Nearly 90% of American wines come from California. While Napa and Sonoma Valley are the most recognizable names associated with California wine production, there are many other fertile regions for grape growing and winemaking throughout California. While I was in Monterey, I stopped by the Bargetto Winery shop for a little lesson on winemaking in the Santa Cruz Mountains and, of course, some wine tasting!
Visiting the Bargetto Winery was one of the highlights of my road trip to Monterey. It was also one of the most unique wine-tasting experiences I’ve had. I’ve gone wine tasting in Tuscany, Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Vermont, as well as sampled wines in Oregon. Along the way I’ve encountered some exquisite wines. What made the tasting at Bargetto Winery stand out was the diversification of wines I samples.
The standout wine at Bargetto Winery, for me, was the the Chaucer’s Cellars apricot wine. I was at first hesitant to try this fresh fruit wine. Although I was intrigued, I imagined it would taste like marmalade. What I discovered, though, was a refreshing dessert wine bursting with flavor. It’s sweet but also light. It’s certainly not a wine you’d want to drink glass after glass of, but it is the perfect ending to a meal. The expert who was helping me suggested it also went well with spicy chicken cashew dishes; the website also offers recipe ideas. As the website says:
CHAUCER’S CELLARS, produced by BARGETTO WINERY, has won gold medal winning dessert-style wines for decades. These elegant wines are produced from 100% pure fruit or natural honey without the addition of artificial flavors. The distinct taste of these wines can be enjoyed in the tradition of Medieval England. In the spirit of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, experience these unique wines as a pilgrimage in sensory delight.
“A pilgrimage in sensory delight”!
The other dessert wine I tried was definitely my least favorite of all the wines and that was Chaucer’s Mead:
Take a step back in time and enjoy the flavors of this popular Elixir. Our Mead is made with similar recipes used in Medieval Times.
The honey for this specialty dessert-style wine is produced in hives throughout Northern California. It is composed of a blend of three types of honey: alfalfa, sage and orange blossom. Each type brings a unique quality to the blend and contributes to the overall complexity of the Mead. Alfalfa is neutral in flavor but yields a dark, amber color. The orange blossom brings a floral bouquet to the nose of the wine. Sage brings subtle nuances into the blend.
I’m a big fan of all things honey, and I appreciate the blend of three different types of honey produced in California. I’m not a huge fan of mead in general, and the particular mead I was served contained a spice packet of cinnamon and cloves. It tasted like Christmas tea. Not necessarily a bad thing. I would certainly enjoy a hot cup of spiced mead on a snowy winter’s night — but no more than once a year.
I also tried a pinot grigio and a pinot noir, both of which were delicious. The pinot noir had a sexy spiciness to it that made it perfect for drinking on its own or with a strong, peppery cheese.
Two brothers in the Bargetto family emigrated from Italy and started a winery in San Francisco that was shut down during Prohibition. The Bargetto Winery was then established in 1933, meaning it was around during the time Jack Kerouac and his friends were road tripping along the California coastline.
Today, the Bargetto Winery practices sustainability in their winemaking:
There are three aspects to winegrowing sustainability as it applies to our winemaking operations:
- The first is Environmentally Sound , in which we strive to produce wines in a green manner. Each month herein we post one of our winery practices like insulation of cooling pipes for energy conservation
- The second is Economically Feasible , in which we maintain practices that will allow our winery to continue our long family tradition. Producing consistently quality wines that retain devoted customers and efficient business practices are two examples
- The third component is Socially Equitable , in which we strive to provide a healthy and dignified work environment for our employees. Our giving back to the community , especially our LA VITA Fund is another example of this aspect to sustainable winegrowing.
The Santa Cruz Mountains is a beautiful area, which overlooks the ecologically diverse Monterey Bay Sanctuary. We believe we have a duty to do our part in maintaining and improving this natural beauty while being good business citizens of our community.
The Santa Cruz Mountains pass through San Francisco and head all the way down to Monterey Bay and the Salinas Valley. It’s worth noting that the agricultural towns of Salinas and Gilroy, which I also passed through on my road trip, are also known for their wine. The Santa Cruz Mountains is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) that consists of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo Counties. There are more than 200 vineyards in this area.
You can visit tasting rooms of the Bargetto Winery in Soquel or Monterey (which is where I went).
Speaking of Chaucer, you may also be interested in my earlier post:
Road Trip Writing: On the Road and The Canterbury Tales