A bottle of Negrette is something you don’t see every day. Negrette is a rare and wonderful grape that originated centuries ago in Cyprus. The owner and winemaker at River Run Vintners, J.P. Pawloski, must like a challenge because it requires some skill to make a good wine from this particular grape. Established in 1978, River Run Vintners has risen to the occasion many times. Located near Aromas, this family business – producing about 3,000 cases annually – is open to the public only six days a year, and by appointment.
My husband and I decide not to cook at home one evening, but to take our precious bottle of Negrette to Center Street Grill and open it up with a Tuesday special. Every Tuesday, which the restaurant calls Locals Night, a three-course dinner is offered – such as a New York steak, roast chicken or salmon puttanesca – for $15. It’s a deal these days to get a substantial main course, plus a choice of soup or salad and a wonderful dessert for such a good price. And with desserts such as Center Street Grill’s famous bread pudding and chocolate mousse, well, that’s just icing on the case, so to speak.
I’m looking forward to tasting River Run’s Negrette, but Center Street Grill now has a full bar in operation, so I begin with a very delicious martini —straight up—and a good start to any meal. It opens up the palate, let’s say. Well, that’s my reasoning. Also, if I’m dining out, I want to take my time and really savor the whole experience.
And, oh, that first sip of Negrette. So lovely! This voluptuous wine, purple as the night and with an intense flavor to match, is truly impressive. It smacks of the warm Mediterranean coast (where the grape hails from) with an abundance of spice and vanilla. It’s heavy with ripe berries, dark cherries and plums. This is a marvelous wine to go with my scrumptious New York steak.
River Run won a silver medal in the 2009 Santa Cruz Mountains Commercial Wine Competition for their 2007 Negrette, San Benito County (which sells for about $19), with 89 points—missing a gold medal by one point. But I think the bottom line is that this unusual wine certainly deserves a gold. River Run also makes Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and others. And as the winemaker says, looking for wines made by small wineries can be frustrating, as they don’t make huge quantities and they’re not always easy to find. However, many of River Run’s wines can be bought locally at Deluxe Foods of Aptos, Ben Lomond Market, Shopper’s Corner, Staff of Life, and, of course, online.
• November—Tasting current releases and offering some tasty tidbits.
• November – Bottle Your Own day. They supply glass, wine, bread and cheese. You supply the elbow grease. Call the winery for dates.
River Run Vintners, 65 Rogge Lane, Watsonville. Tel: 726-3112. rrwine.com. Center Street Grill, 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz. Tel: 423-4745. thecenterstreetgrill.com. Center Street Grill charges $15 for corkage.