Although I tend to write about places that are several hundred miles away from where I reside, I've actually always been a fan of the “staycation”. Now that we live in a place like the Bay Area, staycations can be quite adventurous, rivaling that of more intrepid trips far from home. 

The three counties (San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara) that make up the southern reaches of the Bay Area are quite extreme in their variations of topography and climate. They can also be quite rural, especially as you get into the mountains and coastal areas. We never seem to be far from a new-to-us state park or open space that we can explore. My far more refined wife is also happy that we never seem to be far from a local winery. Lately, we’ve been taking trips that encompass both of our passions. 

Picchetti Winery, Cupertino, California:
This place is a perfect marriage between our otherwise divergent recreational interests and tastes in wine. By that I mean that there’s an abundant selection in fairly unusual varieties of reds and whites in addition to the property having access to public open space for hiking. We took the better part of a day to tour and taste this winery for that reason! 

If you’re not from the Bay Area, you might correctly tag Cupertino with everything Apple. But far before computers were invented, Cupertino was considered somewhat of a rural place outside of San Jose. The soils and temperate climate of the region were far more associated with viticulture rather than what would become the epicenter of Silicon Valley. Given that Picchetti Winery started at the end of the 19th century, it has quite a storied history of surviving the tumultuous years of the American Prohibition in the early part of the 20th century to becoming a wine-tasting fixture in an area that is otherwise exclusively tech-oriented. 

The tasting room has a vibrant, social atmosphere and may be a bit difficult to find a piece of real-estate at the bar if you’re there on a Saturday! We’ve been to several tasting rooms in the past which can feel a bit lonely- that was certainly not the case here. 

Memorable Pours:
  • Super Tuscan, 2015: It’s only natural that we settled on this blend to take home: Dee is far more of a fan of the fruitier and tea-like Sangiovese and I’ve always been partial to the robust, high tannin though also fruity flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon.  We learned that “Super Tuscan” blend variety that essentially was a “yeah, well we’re not following your stupid rules” to the Denominazione di origine controllata of Italy (how Californian!). I’ve never been to Italy but the impression I get is that Tuscany is a lot like California in climate and geography and, to a certain extent, culture. So, this is a wine best enjoyed paired with simpler, hearty fare with plenty of local herbs. 
  • Picchitti Port, 2013: Neither of us are typically in to Port-style wines. I typically like my wine experiences to be either before or during a meal and the thought of having a desert-wine seems bloating to me. Nevertheless, we decided to try both a white port and a desert port at the urging of the staff and had a great experience! He paired our pour with some decadent dark fudge which really brought out the fantastic sweetness of the Port. I’ve never been the best at describing Ports other than an over-simplified “sweet” but we look forward to pouring this wine after a meal with family or friends. We’ll just pretend that we thought of the fudge idea all by ourselves!
  • Sauvignon Blanc, 2016: Dee picked this one out; she’s a great admirer of Sauvignon Blanc which grows extremely well in California. Sipping this on a hot summer’s day is as Nor-Cal as it gets (it was in the 90s when we visited!). While Chardonnay is thought of as the best white wine made in California but the quality difference between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is very slight to me; probably something that a true connoisseur could decipher but for those of us on the casual side, imperceptible. This is not to say they taste the same, only that it is easy to get a very high quality Sauvignon Blanc for a much lower price than Chardonnay. The tropical fruit flavors that the staff gushed about were easily detected by us novices. We’ll soon be pouring this alongside an herbal or citrus chicken dish. (As much as Dee likes dry white wines, she can’t stand it’s best counterpart- seafood!)

Piccetti Winery, Freemont and Stevens Creek: As mentioned earlier, the winery is interlaced with open spaces and public hiking trails. I love that the place is literally surrounded by parks! Although the appropriately named Zinfandel trail is a great two hour walk that can be accessed from the Piccetti parking lot, I actually liked Rancho San Antonio Open Space the best. This is a state-park sized open space with extensive hikes, most of which would take all day to complete. A loop hike/run of the PG&E trail with the High Meadow Trail was 10 miles and I didn’t run into very many people past the first mile.  

Bonny Doon Vineyards: Bonny Doon Vineyards outside of Davenport, California is basically Santa Cruz, bottled and poured. They radiate with quirkiness, self-aware gusto that is well-deserved given their prominence in the region for excellent wine. Don't expect to leave with less than four to six bottles if you go to their eccentric tasting room right off of Highway 1. The owners seem to bask in their self-described prismatic radiance and I had to look up several words in a dictionary from their newsletter (D.E.W.N. : Distinctive Esoteric Wine Network). 

Memorable Pours: 

  • Le Cigare Volant, 2011: This is their flagship red blend that Bonny Doon is so well known for. Its a similar to red blends from the Rhône wines of France which makes sense when you compare the climates of Bonny Doon to that of Southwestern France. The varieties used in the blend are mostly Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah polished with Cinsault; all which seem to grow extremely well in the Bay Area regions. What this means to more casual wine drinkers like us is it is an extremely well balanced red that is neither too fruity nor earthy. I suppose that's why Dee and I gravitated towards this one. We were delighted to also find out that it qualities make it easy to pair with all sorts of robust California dishes. 
  • Picpoul, 2016: This was a bit more experimental for us as we have never encountered this variety in the past. Picpoul, like Mourvèdre and Grenache, comes predominantly from the sunny and Mediterranean climates of Southern France. It seems to have taken well here in the Central Coasts of California as we loved this unique white wine. I'm not sure if this is a Bonny Doon specific term but we certainly realized why it’s called the "lip-stinger". We both found its somewhat strong acidity to be playful but finishes with a summery taste of peaches and lemons. We took home a bottle to preserve for a warmer day in the fall.  

Davenport Beach and Route 1: The drive to or from Davenport is bound to be full of adventures. I'm always surprised how rural the coast is between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Once you get south of Pacifica, there's essentially just Half Moon Bay and a lot of open road. Farms dot the coast along with the sharp ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains. There are around two dozen open spaces and parks in the area as well which we've begun exploring. Of course, you don't have to go far from the Bonny Doon Tasting Room to get on a secluded beach! Davenport Beach is an easy but steep walk to the shore. Bounded by cliffs and very exposed, the waves and currents probably don't permit much swimming but there are abundant opportunities for beach-combing! In the fall, the waves are currents create an artistic scene. Año Nuevo State Park and Pigeon Point are other picturesque places that are worth a stop on the way North.