me a me a scrap of paper with an address and told me to go bottle for him. 

Same thing happened to Denis with me. Denis came to help me to help me move from the old Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard site to this new site in Santa Cruz, and ended up staying. Since then he’s moved on to found his own winery. Cole has done stages all over the world, including his most recent with Prophet’s Rock in New Zealand, and is starting his own brand. I also help mentor through the UCSC Agro-Ecology farming program. 

r/T™:  When Ken Burnap sold Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard in 2004, what did it feel like taking the ‘leap of faith’ to ownership of the business and label? How you were able to face your fears and get through the doubts and keep going? 

Jeff Emery:  I [just] knew I wanted to stick with wine. Ken had other sources of income, and I do not. [Over the years], Ken kept checking in with me, asking “are you still loving what you’re doing?”

Finally, when he decided to retire [in 2004], the questions became “Will someone buy the winery?” and “Will I stay on to help out?” In 2004, he sold the vineyard, and by then I figured out how to buy the business; I was [already] running the books.

How did I take that and make it work? More serendipity. In 2004, I met the regional buyer for Trader Joe’s Santa Cruz, who need a floor-to-ceiling wine display for his store opening. He ended up writing me a check for something like $40,000 worth of SCMV inventory.

But I also needed a place to make wine in 2004, and so through a friend of a friend learned about Bradley Brown at Big Basin Winery, [who at the time] had space to grow into. He and I worked out a deal – Jeff made wines in 2004, 2005, and 2006. By then he’d grown into the space. 2007 was the hell year. But in 2008, this space [Swift Street Complex] came up when Boony Doon downsized. Since then, I have been taking a known winery into a viable business. Part of our success is due to this site. 

rT:™   You also attribute your success to your second label featuring Iberian blends, Quinta Cruz. Is it true part of the popularity of Quinta Cruz stems from its wide embrace by Millennials?

Jeff Emery:  Yeah, Millennials are a large part of success of our Quinta Cruz wines, although Americans in general are now getting past all the “shoulds” about drinking wines.

For Millennials, it’s more important to bring something new, rather than known, to the table. It’s the opposite for Baby Boomers, who want the knownMillennials are also willing not to just pay for cheapest – they are willing to pay for the story behind it.

That said, we still need to capitalize on social media. Cole, my assistant winemaker has been instrumental in that, but there’s still a lot more storytelling to be told. There are so many wineries now – to be present in the market today, you really have to stick out. Story is what sells the wine.

As for the Quinta Cruz  label – I made those wines for my own amusement.

[Author’s Note: Emery’s business manager Bill Vieira Vroman is of Portuguese heritage, and spends part of every year in Portugal. Emery first learned of Iberian varietals during a trip to Spain and Portugal.]  

When I got home [from the trip], I found some winegrowers here in California, like Markus Bokisch in Lodi, that grew them [Iberian varietals], so I bought some, thinking  it would be a ‘wine club only’ thing.

As time went on, I felt it was important to create a separate wine label from SCMV. Luckily, the timing was perfect –  Rhone Rangers had already laid the groundwork for non-traditional varietals. Plus a second label expands a winery’s appearance on restaurant tables. 

rT:™ What’s the history behind Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard’s link to Pinot Noir? 

Jeff Emery:  Ken [Burnap] is a big food and wine guy, former restaurateur, and a Burgundy lover. He couldn’t figure out why California Pinot Noir was so horrible. Ken spent a lot of time talking about this with wine maker friends David Bruce of Santa Cruz and Joe Swan of Russian River Valley. 

Eventually, from those conversations, Ken came up with a list of about thirteen criteria needed to grow good pinot in California, and felt that Santa Cruz Mountains offered all of them.

Meanwhile, David Bruce had purchased property in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the1960’s that had old-vine zinfandel on it. David Bruce made his last California Zinfandel in 1968, and in 1969-1970 he tore out the Zinfandel and planted Pinot Noir. 

Ken bought that site from David, and for two years Ken commuted from Orange County to the vineyard, until he sold his restaurant. Ken made his first vintage in 1975, and never looked back.

