Tour The Summit Road Wine Trail
For wine lovers, Los Gatos doesn’t end in the bars and restaurants of the bustling downtown. Exit Highway 17 onto Summit Road and you’ll enter another world. Canopies of trees shade the winding two-lane road, where signs for locally raised eggs, Christmas tree farms and “Thank You Firefighters” dot the landscape. You’ve entered the fiercely independent Santa Cruz Mountains community of Summit Road—home of some of the best wines in Silicon Valley.
People come to savor the award-winning Pinots and Chardonnays that flourish in the warm days and cool nights, and for the unique character of the wineries. A few stand out, but all seven Summit wineries—including Silvertip, Villa del Monte and Regale—are worth a visit.
Burrell School Vineyards and Winery occupies an 1890s white and red schoolhouse that stands atop a hill on Summit Road. Using only sustainable growing practices, this decades-old winery produces Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Cabernet Francs cherished by the local community and beyond. With names like Detention and Teacher’s Pet, these wines have personality, and can be enjoyed on a sunny deck overlooking the vineyards.
A stone’s throw away is the turnoff for Wrights Station Vineyard and Winery. With vineyards bordered by a redwood forest, it takes some imagination to visualize this as a thriving 1877 railroad town that transported produce and visitors to San Francisco and Santa Cruz. The vibe is casual; visitors sit inside the 1947-vintage farmhouse or outside to enjoy estate-grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
MJA Vineyards claims to have “handcrafted Aloha” since 2008. Looking a bit like a summer camp, its low-slung tasting room bar is adorned with Hawaiian kitsch. Outside, visitors sit at picnic tables in the sand listening to live music. Wines are crafted in Santa Cruz from grapes grown all over the state. Cheese, crackers and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts accompany their Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, among others.
Continue up Summit Road to the narrow and windy Loma Prieta Way and you’ll come to what seems to be the top of the world. With unobstructed views clear to the Pacific Ocean, Loma Prieta Winery stops visitors in their tracks. Guests mingle on the sunny deck and sample Pinots and Pinotage (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault) that won gold and platinum medals.
For picnickers, the best place for sustenance is the Summit Store, an upscale market offering a “The Wine Survival Kit” that includes gourmet cheeses, crackers, almonds and grapes.