I visited several wineries on the eastern side of the appellation. Though not all are open to the public, it's worth noting two that are and should not be missed.
Traveling to Santa Cruz
Where to Stop in San Jose and Santa Cruz
Tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains
I spent several hours at Ridge and will follow up with more details in a later article. Suffice it to say, Ridge continues to be a benchmark producer of Cabernet Sauvignon, not only for the Santa Cruz Mountains, or California for that matter, but globally. Their Monte Bello is one of the country's true first growths and it remains relatively affordable. The estate Cabernet is a great option for someone interested in learning about the house style, or drinking great Cabernet for that matter, at a much more manageable price. If you’re in the area, make it your business to stop by.
While perhaps not the best known nor the most historic winery of the region, Thomas Fogarty is my other top pick for the wine enthusiast. Like Ridge, there are amazing views to be had here, and there are also great wines, albeit Pinot, Chardonnay, and dare I say it Nebbiolo based. In some ways, these wines are perhaps more typical and representative of the region, with several small vineyards carefully carved from the mountainous estate that each produce distinct wines—thanks to winemaking that seems intent on letting the land speak. Again, you’ll have to wait a few days for a full report on the wines, but they simply should not be missed.