[Author’s note: Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard on Jarvis Road sits on of California’s oldest continuously operated vineyards, Jarvis Brothers Vineyard, originally established  in 1863.]

Talk about serendipity –  in 1974, Ken was drinking some champagne, and as he went through the bottle, decided he would jump in and buy the Jarvis Road vineyard. Over the years, Ken would occasionally make bubbles from the second crop on the vines.

In 2004, when Ken sold the Jarvis Road vineyard, and I bought the business, we drank a 1977 sparkling wine produced from that vineyard   –  and later realized that our celebration was almost exactly 30 years since Ken purchased the property, and 25 years, almost to the week, that Ken and I started working together. 

rT: Since you don’t currently own your own vineyards at Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, how much control do you have over the vineyards where you purchase your grapes?

Jeff Emery: I make sure that I only work with growers who will allow me to call the shots on what level of ripeness the fruit is harvested.

Bokisch Vineyards in Lodi is the furthest away [where] I source, but I trust him.  For nearby Santa Cruz Mountain fruit, I get many samples. So much about picking is to understand the gestalt of a vineyard – how they taste, feel, dimple  – versus just analyzing numbers. 

I like ‘light on land’ practices. For example, Bokisch Vineyard is CCFF [Author’s Note: Bokisch Vineyards practices Lodi Rules, one of California’s earliest, and most stringent. sustainable farming program.] Pierce is sustainable, Hahn is Sip-Certified.

r/T™:   Let’s talk terroir. How do the various vineyards’ microclimates and soil types inform the varietals you choose, and the wines you produce?  Any particular area/vineyard/block that surprises and delights you each harvest? 

Jeff Emery: The Branciforte Creek Vineyard is planted to Pommard, while the Bailey’s Branciforte Ridge Vineyard is planted to the Dijon clone. These vineyards are less than two miles apart, yet they have different soils, different clones, and different expressions of Pinot Noir.

Branciforte Creek Vineyard makes consistently amazing wine. It’s a true climat, with huge diurnal swings that maintain natural acidity.

The [Luchessi Vineyard] Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard above Cupertino is also special.

r/T™:  In 2003, you partnered with local distiller Dan Farber at Osocalis Distillery in Soquel (‘Osocalis’ is the original Native American name for Soquel] making award-winning artisanal brandies. What made you want to get into the distillery business? 

Jeff Emery:  Working at Osocalis Distillery allows me to push my craft.  It’s important to rip the tablecloth off the table every once and awhile. We do all the blending through nosing. It’s all new flavors and  blends for me, and it also makes red wine look like a fast cash business. We’re still sticking to the same traditional values and approach, which means we’re sticking to long-term goals.

r/T™:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard or any of your other projects?

Jeff Emery:  I like to educate guests about history, food and wine, instead of just saying “Here’s the wine.” Ststylistically, we try to set ourselves apart in this way – it’s what we’ve been doing for forty years – have fun, demystify wine, and hopefully introduce guests to new ‘flavors.’ And you might even run into a wine maker! 

r/T™:   Finally, if your experience as a winemaker has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

Jeff Emery:   Collaboration. In Santa Cruz, [at Swift Street Complex] we all have our own styles, our own wines, we share the same labor pool and equipment, have the keys to each other’s places, and collaborate on tastings and events. 

It’s also taught me to be semi-proficient at running a 5,000 case winery. You have to be a pretty darn good mechanic, a good business person, know how to fix the forklift, fix the press, be a good logistics manager, and keep things flowing. I’ve learned to be a jack-of-all-trades. I hold one title while actually having many.

I’ve been through thirty-nine harvests, and each one is different – you never get the same weather, or same set of grapes, which keeps it fresh, so I can do it over and over. I am constantly learning something new in my craft.

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
334–A Ingalls Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060 – Map and Directions

Learn more about Quinta Cruz Wines here.

Learn more about Osocalis Distillery here.

Learn more about Santa Cruz Mountains AVA here.

Learn more about Santa Cruz Mountains Vineyards Association’s upcoming Pinot Paradise here.

More redThread™ exclusive artisan interviews here.


I want to hear from you! Please leave your comments below, and join the conversation on social media – cheers!


Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.