We recently laid out a Saturday morning driving tour for the Golden Gate Austin Healey Club and the Santa Cruz Sports Car Club, with the requirement of ending somewhere nice for lunch. It didn’t take us long to decide where we wanted to go.
If visitors from out of the area ask you to take them to California wineries and show them picturesque scenery, there’s no need to go north of the Golden Gate Bridge – as beautiful as that area is. Instead, go where we did.
Show them the Santa Cruz Mountains, an area known to wine growers as the first appellation, or wine-growing region, in America named for a mountain range. And you get there by driving Skyline Boulevard, known to sports-car drivers and motorcycle riders as one of the great scenic routes in the country.
The Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation is particularly known for its intensely flavored Pinot Noirs, Zinfandels and Chardonnays.
Like so many of the other attributes of our area in which we take great pride, these great wines are the results of blending our climate with our ethnic traditions and entrepreneurial spirit. In the case of the wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Italian grape growers and Silicon Valley technology specialists shared their talents, taking advantage of the combination of warm sunlight and dense evening and morning fog in the coastal mountains to produce award-winning wines.
There are more than 70 wineries in the region bounded by Interstate 280 and the coast, and Highway 84 and Highway 152. The wonderful thing is that these wineries are located along the scenic roads that climb above the Santa Clara Valley to the crest along the coastal range overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
For our tour, our friends assembled in Los Altos’ South Plaza on a Saturday morning, drove north along Foothill Expressway to Arastradero Road, then paralleled the freeway on the local back roads all the way to La Honda Road (Highway 84), which took us up to Skyline Boulevard.
After a quick break at Alice’s Restaurant, we headed south on Skyline for nearly 25 miles of wonderfully curving roads with vistas that broke open on the east over the valley, and to the west out across rolling hills to the ocean.
Although our destination was Byington Vineyard & Winery on Bear Creek Road, we could have stopped at the Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards or the David Bruce Winery, or detoured to The Ridge Winery, or continued south after our lunch at Byington to make a full day of tastings.
As sports-car owners, of course, we’ve learned that extensive tastings and challenging roads require a division of responsibilities for safety, but that has never taken the fun out of the outings. One group generally winds up kicking tires and checking out engines while the other group enjoys the wines and winery tchotchkes.
After our picnic and tour at Byington, our friends had several options. Down Highway 9 were the restaurants and shops of Saratoga, down Bear Creek Road was Los Gatos – an equally charming but larger destination. If participants were up for more tastings, there was an entire cluster of wineries on the other side of Highway 17. Our local group simply completed the circle, ending up in Los Altos to enjoy our own restaurants in the late afternoon.
What we all agreed on in the evening is that by living here, we don’t need to go far to find roads, scenery, wineries and good dining that attract visitors from all over the world.
For more information on the region and its wineries, visit the Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association at www.scmwa.com.
Longtime Los Altos residents Gary and Genie Anderson are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits several car club magazines and contributes articles and columns to automotive magazines and online services.