Stephen Hanecak, executive chef at Paradise Beach Grille, really knows his wine. He carefully chooses each wine listed on the menu and really enjoys talking about them. I order a bottle of Pietra Santa Sangiovese 2006 Cienega Valley ($31) for my husband and I to enjoy with our dinner at this excellent restaurant. “Good choice,” says Hanecak, as he sits with us for a while to talk about wine. “I haven’t found a better Sangiovese.” But this is not surprising. Pietra Santa has been in business since 1989 and has built up a fine reputation over its more than two decades of winemaking.
The first grapes on the property were actually planted in the 1850s by Frenchman Theophile Vache, who selected this location because of its climate and good soil. And it’s from this soil that the winery gets its name, as the rich granite and limestone add distinctive flavors to the wine. The winery was named Pietra Santa, meaning “Sacred Stone” in Italian, to pay tribute to this soil.
The estate-grown Sangiovese ($31) arrives and I take a sip. Bold earthy flavors of cranberry and lush cherry leap out of the glass. This easy-drinking wine is bold enough to pair with a hefty steak, and flexible enough to eat with fish. My husband always prefers red wine to white–so the Sangiovese was perfect.
This estate-grown Sangiovese is produced and bottled by Pietra Santa Winery on its stunning property. As well as making excellent wines, they also make olive oil from their own estate-grown olives, and you can tour the property and see their state-of-the-art Italian olive oil press.
Paradise Beach Grille not only prepares excellent food, but also has an amazing wine list, preferring to carry California wines over others–which, I have to say, is most admirable since we have one of the best wine-growing regions in the world.
Before Hanecak leaves our table, we share some more wine stories and he tells me about his goal. “I plan on visiting every winery that’s on our wine list,” he says. “And I’m going to take many of my staff with me.” He intends to get transportation to take himself and his employees all over our beautiful state on winery-visiting trips, which will be fully supported by the restaurant’s owners. Next time you go to Paradise Beach Grille, take a look at the roughly 100 different wines on their wine list and you’ll see how much terrain they have to cover. But what fun they’ll have doing it.
Pietra Santa Winery, 10034 Cienega Road, Hollister, 831-636-1991. pietrasantawinery.com. Paradise Beach Grille, 205 Esplanade, Capitola, 476-4900. paradisebeachgrill.com.