Vine & Dine

Downhill Cellars

Wine-GT-1538An easy-drinking Chardonnay from Downhill Cellars

Stopping at Shopper’s Corner for a bottle of wine, I spotted a Downhill Cellars 2010 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains for $17.99 among the wide selection, and it turned out to be a very good buy. This is an easy-drinking Chard that doesn’t break the bank and pairs well with all kinds of food.

“Barrel fermented in mostly neutral oak barrels gives the right balance of fruit and minerality,” says winemaker Frank Ashton, whose Chardonnay is produced and bottled by Los Gatos Wine Co. His 2010 Chardonnay has a nice crispness on the palate with the delicate aroma of pears, a citrusy note of lemons and slightly tropical fruit on the tongue. Refreshing, and definitely not one of those overly buttery Chards.

Ashton spent around two decades operating a cutting-edge specialty retail company in the south Bay Area before opening up his own winery, Downhill Cellars. He has a passionate love of winemaking and is loyal to the small batch, as well as sourcing only the best grapes. Ashton also makes quite a few other varietals, including Petite Sirah, Pinor Noir, Viognier, and the more unusual Tannat and Torrontes. Ashton, in addition to consulting in the specialty food industry and wine business, is an active leader in the Slow Food movement.

You can find Downhill’s wines in Shopper’s Corner or buy online. Visit for more info.

True Olive Connection’s VinJus

Napa VinJus is a virgin grape juice made by Food & Vine in Napa, and it’s now carried by True Olive Connection. VinJus is a flavorful non-alcoholic aperitif with a complex balance of crisp, tart and sweet. Made from varietals such as Chardonnay, this lovely elixir is made from one single ingredient: virgin grape juice. And it’s delicious. Compared to fine wine, it’s almost half the calories, and half the sugar of regular grape juice. A bottle of 12.7 fluid ounces sells for $8.95, and makes for a great pantry staple for the occasion that a guest prefers something nonalcoholic. True Olive Connection locations in Santa Cruz and Aptos. Visit for more info.

Beer, Brats & Blues

Seabright Brewery, Santa Cruz Aleworks, Discretion Brewing and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing will be pouring some good ales to the music of Carie & The SoulShakers at this year’s Beer, Brats & Blues event. Food includes bratwurst, kielbasa, sauerkraut, German potato salad, warm pretzels and more. The event takes place at Chaminade from 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10 and the cost is $40. Visit for more info.

IN THE CELLAR Frank Ashton, winemaker and owner of Downhill Cellars, sits on barrels of aging wine. PHOTO: TOM JACOBS PHOTOGRAPHY

To Top