One of my favorite summer day trips has always been to drive south for about an hour, turn left where the lazy Carmel Valley begins to thread its way through those steep coast ranges, and inhale the radiant California countryside. If you need an excuse to wend your way southward, read on!
The splendid Pinot Noirs from Windy Oaks Estate have a way of lingering long in my memory. It was love at first sip the day I visited the estate vineyards in Corralitos and realized that winemaker Jim Schultze knew his way around the graceful style of Burgundy. For the past 20 years Schultze has transformed his hillside estate grapes into nuanced examples of Santa Cruz Mountains terroir. Current releases include at least half a dozen Pinot Noirs, each one distinctive and accessible. In addition to the estate tasting room—perched on a spectacularly beautiful hillside—Jim and Judy Schultze opened a tasting room in oh-so-charming Carmel-by-the-Sea a few years ago. But that just wasn’t enough. And in the spirit of oenological generosity, Windy Oaks has just unveiled its newest tasting room in Carmel Valley Village. Surrounded by gorgeous coastal foothills, terrific restaurants, and major celebrity vibes, the new tasting room offers pours of the splendid estate Pinot Noirs as well as other varietals from Monterey County appellations. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the new Windy Oaks Tasting Room is located at 19 East Carmel Valley Road (formerly occupied by Joyce Vineyards). 298-7083. Grand opening Sunday, Aug. 27—check windyoaksestate.com for details.
Al Fresco Aptos
The Saturday, Aug. 5, the Community Bridges Farm to Fork Gala Dinner gives us a chance to swill live music and enjoy a freshly created multi-course dinner with beer from World Beer Cup winner Discretion Brewing and award-winning wines from Beauregard Vineyards. Enjoy a long evening of midsummer pleasures in support of the many worthy causes engaged by Community Bridges. This summer is the philanthropic program’s 40th anniversary, marking four decades of support for 10 programs that collectively serve 22,000 children, families and seniors in Santa Cruz County each year. But not all community causes are this delicious. For the special evening, ace caterer Marina Carmalinghi’s menu includes: appetizers of skewered spicy prawns, baked brie in puff pastry, and tomato, mozzarella, kalamata skewers.
Entrees of heirloom tomato, burrata and basil, or lemon thyme chicken with artichokes, or grilled salmon with pineapple salsa. The dinner wraps up with chocolate Kahlua cakes with fresh California Giant Berry Farms berries and cream. Tickets are $125 per person, $750 for a table of six, or $1,200 for a VIP table of eight. Tickets and event details are available online at eventbrite.com. Aug. 5 from 5:30-10 p.m. at Aptos Village Park (100 Aptos Creek Road, Aptos).