Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lunch Date 6 - Heart O' The Mountain Winery

A different kind of lunch date in the form of a passport. One that allows us to discover the hidden treasures in our own backyard and experience the sublime variations, culture and wine styling of the Santa Cruz Mountain Appellation vintners. One passport and four weekends to indulge in little day trips, perhaps a picnic or dinner uncorking a new favorite. All at discounted prices and the thrill of discovery. A number of the wineries are only open to the public on passport days, such as Heart o' The Mountain.  January starts off the first Saturday of Passport Season, repeating on the third Saturday of April, July and November. We needn't rush to try and visit all fifty wineries, but leisurely map our course following the seasons.

A taste overlooking the vineyard
Tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains on the former Alfred Hichcock estate (yes, that Alfred Hitchcock...) is Heart O' The Mountain Winery where my darling and I had the great fortune to dine, taste and tour the facilities on a crisp blue-skyed day. Only open a few times a year this is a very private estate specializing in grapes cloned from legendary Dijon and Pommard vines in France. Currently owned by the Robert Brassfield family, the vineyard was established back in 1881 by Pierre Cornwall. Here they handcraft estate grown Pinot Noir.

We first discovered this winery at the Scotts Valley Art and Wine festival and the menu I created to celebrate the acquisition our first bottle inspired me to new culinary heights (or so my family says.) We jumped at the chance to drive up the long, windy and narrow one-lane road to the top of the mountain vineyard.

Less than 10 miles to the Monterey Bay
Greeted like dear new friends we were invited to taste the delicious offerings on the buffet and start our day with a light Fume Blanc before diving into Pinot Noirs. Smoked salmon, brie and other cheeses, lightly brined olives, salads and fruits whetted our appetites as we soaked in the cool air and dappled sun.

Bob collected us into a small group and we hiked up the steep driveway to the estate home, and it seemed like stepping back in time. White washed walls, tiled roof,  grape arbors, and the mystic of the Hitchcock era. The Brassfield family have made extensive repairs and improvements to the estate (seismic retrofitting etc.) but have kept the heart and soul intact. Roses and sculpture gardens, magnificent view to the ocean, no wonder Hitch made this his second home away from Hollywood. Enthralled, we soak in the atmosphere and the history as we weave past the kitchen, wine cellar and then upstairs to the new members facility. I am only going to give you a small taste of the look and feel of the estate, a tease I know but really you must visit to experience it yourself.

Back down to the tasting as we tried our best to decipher the differences between the numeric labels of their selections. 777? 828? 627? Was a bit confusing to me so I very much appreciated the expertise of our hosts not only describing the differences based on the clone block predominating, but also their generosity in allowing me to say, "could I please try that one again?" Educating your palate is a discipline and one you must practice, and practice.... and practice. Finally, convinced I knew what I liked we settled in for a respite on the patio, overlooking the vines and down to the sea. Today, 828 is my lucky number, bold with predominant berries, but a kick of pepper and leather. This is not a mild delicate Pinot for casual sipping.  But, it also appears is 777 and the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir have made it into my shopping bag.

828 is a good number
Winding our way home, my designated driver (of course, a tasting prerequisite) and I mused on the delightful day, good food, a bit of history, and a few bottles to inspire an new menu.

Heart O' The Mountain Winery
Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers - Passport Day


  1. Oh, these amazing photos (and engaging narrative text) spirited me away to this gorgeous locale...thanks for the mini vacation break on a busy Monday, Robin! What a beautiful state is California...thank you for sharing!

    1. This is a special post and memory of our visit to the Heart O' the Mountain, so appropriately named. So glad you enjoyed the visual escape!

  2. The Alfred Hitchcock Estate? How exciting and fascinating is that. Gorgeous photos of a beautiful, romantic place, Robin. And we absolutely love get-aways like this.. and if it comes with a fabulous meal and a wine tasting then it is truly perfect! I think you live in the perfect part of the country.

    1. We are blessed here on the central coast with a number of hidden treasures, the adventure is just seeking them out. So glad you could come along on this virtual trip Jamie. Cheers!


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