01 September, 2009

California Wineries "off-the-beaten-path": Heart O' the Mountain Winery - Santa Cruz Mountains

"Swimming pools, movies stars and premium Pinot Noir"

This summer I had a rare opportunity to tour "Heart O' the Mountain" Winery in the Santa Cruz mountains. This winery is rarely open to the public so I feel lucky to have found this tour. It is a pretty special estate that has a fascinating history. In fact, this estate was once owned by filmaker Alfred Hitchcock from 1940-1974 and was known as a party place for the Hollywood elite at the time. But even before Alfred came along this estate had an illustrious history. It was established in 1881 by CA. pioneer Pierre Cornwall, a politician, goldminer and financier, who paid a whopping $500 for the 85 acres. He and his wife Sada started the "Santa Sada" winery there where they cultivated Cabernet Sauvignon.

The estate is now owned by Bob and Judy Brassfield and their son Brandon who is the winemaker. They acquired the estate in 1978 and then started the winery around the year 2000 and their first Pinot Noir was released in 2005.

This winery is defintely off-the-beaten-track as you travel the narrow, torturous, curvy road through the Santa Cruz Mountains. But the beauty of the estate and the delicious Pinot Noir made my nausea totally worth it!

When we arrived Brandon Brassfield was waiting for us with a bottle of High Valley Sauvignon Blanc made by his brother Dustin in Lake County. Brandon then proceeded to take us up to the former home of Alfred Hitchcock which is now the home of his parents Bob and Judy. The architecture is a hodge-podge of Spanish and Missionary stylings with gardens, portico roofs, marble statuary, and a secret wine cellar. And, yes, there is a swimming pool but there were no movie star sightings...

"Coming up to the former home of Alfred Hitchcock in the beautiful estate of Heart O' the Mountain"

"Barrel sampling with Brandon the winemaker. We are anticipating the release of the 2008 Pinots because the samples were so amazing already."

"This is the 2006 estate grown Pinot Noir."

Okay, this is where I get to talk about the wine. Pinot Noir is by far my favorite varietal and Santa Cruz Mountain appellation produces some wonderful Pinot Noir. The vineyards are located 1100 feet above sea level on Mount Roberta. There is fog and cool temperatures from the Pacific Ocean breezes yet there is warming from the inland valleys. This produces Pinot Noir with generous acidity and a velvety mouthfeel. The grapes are planted in small blocks tailored to the microclimates on the estate. They produce low yields and the winery produces a small amount every year.

We did a vertical flight of the 2005, 2006 and 2007 releases. They are all estate grown and aged in French and Hungarian oak barrells in a combination of new and neutral oak. These wines are balanced, elegant and have generous acidity.

Here are my brief tasting notes:
2005 Heart O' The Mountain Pinot Noir - light garnet, with a fruity red raspberry nose, oaky on the palate with a tangy sour cherry finish. This wine is a combination of the 667, 777 and Pommard clones. Aged 9 months in new French oak and 18 months is neutral oak. This was the oakiest of the three. Winner of the male vote at the 2006 Pinot Noir Shootout!

2006 Heart O' The Mountain Pinot Noir - This vintage is the earthiest of the three and has notes of mushroom and forest floor. Medium-bodied, well-integrated oak with a juicy cherry finish, not as tannic or tangy as the 2005 yet bolder. This has the same clone combination of the 2005.

2007 Heart O' The Mountain Pinot Noir - This Pinot is the darker, more concentrated, voluptuous style of CA. Pinot Noir with aromas of cherry liquer and cocoa. The palate tastes of dark red fruits and cinnamon spice. There is a lovely note of espresso on the finish.

The view from the outdoor tasting room.

Brandon Brassfield is a great tour guide. He is friendly, hilarious and loves to talk about the history of the estate.

"Pinot Noir Vinyards in the Redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains."

As I said the winery is not open to the public often. However, if you join the wine club of this highly-allocated wine they do have ocassional pick-up parties at the estate. It is a trek that is worth making, especially for the Pinot Noir lover.

Visit www.heartothemountain.com for more information and to join the wine club.

And please, come back soon to Brixchicks.com as we will be describing our lastest adventure at Rubissow Winery, another "off-the-beaten-path" winery in Mt. Veeder!


Jainomo said...

The 2008 CA Pinots from Monterey, Carmel Valley and Santa Cruz are tasting VERY exciting right now ... can't wait for them to come out!


Xandria said...

Hi Beth,

Can't wait to start tasting 2008 Pinot Noirs from anywhere!! Thanks for visiting Brixchicks!

Anonymous said...

The '05 sounds like my kind of pinot! Great pics, I almost went to uni in Santa Cruz. Are any of you chix coming to Portugal for the EWBC'09? We'd love to see you there!

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