Skyline Drive (Highway 35) to Portola Redwood State Park
On New Years Eve 2012 we had a beautiful (cold) sunny day in the forecast, so in keeping with my recent theme of visiting redwood forests and wineries I decided to visit Portola Redwood State Park and Thomas Fogarty Winery. To get there I took another scenic drive along Skyline Drive (highway 35) that runs along the top of a mountain ridge through forests and winds around steep inclines and cliffs. Along this route there are several vista points at which you can stop and look to the west to see the Pacific Ocean or look to the east and see the south end of the San Francisco Bay and the Silicon Valley.
280 feet tall, 12 feet in diameter and 1,200+ years old
Whereas Muir Woods, Henry Cowell Redwoods, and Big Basin Redwoods are tourist destinations with well laid out trails and a handy gift shop Portola Redwood State Park is more well suited for campers than for day-time visitors. This worked out nicely, for although it was a sunny day it was rather cold (55 °F) and the campsites were all closed. Consequently, I practically had the entire forest to myself and I enjoyed the quite and solitude with only an occasional crow making his presence known and the sound of the rushing streams in the background. It was not until the end of my hike that I met an older couple that was also enjoying the tranquility of the forest.
After visiting Portola Redwood State Park I then headed up north along Skyline Drive and stopped in at Thomas Fogarty Winery. I had been to the tasting room a few times before and taken pictures but had not taken notes or written a review so I was eager to revist the winery. During the Spring and Summer months they are frequently booked for weddings and special events on weekends and during such times the grounds are off-limits to non-invited guests. But if you are there when there are no special events taking place the 4,000 square foot Pavilion overlooks a Chardonnay vineyard and has a spectacular view of the south bay and the Silicon Valley.
Thomas Fogarty Winery and Vineyard was established by Stanford Cardiovascular Surgeon and world-renowned inventor, Dr. Thomas Fogarty. Like many other hobbyists turned winemakers, he took up home winemaking in the early 1970’s in a small cabin on the current winery site. He then planted his first vines in 1978 and three years later established a commercial winery the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1981.
When you enter the main building you can see the production area below with the stainless steel tanks, vats and barrels before you go into the tasting room. The tasting bar has been extended to accommodate more visitors since the last time I visited several years ago and the serving staff was quite friendly. While visiting, I sampled the following wines:
Portolla Spring Vineyard - Autumn
My first wine sample was the 2008 Portola Springs Estate Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains. On the nose this wine exudes butter, caramel, peaches and apples on the nose with butter being the dominating aroma. On the palate it has additional notes of tart green apples and pineapple with a medium body, crisp medium (+) acidity and a medium length finish.
Portolla Spring Vineyard - Winter
Although I like all styles of Chardonnays, this wine is a bit too buttery for me as it overwhelmed the fruit. Apparently this wine was in short supply and was not for sale but someone had “accidently” opened a bottle so they were pouring it in the tasting room. The ’08 is not listed on the web site but the ’09 sells for $50 a bottle.
Langley Hill Vineyard - Autumn
The second pour was the 2009 Langley Hill Estate Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains. This bouquet of this wine is not as pronounced as the previous Chard, but it was a bit cold so I warmed the glass in my hands. It then opened up a bit and displayed subtle notes of butter, popcorn, yellow apples and pears followed by almonds and MORE popcorn. On the palate it has a medium body and acidity with intense notes of popcorn and a bit of oak on the finish. Like the previous wine, this one is too buttery and the popcorn overwhelms the fruit. This wine sells for $50 a bottle.
My third sample was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - Gist Ranch Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains. Very few wineries are still serving any ‘07s which is an excellent vintage. A blend of 90% Cabernet and 10% Merlot, on the nose this wine displays layers of cassis, black cherries, licorice, and dark chocolate with a hint of vanilla. On the palate, it has supple tannins, medium (+) acidity and a prolonged finish. This is a fantastic Cab, but at $56 a bottle it is a bit pricy.
The fourth pour was the 2006 Lexington Meritage, Santa Cruz Mountains. It was another surprise to be sampling a wine of this vintage. It is similar in profile to the Cabernet with less aromas of licorice but more dark cherries and vanilla. On the palate this wine is very soft and silky with a definite delicious factor as it has just a hint of sweetness followed by a medium (+) length finish. I preferred this wine to the ’07 Cab and yet it sells for $8 less at $48 a bottle so I brought one home.
The fifth wine as also a vintage pour, the 2007 Estate Syrah “Fat Buck,” Santa Cruz Mountains. This wine displays intense blackberries, blueberries and just a hint of pepper. On the palate it is somewhat soft with supple tannins, the fruit is very intense and concentrated and it has a touch of sweetness on the finish. This wine sells for $45 a bottle.
The final wine of the day was the 2007 Barbera - Oleta Vineyard, Fiddletown. On the nose this wine is slightly smoky which dominates the bouquet for a while but then it gives way to blackberries and blueberries. On the palate it is medium bodied, has moderate tannins, medium (+) acidity and a medium length finish. This wine sells for $31 a bottle.
To visit or for more information:
Thomas Fogarty Winery and Vineyards
19501 Skyline Blvd.
Woodside, CA 94062