About the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Region History

About the Wines of the
Santa Cruz Mountains

Shaped by its unique terrain and a maverick mindset, the Santa Cruz Mountains is a wine region for independent spirits with a taste for the extraordinary. It’s a place where soaring cliffs drop into the sea, steep mountain vineyards overlook idyllic small towns, and tradition meets innovation.

The Santa Cruz Mountains wine region has played a pivotal role in the history of California winemaking ever since the 1870s when Paul Masson and Charles Lefranc planted our first vineyards from cuttings transplanted from Burgundy. Recognized as an AVA in 1981, we were the first California appellation to be defined by its mountain topography with much of the region sitting above the fog line. Today, our winegrowing community comprises nearly 300 small growers and wineries who are united by a spirit of independence and shared passion to make elegant, distinctive wines that reflect the region’s unique terroir.

Our region is planted to approximately 1,600 acres of winegrapes, divided evenly among pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and “other varietals” – most notably merlot and zinfandel. Small-parcel vineyards are planted throughout our distinctive ecosystems and variable terrains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where cool Redwood forests abut expenses of warm, dry chaparral atop an ancient seabed of diverse, mineral-rich soils. These growing conditions give the wines a distinct regional identity, characterized by fresh flavors, bright fruit, and minerality.

As most of our wineries are small and family-owned with limited distribution, the best way to experience them is in the place where they’re grown. Visitors can easily reach our many wineries by driving in from nearby San Jose or San Francisco. Contrasted with these large cities, the Santa Cruz Mountains is a rural region defined by charming small towns and an independent spirit that welcomes those with a taste for the extraordinary.

“One of the abiding mysteries of California wine is why more people don’t know about⁠—and therefore love⁠—the Santa Cruz Mountains wine region.”

Ray Isle, Food and Wine magazine, April 2020
Small Vineyards

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