Kudos to Birichino winemakers! Food & Wine Magazine’s April 2021 issue made a big deal over the 13-year-old winery’s 2019 Cinsault Bechthold Vineyard—old vines given light elegance in the hands of Santa Cruz-based winemakers Alex Krause and John Locke.
One of the go-to bottles in my house, the Cinsault retails in the $26 ballpark. Head on over to the Church Street tasting room, the al fresco tables are where the action is these days, and taste some yourself. Last month the respected London Times gave a shout-out to Birichino’s 2018 Besson Grenache, another one of my house favorites. Versatile and light yet offering plenty of mineral action, the lovely red wine offers subtle herb and spice tones loaded with berries. Krause told me that while the 2018 Besson Grenache is now sold out (except in magnums), “the 2019 is here, and it’s honestly our best Grenache” ($28).
Keeping open all through the pandemic closures, Birichino made the most of its sidewalk tasting arena, during which time both winemakers got completely vax’d up. As for opening up the indoor tasting room, Locke explains: “We are very informally targeting June 1 for an alignment of the planets, and even that seems a bit ambitious psychologically, if not epidemiologically. We will let science and the comfort of our staff determine when we open up. I am very much looking forward to it, but not so much as to tempt fate. For now, we are enjoying service at our seven tables en plein air.”
Acknowledging that he “made it through the last 12 months in greater comfort than most,” Locke also confesses, “I am so ready to drink negronis shoulder to shoulder with strangers.” And he isn’t the only Santa Cruz resident weary of the past year’s isolation.
Birichino Winery Tasting Room, 204 Church St., Santa Cruz. Thursday-Sunday, 1-6pm. 831-425-4811, birichino.com.
Brunch at Gabriella
We ventured out on Easter to join our great friends, Simone and Jean-Paul, for Sunday Brunch at Gabriella. Sat indoors at a generously spaced corner table, first time in a year. Wow, it was fantastic. From the fresh orange juice and fruit mimosas to the voluptuous egg specialties, the meal was a hit. Everybody loved their dishes, but I have to believe that my eggs florentine, with a light tomato-tinged hollandaise, perfect poached eggs, buttery spinach, ripe avocado slices and to-kill-for roast potatoes, was the absolute best ($18).
Wish I’d had room for the strawberry shortcake. Pastry Chef Krista Pollack knows a thing or two about irresistible desserts. Sunday Brunch is now a happening thing at this dining treasure in the heart of Santa Cruz, and now lunch happens Tuesday-Sunday. Find more details at gabriellacafe.com.
Mark your calendar for the upcoming Santa Cruz Mountains Vintner’s Festival happening May 22-23. Learn more at winesofthesantacruzmountains.com/events/vintners-festival.
Capitola’s rockin’ Reef Dog Deli is unzipping its repertoire beyond mega-sandwiches and custom beach boxes packed with cheeses, charcuterie, artisan crackers and other tasty things. Now the popular deli located on Capitola Avenue does weekend breakfasts, including items like cheesy grits with pastrami hash and fried egg; steel cut oats with apple compote, raisins and maple nut crumble; and many bagels. Breakfast happens Saturday-Sunday, 9-11am.
Reef Dog Deli, 311 Capitola Ave., Capitola. 831-854-2184, reefdogdeli.com.
Quick Dinner Pro-Tip: Grab your favorite pile of greens, e.g. arugula, baby spinach, Little Gems, and top with smoked trout (we like Blue Hill Bay, $9, from New Leaf). Add slices of soft/hard boiled egg, some mayo dusted with citrusy powdered sumac and your favorite red wine or handcraft beer (something from Discretion or Humble Sea perhaps). A zesty last-minute meal. Easy peasy.