Passport Wine Tasting

Every three months, the Santa Cruz mountain wineries hold what they call a “passport” day, when any participating winery opens its doors for public tastings. A lot of these wineries only do tastings by appointment on a typical basis, so it’s a nice change if you’ve been tasting in the Santa Cruz mountains during normal tasting hours/weekends.

This April, James – one of the guys who’d previously worked at my company – invited me to go with him and a group of people I’d never met. Hmm, a whole new group of people I haven’t offended yet? Sounds like a good time to me! (It didn’t hurt that the guy who asked me to go is also good looking and fun.) The only draw-back is the sketchy details about when and where to meet. I’m told I’ll get a call the Saturday morning with more information. O-kay…

The morning starts a bit frantically. The night before ended late (er, actually early in the morning, around 3:00 am) and I’m sleep deprived, but I wake up at 8 am anyway. (I’m actually grateful that it wasn’t the usual 6:30, time may not heal all wounds, but at least it increases your sleep time.) I make coffee and watch some TV. I check on Sarah, who tied one on after the fireman auction. I decide I should eat something. I start to worry. It’s 9:30…9:45…when the call finally comes (I had permission to call him at 10 am if he hadn’t called me). Whew!

We’re supposed to meet at 10:45 and he and a friend will pick me up at around 10:30. Right. I slam through a shower, pick an outfit that’s fun and flirty, but not too hoochie (it’s a day thing and I’m not sure the guy is actually interested in me that way, but just in case…) and start the waiting game again.

I’m antsy. James calls around 10:30 to let me know that they’re still coming, but running late. I wait. Impatiently. Finally, they show up and we’re on our way. Yay!

Then, we get lost. I just have to say, MapQuest sucks. It never seems to list the street names conveniently, so you’re never sure what cross streets are where. James calls the people we’re meeting to let them know we’re on our way, and after a few more false turns, we find the place. The really messed up thing? I’ve actually been there before. How sad am I?

Luckily (or not, depending on your view), we’re not the last ones to arrive, so we don’t feel so bad. The final people count is 13. We discover that instead of a 15 passenger van, it’s a 10 passenger van, so we’ll all be good friends by the end of the day, whether we want to be or not! =) Introductions are made, several times. I warn them all, I’m terrible with names. If I remember half, I’m doing well. We load up and the wine tasting journey begins!

I somehow score a front bench seat (apparently someone decided no seat switching during the day, to better keep count of the drunks, I’m sure) next to a nice, young (cute, but way young) guy named Terrence (I think, forgive me if I’m wrong) who is a sailor by profession. We chat about his last race (in Mexico, they did well in their class). We wind around the hills and get to the first winery, Picchetti. It’s very prettily situated. There’s even a peacock.

James buys my passport (as thanks for work-related stuff, still no clue about intentions there), we get stamped and we taste the wines. They’re all pretty good. I end up buying two bottles of the Sangionese (which I can’t say correctly).

Then we’re off to the next stop. It’s the Ridge which has a spectacular view. We decide to taste wine, then have lunch at their picnic benches. The wine is iffy, in my opinion. Two were not bad, but one had a definite off-note. They only offered three. After sating our stomachs, we take a group photo. We are a fun bunch.

We head off to Naumann, but miss the turn-off. So we head to Fellom Ranch. It’s a pretty place. The wind is picking up a bit and the wine is in the shade, but they have a heater, which we huddle by. We get the pour and huddle up. All their wines tasted young, like they needed to age a bit. The best of the lot was the port. It was decent, but how often do you drink port? We still have bottles we bought years ago.

We get back in the van and try to go back to Naumann. Big mistake. It was packed. There’s no way in hell we can get down the driveway. A Cadillac comes out and tells us there’s no way we will make it down. We move on, but the car behind us tries to go down and makes a huge traffic jam, which we see after we turn around and head down the hill to the last winery of the day.

We head to Cooper-Garrod. This winery makes up for the last two. All the wines are good. They have a Cabernet Franc that is fabulous. Even there Chardonnay is good, and I’m not a Chardonnay fan. I buy three bottles of the Franc and one of the Chardonnay. James buys the vintner’s have case, one of each of the wines we tasted. Several other people buy the Franc and other wines. We loiter for a while.

All in all it was a good day. We head back to the Trader Joes where we met. I give the person who was responsible enough to drive a bottle of the Franc. James lets her pick one of his vintner’s pack at random. I like to encourage people to drive my drunk ass around.

James and his friend Tony drop me off. I still have no idea about his intentions, but he’s fun to hang around with, if nothing else. I hope to get to do it more. I walk into the house, put the wine away and fall asleep for two hours. I call that a day well spent.

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