Big Basin Vineyards debuts in Santa Cruz

Big Basin Vineyards winemaker Blake Yarger and founder Bradley Brown at the preview

April 5, 2022 – After much anticipation, Big Basin Vineyards’ beautiful new tasting room and patio is set to fully open at 525 Pacific St in Santa Cruz. They are currently in soft-open mode, and Edible Monterey Berry was lucky enough to be part of the “guinea pig” phase, where new menu items and pairings were tested on very enthusiastic customers. Twist my arm! If you’re a club member, you don’t want to miss this special “break-in” phase.

Starting Thursday, April 14, however, the all-new Santa Cruz Tasting Room will be fully open to the public, and you’re in for a treat. It’s not just another tasting room with a bunch of bar stools and outdoor tables: it’s a complete tasting experience, showcasing not only the wines but also the local richness of Santa County. Cruz, from food to architecture to décor.

Winemaker Bradley Brown was on hand for the soft opening to note that even though their Saratoga tasting room had been open for 10 years, for him, “it was never quite like home.” They closed it 18 months ago, at the start of the pandemic, but had considered a change long before. Saratoga was a bit too small to handle the crowds of club members and visitors this highly acclaimed brand attracted, especially on a weekend. And the outside space was tiny. The new place in Santa Cruz feels like a home worth waiting for and reflects a new chapter in Brown’s personal life.

The tasting room is at the end of the Pacific Avenue beach

In recent years, he has turned to the beach and Santa Cruz. The CZU fire — which destroyed his home on Memory Lane in Boulder Creek and part of the prized winery property in 2020 — certainly helped cement the shift to ocean-centric living. And yet it still has the steep vineyard patrolled by mountain lions nestled among redwood forests to provide its mountain fix. It has been certified organic since 2012, which reflects its overall winemaking philosophy and serves the brand well in this country where people care deeply about everything they touch and consume.

Hiring the dynamic Emily Choinski to manage the construction and installation of the new tasting room gave the project tremendous momentum, and despite all the challenges of construction, licensing and inspections during the pandemic, the result is as welcoming as her big radiant smile.

Waiter Hayley Bowman and Tasting Room Manager Emily Choinski

“It’s the evolution of Big Basin Vineyards,” Choinski told us. “The Santa Cruz region has so many incredible creators, artisans and chefs. We wanted to create a space where we could showcase talents like chef Brad Briske (Home) and his fabulous beef stew! It has become the centerpiece of the menu and is made with Big Basin red wine. We also offer an amazing collection of cheeses and cured meats from The Tasting House in Los Gatos. We partner with Companion Bakery for our breads, and with Spade & Plow for our organic greens, Good Faith Farms for our olives, B&R Farms for Blenheim apricots and Wild Goat Organics for their organic sprouted mustard. This has just been an incredible and phenomenal collaboration!

The menu, developed and executed by Julie Villaire, the estate’s culinary director, offers a variety of cheese and charcuterie boards, salads, at least two sandwiches, one with meat and cheese and the other vegetarian. or vegan. Choinski says Villaire has his own catering business and is from Santa Cruz. “She makes all of our homemade dips and tapenades, including Homestead Fig Jam with red wine, apricot jams, hummus and lemon jams. It also manufactures sage and rosemary nuts. Everything has a local root. We care about the land to the table in our winemaking, and the same philosophy applies to our food.

Dips Trio Sample Sizes

Choinski is thrilled with her new home (she moved to Santa Cruz from Seattle) and hopes everyone enjoys the beautiful environment the Big Basin team has worked so hard to create.

Take a seat at the tasting bar and admire the redwood heart absolutely glowing with the inner warmth that these magical forest dwellers have slowly fueled over the centuries.

Pictures on the wall depict the vineyards where the fruit comes from: Coastview in the Gabilan Mountains near Chualar, Big Basin Estate on Memory Lane in Boulder Creek and Rodnick Vineyard in Chalone, with the Pinnacles looming behind him.

A signature beef stew prepared by Chef Brad Briske will be on the menu in two sizes

Like a well-crafted set, these photos set the stage for any tasting experience here. Whether you order an open sandwich (Companion Bakery bread) with smoked prosciutto and whipped feta topped with arugula, accompanied by Wild Goat Organics Spicy Grainy Mustard (the bomb!!) and B&R Farms Blenheims Canned Apricots, (go with the 2019 Wirz Old Vine Riesling as a couple), or the Heritage Chocolate dark chocolate sampler from Corralitos paired with the 2018 Altitude, you will be transported and delighted.

Relax at one of the many tables inside, seated on the autumn-themed cushioned chairs that almost look like the stunning label that adorns the bottle of rosé, or sit outside on the large bordered patio of flowers, you’ll want to linger long over a flight or a drink. Opt for the GSM 2015, mostly Mourvèdre from Rodnick Vineyard (which was once Dick Graff’s vineyard: this name may be familiar to you if you know a little about the history of Chalone), with its fabulous fleshy and peppery white personality, and a core of fig and blackcurrant. The Grenache harvest did not take well that year, but the old variety of Mourvèdre made up for it. Fantastic wine!

For more information see Big Basin Vineyards Tasting Room and Wine Bar. Reservations are definitely suggested as this will become a very popular destination.


About the Author

Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who is a regular contributor to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, as well as various consumer publications. His passion is to tell stories about the intriguing characters that inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.


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