June 30, 2015 – Some may remember the quaint vineyard setting off Bean Creek Road in Scotts Valley where Roudon-Smith, one of the original wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains, once welcomed visitors to linger and picnic in the shady glen.
For a time, it became Skov Winery—the name owners David and Annette Hunt bestowed upon it in 2011—reflecting her Scandinavian heritage. The name means “forest” in Danish.
During this time, Scotts Valley resident, high tech marketing consultant, longtime home winemaker and avid biker, David Schutz, frequently bicycled past this barrel-festooned spot and observed the frenzy of harvest with a bit of envy. He’d been making wine with friends in various places, using pretty basic equipment. Then, one fall day as he rode by the Bean Creek property, he noticed, well, nothing. No activity. No picking bins. No presses turning grapes into liquid nirvana. It worried him. At the same time, it gave him an idea. He decided to approach Dave and Annette about renting the place so he could have a real winery in which to operate. He and his wife, Elizabeth, met the Hunt’s for coffee at Peets in June of 2014, and converging dreams took shape.
Turns out the Hunts had been talking about renting out the facility. With a great deal in common, including the four of them being physical fitness fanatics, a deal was struck, and Schutz suddenly had a place to play on a way bigger scale.
We wanted to know what sparked his initial foray into making wine. Schutz worked for many years at Valeriano’s restaurant in Los Gatos, which has since become a Blue Line Pizza outpost. Back in the 1990s, he developed quite a palate for good wine. One evening, a patron brought him a bottle of Clos du Bois Marlstone, and he realized this is the kind of wine he wanted to drink more of. Only one way to guarantee that, he figured, and that was to make it. Self-educated and insatiably curious, he’s learned so much from doing, constantly experimenting and learning, and talking with winemakers who have been so generous with their time and advice. While on a trip to Napa to buy used wine barrels, he ended up having a 3-hour phone conversation with Michael Silacci of Opus One, entirely blowing a business appointment, but much the richer for the experience. For nearly the past two decades, he’s made 2 or 3 barrels each harvest with friends. But he’s on to the big time now.
“Going from two barrels to 80 was quite a jump!” he says, rather tongue-in-cheek. He’s invested a healthy sum into the facility and needs to keep at it. At the same time, the Hunts are remodeling the tasting room; they’ve been talking about a multi-winery concept, but Schutz isn’t sure what will transpire. One thing is for sure, he has a lot of really good wine already in bottle that needs to find a home.
There’s something appealing and authentic about tasting wine out of the back of a truck. Ok, SUV. When Schutz asked if we wanted to taste, he gestured towards the back of his Sequoia, bearing the license plate, CALIGRA. He explained the name came from the realization that he would never buy anything but California grapes. He’d been struggling with a name for the fledgling winery. Eureka! CALIGRA! When he called his wife, who he refers to as a marketing genius, she exuded approval. Thus Caligra Wines got its official start. And off to a good start it is. The wines are quite good, and thus far, quite reasonably priced. The artfully crafted labels reflect Schutz’s fondness for craftsman style furniture, which he appreciates for its elegant simplicity.
David sources from some really interesting sites, including tiny backyard vineyards in the Los Altos Hills, and a relatively new pinot vineyard on the flanks of Mount Madonna. Among the delicious offerings are a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from a Los Altos vineyard, aged for two years in new French oak and oozing black olives, cedar and cherries, and a stunning 2013 Merlot from another Los Altos property that simply would have knocked our socks off, except we were wearing sandals. The 2012 Cabernet-Merlot field blend from the Almaden Valley is also quite fetching, with a enticing cigar and cedar aromas, potpourri flavors and a splendid finish of black licorice.
We also gave good marks to the 2013 Ancient Vines Zin from Stan Moniz’s vineyard planted 97 years ago by Stan’s grandfather, and family owned and farmed ever since. Too bad he didn’t get a crop in 2014. The neighbors started beekeeping and did not realize that bees need water. In their dire thirst, the bees drank the Zin right off the vine. We hope they enjoyed it.
If you’d like to acquire some Caligra wines, all you need to do is attend a bottling party or schedule a private tasting. David also offers groups from 10 to 30 the opportunity to buy and bottle a barrel of wine: he’ll do custom labels, too. Get in touch with David at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 408-234-8180. You’ll be glad you did.
Bottle Jack Garners Major Win
Speaking of Zinfandel, big kudos go to winemaker John Ritchey of Bottle Jack Winery in Santa Cruz. He walked away from the California State Fair Wine Competition with the prestigious honor of Best Microwinery Red for his 2012 Zinfandel from the Zayante vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was awarded a Double Gold and a whopping 98 points. He’s made wine from this vineyard in 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 and is looking forward to this coming harvest and hopefully many after that.
The wine was aged in 15% new American Oak, and the remainder was in neutral oak. Retail is $27/bottle. It’s sensationally delicious, and one sip will confirm why this wine knocked the judges for a loop.
Ritchie had the once in a lifetime privilege of pouring at The Best of California tasting in Sacramento where he was among the 50 wineries who won the top awards.
Ritchie says that his favorite food pairing with this Zin his mother-in-law’s smoked beef brisket: “She makes it for us when she visits from Oklahoma and smokes it overnight (Brisket is more popular out there than tri-tip). Sometimes she’ll smoke it with wine barrel chips I make for her. The BBQ smoke flavor goes awesome with the Zin’s rich fruit and pepper spice. However, the night we got the news our Zin won Best Micro Winery Red, we didn’t have the time to smoke a brisket, so my wife and I celebrated with BBQ bacon blue cheese burgers, which was also a pretty good on-the-spot pairing.”
Bottle Jack is located at 1088 La Madrona Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.