Vineyard view from the picnic deck at Alfaro's
Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery in Soquel
From Silicon Valley over to the coast takes only about a half hour or so (in a Ferrari). But a nice drive through the trees and over the hill takes you to Santa Cruz and other coastal towns like Aptos, Soquel, and the little mountain community of Bonny Doon, which are home to lots of the smaller, family-run wineries - and many of them only have Tasting Rooms, rather than actual winery properties (see list below). Due to the ocean breezes and typically cool nights, you will find lots and lots of Pinot Noir - the Santa Cruz Mountains region is known for producing world-class Chardonnay & Pinot Noir.
A tour in the Santa Cruz area can be combined with a visit to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a sunset-over-the-ocean-tasting at a wine bar on the Wharf, or dinner out at one of Santa Cruz's many great restaurants!
Alfaro's Winery - Wonderful Pinots, a nice covered deck for picnics, and plenty of vineyard views. Open weekends and by appointment
Beauregard Winery - Ryan Beauregard is a 4th-generation wine grape grower in the Santa Cruz Mtns, and loves making food-friendly wines that showcase the local terroir.
Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery- A family property since the 1800's, Hunter Hill makes a large variety of wines, all served up with great hospitality. Nice picnic spot, too! Open weekends and by appointment
MJA Vineyards Tasting Room in Santa Cruz - A tasting room in front, with the barrel room and production area in the back, MJA specializes in Aloha friendliness (due to owner Marin Artukovich's Hawaiian connection) and offers a unique mix of local as well as Napa wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon
Nicholson Family Winery - A beautiful setting and wonderful wines - walk through the vineyard to the brown barn Tasting Room. They also grow and make their own cold-pressed olive oil. Open weekends and by appointment
Storrs Tasting Room - One of the most award-winning wineries on this side of the hill, Storrs currently offers tastings in their cozy Santa Cruz location, while their Corralitos location is finishing construction
Silver Mountain Tasting Room - Lots of nice Pinots, an organically-grown Chardonnay, and the proprietary red blend, Alloy, are usually on the tasting menu. Winemaker-owner Jerold O'Brien is a local pioneer for farming his vineyards organically and sustainably for more than 30 years