A couple of weeks ago Bradley Brown, owner and winemaker at Big Basin Vineyards called me. Originally he was looking for some vineyard sources in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and wanted to know if I had fruit to sell in 2007 (I won't, I'll use it all). We ended up talking for over an hour on all kinds of subjects. Mostly we talked about fruit quality in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and our marketing efforts as two new wineries in the area. Bradley is just a few years ahead of us.
He invited me to come visit his facility and taste his barrels and wines. So, I managed to get some time last Friday and took the drive over to see him and his assistant winemaker Ian. I had a good idea of where to find him, since I've been to the golf course at Boulder Creek, and he was just past that. Still in the mountains you don't want to count on Google or Yahoo, so he left me detailed instructions.
He's built a beautiful little winery on his site, all out of redwood milled on the property. The space above the winery is a yoga studio. All the equipment is state of the art for such a small operation.
We tasted wines from 05 and 06 out of barrel and a bottle of 2004 Rattlesnake Ridge Syrah. Bradley has only made Syrah's so far and he and I both agree Syrah has a great future in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He also gave me a little sample of his first ever Pinot Noir from the 2006 vintage.
All his wines are plush, deep and full bodied Syrah's. Great dark fruit, with excellent complexity and depth. If you can I'd sign up now for his mailing list, as the secret is starting to get out and scores of 90+ are rolling in from Wine Spectator and Robert Parker.
We talked over our winemaking styles, techniques and preferences and we had a great deal in common with what we are trying to do. Bradley uses a bit more new oak than I do, about 50% vs 25% for my Syrah's but his fruit stands up to it very well. He's also not made any Cabernet, and asked me to bring some samples by when I can. Everything he and Ian do is well thought out, and no corners are cut in making great wine. It was a great experience to see another start up not cutting any corners and going top of the line in making wine.
We talked at length about what we might be able to do to help each other out, particularly with some marketing ideas on how we can get the word out on the new high quality wineries just coming on line in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and if some of the other new wineries might be interested in talking with us also. He was off to visit family for the holiday's but we agreed we'd meet again in January and see where we might take things together in the future.